Stop Trying to Become a Better Leader. Build a Better Business. Leadership is important and developing yourself into a better leader is a worthwhile endeavor. But it may not be the best use of your limited time. Self help books abound with new perspectives and strategies for looking, talking, and acting more like a successful leader. Whether its improving your grit, becoming more charismatic, increasing your energy level and productivity, developing a more commanding presence, or becoming a superboss, you’ve got a large menu to choose from for personal development. Although these approaches to leadership training are all relevant, we’ve found that leadership is more about getting over yourself and building a better company. When you take the time to improve your business by setting up systems and processes for supporting employees and customers, being an effective leader organically falls into place. The Myth of the Super Manager In her book, The Strategist, Cynthia Montgomery writes about the myth of the super manager. It seems that American corporate culture has bought into the belief that a bold, decisive, and confident visionary backed by strong management can overcome any obstacle. And there are plenty of [...]
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Feel Like an Imposter? Stop the self help and take a closer look at your business. Does Your Business Support You? If you’re worried that you’re failing at work, despite the positive feedback of your higher ups, then we suggest you take a closer look at your business before you try to change something about yourself. Chances are if you’ve got to “fake it to make it,” then your business isn’t set up to truly support you. Impostor Syndrome Impostor syndrome is a “chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of competence” (HBR). Many professionals suffer from feeling like an impostor and several possible root causes have been proposed including particular approaches to parenting and childhood experiences. Based on these theories, strategies have been developed that help professionals internally check their self doubt to alleviate the feeling of inadequacy. A Second Opinion But before you dive into any of these strategies to improve yourself, you might consider taking a step back to better understand your workplace and what it’s doing (or not doing) to help you succeed and feel confident. Maybe it’s your business [...]
There's No Place Like Work? Is Your Workplace Ready for Expansion? Professionals spend as many of their waking hours at work as they do at home, if not more. Which means today’s employees want more than a paycheck in exchange for their time. They want an excellent workplace to call their own and they want their work to be as fulfilling as their play. Besides financial compensation and benefits, employees also desire: Opportunities for professional development and predictable promotion. A supportive and challenging workplace that acknowledges achievement and allows for work-life balance. A company culture built around a meaningful purpose that promotes teamwork and trust. A company is ready to expand when it has the Human Resources systems in place to provide this value to employees. Employees become engaged and motivated not only because they see the value they can gain in exchange for their time and energy, but also because they feel a sense of belonging to a community that is truly making a difference in the world. Unfortunately, many companies lack this infrastructure and, as a result, employees don’t feel their company has their best interests at heart. They feel, at least [...]
The "Only Way Is Up" Workplace Are you truly prepared for success? Imagine a workplace where the only possible outcome is success. Instead of a maze where employees could possibly hit dead ends and trap doors, there is only one path wide enough for some creative freedom but narrow enough to ensure the desired outcome. Such a workplace may sound like an unrealistic utopia, but it’s closer than you might think. Advanced principles of process design and systems of accountability make the mistake-proof company possible. In the 1960’s, Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo formalized the concept of the poka-yoke (pronounced poka joke) or the mistake-proof production process. Shingo designed manufacturing systems that allowed employees to immediately detect any inadvertent errors they made before those errors turned into defects experienced by customers. His work greatly benefited the Toyota manufacturing process, which revolutionized standards in car manufacturing across the world. A great example of a poka-yoke is the box that measures carry-on bags at the airport. Any bag that fits into the box, which is sized to the maximum dimensions of a carry-on bag, can be stowed in the passenger cabin. Any bag that doesn’t [...]
Talk Isn't Cheap. Communication is Essential. Do You Talk Enough? There's a lot at stake in business. Employees depend on you for their livelihood. Customers give you their trust and hard earned money in exchange for something that better be worth the price. Investors expect a sizable return on investment. And, as a business owner, you deserve to feel a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and financial freedom. All these factors make business much more than a simple mathematical equation or a game of Monopoly. Business is the means to many, very meaningful ends and so it’s also a psychological mine-field of hopes, dreams, anxieties, and regrets. Which is why communication is so important. Everyone needs to know something and they usually need to know more than you expect. A steady and controlled flow of information between stakeholders not only allows a company to operate effectively, it also gives executives the ability to guide everyone involved across emotionally charged terrain to the green pastures of a better life. Employees need to know essential details to do their jobs and to stay focused. Customers need to know that you have their best interests at heart at [...]
Clarity is Your First Line of Defense Have you fully fortified your business? Any business, no matter how small or big, needs systems in place for clearly setting employee and customer expectations. Setting these expectations can be a huge effort, but in the long run it will protect you from losing exponentially more in time and money. Usually business owners come to us only after they’ve experienced the consequences of running an unstructured business. They’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars because a customer decided to make changes too late in the process and they didn't foresee this possibility. They’re paying for extra storage space to keep thousands of dollars of inventory that no one wants to buy. They didn’t have the controls in place to keep employees on schedule and budget, so now they are severely undercharging the customer. They weren’t clear about the strategic direction of the company and now they’re dealing with an employee mutiny because some strong personalities have a different vision for the company’s future. They weren’t clear about roles and now crucial tasks are falling through the cracks and the company is bleeding money. They keep [...]
Essential Systems for Expansion Are you ready to hand over the keys? When a business starts up, it’s natural for the owner to be the center of it because they need to carefully nurture an idea that’s in their head into a real company that can benefit a community of people. We call this a personality based business because every road leads back to one person who uses their personality and unspoken processes to influence, inspire, and manage both employees and customers. But once a business identifies a compelling value proposition and taps into a sustainable revenue stream, it needs to expand beyond a personality based business to hire employees, capture a larger market share and improve profitability. Employees need to operate the business and the owner needs to get out of the way so the capacity to deliver customer value can dramatically increase beyond what the owner can personally achieve. For a business to expand, it must become purpose and team based instead of personality based; meaning it relies on formalized systems and processes that support teams to achieve the purpose of an organization, which is to benefit a community of people. Making [...]
Work Smarter. Not Harder. Success isn't about being tough. It's about working smarter. Many workplaces operate according to unspoken values and one value we encounter time and time again in a wide variety of forms - regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, cultural background and class - is being tough. Being tough is the practice of making unnecessary personal sacrifices to achieve something and attempting to internalize the consequences of those sacrifices. There’s a mystique around being tough and making personal sacrifices. It’s perceived as proof of determination, persistence and commitment. But professionals often make too many unnecessary sacrifices to achieve their goals and this is an unhealthy practice that’s usually supported by a company instead of discouraged. For example, imagine a workplace with strict deadlines, tight budgets, quick turnarounds, and high profile deliverables. The work needs to get done or that lucrative client won’t come back through the doors again. In this type of environment, employees might choose to adopt a culture that values sleep deprivation and excuses mistakes made from impaired judgement. Managers may choose to emotionally manipulate employees into competing with each other to increase productivity. Or managers may choose [...]
The 5 Stages of Business What's your stage? The small business market is over-saturated with blogs, videos, articles, and books about startups and what it takes to get a business off the ground. But starting up is only the first stage of five. Now that you’ve got your business up and running, you need to be prepared for the other four stages so your company can stand the test of time. Every business falls under one or more of these stages. Each stage requires a different business structure and strategy to achieve success. Knowing your stage is essential for survival and expansion. Startup Starting up a company is the process of identifying the value you can deliver to a specific group of people and building a reliable revenue stream. Founders are focused on assembling the capabilities to get a new business off the ground. Expansion Expansion is the process of managing a rapidly expanding business. This means scaling up a reliable revenue stream and building or restructuring your organization to keep up with the increase in volume. Sustaining Success Sustaining success is the process of preserving the vitality of a successful organization and taking [...]
The Key to Profitability: Customer Value Having trouble turning a profit? Consider a new point of view. Many of the business owners we work with have a hard time wrapping their head around how to convince their customers to pay the higher prices required to achieve profitability. We’ve found that the first step to profitability is changing your mindset and gaining a better understanding of what you’re really selling. Don’t sell a product or service. Sell the customer value, a.k.a the beneficial end result that your product or service has on the customer’s life. Because we are all so involved with what’s happening behind the scenes, often we think of what we do in terms of cost. Many businesses price their offerings accordingly, which makes profit seem unattainable. Cost is the combined expense of the raw materials, labor, and business operating expenses (marketing, sales, rent, equipment, etc) required to deliver a service or product. People with a cost mindset can’t imagine consumers would pay much more than the production costs of their product or service, so they charge just enough to breakeven year after year. The people talk about what they do. “I fix [...]