Years ago my dad was into horseracing. He loved to go to the track and bet on the ponies. He never spent too much. It was more about entertainment than making money. Although I think he made a few bucks most of the time. He had a system.
He was especially good at reading the racing forms. He was able to uncover the often overlooked details that revealed information about a horse that might suggest it was underrated.
I suppose it’s easy to pick a favorite. He especially loved to identify a horse that had strong potential to win a race that most others would underestimate. Nothing like picking a 5-1 or 7-1 and watch it blow by the favorites in the stretch.
One day my dad and I were discussing his horse selection strategies and he revealed a little secret to me.
He explained that horses have classes. Not like school…but more like social classes. He further explained that all things being equal, if two horses were racing and one came from better stock, the lesser horse wouldn’t or couldn’t beat the higher class.
I think it’s like the alpha dog or pack leader thing. I’m not sure that is an entirely accurate metaphor, but I believe it illustrates the point.
In only very rare instances would a lesser horse win given equal circumstances. If a lesser horse was significantly faster or more suited for a specific race it would usually win. But it was rare.
Personally, I found this an interesting phenomenon. In many ways, I have found this to be true about people. Especially about business leaders and the way they work.
People will only operate at a level they feel they are comfortable or capable of performing at. Despite providing them all the tools necessary to be effective business owners, leaders or entrepreneurs, they will still do the work they BELIEVE they are capable of doing.
- The construction company owner sees himself as a construction guy – not a leader – so he gravitates towards doing the tactical work in a construction business.
- The realtor sees herself as an agent – not an entrepreneur – so she goes out and sells homes, rather than building a real estate business.
- The accountant, doctor, lawyer, appraiser, chef, beautician all see themselves in those roles – not the role of an business leader – and so they engage in their craft and neglect running the race at a higher level.
Here is the most interesting point. They don’t even see it. They call themselves the business owner, entrepreneur, leader, but they don’t work at that level.
The race horse doesn’t consciously think – “Oh, wow…here comes Secretariat. His momma and dadda were a lot better than mine, I better slow down.”
Humans, until they become conscious of this phenomenon, will sabotage their own progress until they change one thing.
The Way You Think About Yourself.
We must reprogram our thoughts and beliefs and KNOW that we are effective, capable, deserving and successful business people.
Who you believe you are will massively influence your performance.
One of the first signs that you have belief issues – you will continue to avoid doing the work and activities of a leader.
Despite having all the tools. You won’t work on your vision. You won’t set concrete goals. You won’t focus on the future of the business. You won’t define and cast vision and values. You won’t take the time to listen to and engage your people.
As a result, your business simply will not advance. How can it without leadership?
By the way, the same is true about effective management. Whether it’s you or someone else in your business managing. If you don’t see yourself effectively doing it; it won’t happen.
How do you fix it?
It’s a steady and arduous process of mental management. The most effective and simplest approach it writing a reminder down.
Perhaps something like – I am a highly effective business leader that is crystal clear on the direction and values for my organization and inspires and engages participants to support in achieving that vision.
Commit to reading and focusing on this statement for 40 days. Nothing magical about that number. It just represents a time frame that requires some discipline, focus and consistency.
Watch what happens, you won’t even realize it but soon you will be passing up the competition and running at a whole new level in your business.
You will be the fastest odds on favorite to win the race.
I’ve contended over the years that many people feel like a hamster on a wheel as it relates to their lives. Every day we are mindlessly running – living the same routine – perhaps even unaware that our lives are that way. I admit. I feel that way sometimes.
At a Strategic Planning Session I facilitated last weekend, one of the participants, who arrived early, and I got to catch up on our lives over the last year. I hadn’t seen him since the previous year when I facilitated the event for their company.
I asked how he was doing. He said, “I’m like a hamster in a habitat.”
“Hamster in a habit?” I questioned. “Not a wheel.”
“Nah.” He replied. “My life is more like a hamster in a habitat. I’ve got my places to roam around. I am familiar. I am comfortable. Nothing really new and exciting.”
“Hum…maybe you need to add some new sections to the habitat?” I challenged.
It got us both thinking.
The theme of this conversation; being open and intentional, expanding our view of the world, adding new experiences and being open to the unknown, seemed to permeated the next 2 days as we gathered as a group.
Something subtle, yet powerful, happened on day 2 and I believe we all learned a lesson.
Just a bit of background. This was my third year working with this group. Same venue. Same people. The room we were in was rather small with a large conference table. Intimate. Comfortable. Nobody seemed to mind the space other than the fact that in the morning the room was a little cool and in the afternoons it got a little warm. We often wrestled with the thermostat but overall the room worked for us.
Well, for some reason, the country club decided to move us into another room. It was much larger and the tables were set up in a horseshoe configuration.
Interestingly, virtually everyone who entered the room the second day commented that the room was too big and questioned if it were going to work for them.
We settled in and went back to work. Within an hour, everyone commented that the new space was actually nicer than the cramped quarters we were in the previous day.
The lessons I suspect are fairly obvious to you by now. Let me bullet point my insights.
1- We often get comfortable with our surroundings. This could be the work we do, our routines, our space. Perhaps we are all in some way shape or form like a hamster in a habitat.
2- When we do encounter new things that are unfamiliar we might be quick to judge them. We might even react harshly. But just like a child who claims they hate green beans even though they have never tasted them, we might actually like the ‘new thing’ if we are open to it.
3- Why not embrace the unknown as an exciting new adventure. We seek comfort in our lives. I told my wife the other day that skydiving is supposed to be scary. (I’ve done it twice). I told her that the experience is all about accepting and embracing all the fear and emotions that come the moment just before you jump out of the plane. Don’t run from it. Experience it.
4- Shouldn’t life be just as much about creating certainty and predictability as it should be about exploring and experiencing new adventures? Again, embrace the fear.
As you intentionally venture out into the realm of new experiences, whether it be taking on the implementation of the Level 7 Systems and having to change the way you think about work and what you do, to testing a new form or method of communication with a team member, to learning a new technology, to dedicating time (that none of us seem to have) to a new task, to making an investment in yourself or your business without knowing full well the outcome.
Regardless, embrace the feelings and fears that come with entering a new section of your habitat. You might just like it after all.
To my fellow hamsters…
Evaluating employee performance is often very subjective in business.
If you’ve ever said, “I think [fill in employee name] is doing a good job but I am not so sure about [fill in another employee name]”, you are largely guilty of subjectively evaluating employee performance.
Stop it. It’s not good for you or for your employees. If your business relies on subjectivity to measure performance, than you can guarantee you will have employees who think they are doing a good job and aren’t. You will also have good performing employees who are not sure you are happy with their performance. Not good in either sense.
Getting employees on the same page as you or management requires clear and quality communication of expectations and performance.
I was meeting with Jenny and Odeen Domingo, owners of co+hoots and eeko studio the other day.
I wrote on the whiteboard in their office these words:
How to Get Fired from [fill in your company name]
They were amused. They both chuckled. Jenny busted out her laptop and feverishly began taking notes.
I wrote down four additional points and explained that any employee who is not meeting these expectations could and perhaps should be fired.
#1- They aren’t coachable and willing to learn and grow.
In a business that is hoping to grow and improve, so must it’s people.
#2- An Individual doesn’t fit the company culture.
This assumes you have a desired and written set of values that describe the company culture. If an employee doesn’t fit and isn’t willing to try to fit your culture, based on your mentoring and development (see point #1), then they ought to go.
#3- The employee doesn’t produce results.
Every position exists for a reason, a purpose and to achieve a goal. Not just do tasks. Doing tasks produce results. A sales rep makes outbound calls to produce sales. A bookkeeper enter accounts receivables in hopes to maximize collections. A manager works on systems in hope so to ensure that employees are producing their results. All employees produce results. The question is whether the results are what you want. The first step in the process is to define the specific results. Then measure them. The report them to your people. BAM. Everyone on the same page.
If an employee is not achieving their goals, despite your systems and training, they might need to go.
#4- They don’t follow-through with commitments, accountability.
In a systems driven business powered by the Level 7 System, we need to trust two things: Our systems produce the results we desire and our people follow the systems. It also means we trust our people to keep their promises. If you have people who don’t follow-through, once you’ve established this as a standard and expectation, they must go.
If you want to focus on a more positive approach to employee development and performance, rather than focusing on reasons to fire them, then consider the four points above and emphasize with people that extraordinary performance is measured by the same criteria. Specifically:
- Top Performing Employees are role models for our company culture. It’s measured through peer to peer, self and management assessments.
- Top Performing Employees always achieve the results specified for their position.
- Top Performing Employees always follow-through with their agreements and commitments.
By getting clear on these performance expectations and then communicating them objectively, you are setting the stage for your employees to be on the same page. They will know they are performing well or not and so will you.
Rob (not his real name), asked me to help him develop his sales systems and train his sales people. He was stuck and simply couldn’t break past his sales ceiling. Revenue had hit a plateau.
I was pretty confident I could help him and the business. But I was concerned.
A business is an interconnected or interdependent organism. I was worried that we would encounter issues unrelated to the sales department, and their current systems, that were impacting the sales.
He assured me that if we encountered a problem, he would resolve it.
The company at the time had three sales people. Between the three of them they were generating about 2.1 million in sales per year.
I began to ask some questions to determine how the guys were spending their time.
Lesson #1 – We have to know if we are doing the right work.
As we drilled down to discover the truth, I uncovered that the sales people were spending about 25% of their time doing work totally unrelated to sales.
Specifically, they were driving around delivering printing to their customers. (The company was a commercial printer. That is real).
I inquired, “Don’t you have a delivery driver who does that for you guys?”
“Yup!” They replied.
“I don’t understand. Why are you guys spending your time doing $10.00 per hour work?” I asked.
The room was silent for a moment. They sales reps looked at each other assessing who was going to spill the beans.
Finally, Don (not his real name) spoke up. “Um…he’s terrible. He is rude to the clients. Very unprofessional. He doesn’t even bother making sure the printing gets to the right person or department. He has been know to literally walk in the door and drop the stuff off and just leave.”
Don (still not his real name) continued. “We’ve talked to the Rob (still not his real name either) and he hasn’t really done anything with it.”
At that point I clarified and confirmed that they simply don’t have the time to follow-up on new prospects because they are too busy.
They were too busy doing $10.00 an hour work and wasting 25% of their time doing it.
Do the math. That equates to approximately $750,000 in lost potential annual revenue.
Lesson #2 – One poor performing employee could be costing a company thousands of dollars per year.
Lesson #3 – Our job as business owners and managers is to create an environment where EVERYONE is performing at the highest possible level. Rob obviously didn’t know how to do it. I had to show him (that is true).
Do you really know how to do create an environment where your people are performing at exceptional levels?
If you are a business owner, whether you like it or not, you have the role and responsibility of leadership. Some are gifted…other’s need support, guidance, tools and encouragement to be their best.
Like the guy in this video.
Do you need a push? Are you capable of more and know it but just can’t seem to get to where you want to be.
Maybe I can help. I rarely do this but I am currently accepting a few motivated business owners who are ready to transform their business and their life – get more free time, reduce stress and build a scalable, consistent and predictable business that grows well.
If you would like to explore what working together might look like, cost, the outcome and benefit, without any pressure or obligation – (seriously I only work with people who really want it), then click the button below, fill out the quick form and let’s start a conversation.