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.
Effective leaders do the right type of work and come in all shapes and sizes of personality. Some drive results, some collaborate. Some are extroverts and some are introverts. Regardless, leaders engage in a certain type of work and perform specific activities, not unlike any other role or position in an organization.
So let’s make something very, very clear – leadership is NOT about personality. Having worked one on one with 1000’s of leaders in dozens of different type of businesses and scenarios, I have seen wide varieties of personalities that are very effective in their leadership responsibilities.
I have also worked with many people in leadership roles that, based on their personalities, people might assume they would be effective leaders but they were not. In fact, they were terrible. They simply didn’t engage in the right type of work and do it well.
Effective leaders all have one thing in common…
They have enlisted and built a group of enthusiastic and focused followers.
Thanks for listening and thanks for leading.
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.
Effective leadership is not about personality. Granted certain personalities enable leaders to be more natural at certain skills.
- Those with more outgoing, task driven personalities, tend to drive change and innovation more comfortably.
- Those with influencer type personalities tend to draw people in and communicate with greater enthusiasm and create buy in.
- People that are more analytical tend to be more systematic and detailed when it comes to strategy development.
- And those that are more stable and consistent tend to build a more relational environment.
But effective leadership is not about personality. And it’s definitely not about title.
It’s about the work the leader does. Effective leaders do the right work, the right way.
Effective leadership requires having an effective system.
The Three Key Leadership Systems
1- The system for understanding opportunities, market potential and people.
Intuitive leaders have an innate sense of trends and understanding product development, market needs, opportunities and people.
Walt Disney, despite naysayers, somehow knew people would drive to the orange groves of Anaheim, California and pay $1.00 to go to an amusement park. We now have Disneyland. Thanks Walt!
Steve Jobs was absolutely convinced that a market of computer enthusiasts would appreciate beautiful fonts and artistry when it came to computer design. He was right.
By the way, when I talk about markets, that also includes followers. In business, that’s employees. Great leaders understand employees and people. They understand what matters to them and will inspire and engage them.
Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos Shoes, seems to have an uncanny sense of how to inspire and keep employees. In comparison, a typical call center environment has roughly 150% annual employee turnover. Zappos experiences less than 39% which included turnover resulting from promotions. He determined that people want to be happy at work and created an environment that really supports that.
For some business owners they are very effective at understanding market opportunties, potential and followers. Some people THINK they are but really miss the boat.
In order to lead effectively, leaders – business owners – must be honest with themselves and consider how effective they are at really understanding markets and people.
Regardless, there is a system for this and it really comes down to knowing the truth. The Level 7 Principle of Knowing What’s True suggests we get objective information about our theories. So if you think the market might be interested in a product or service, do a little testing or investigating first. Do some research. Gather some data.
Over the last year or so I’ve been exploring the idea of launching a new, very laser focused implementation service centered on helping companies get systemized. It’s all about systems documentation and the systems development cycle. The idea of developing a systems driven business has become more mainstream and easy to understand.
I recently launched a 6 week training and implementation program specifically focused on walking businesses through the specifics of that process. It was very cool seeing the number of people who jumped on the opportunity to get involved in the process.
If you want information on the next launch, click this link to get on the early notification list.
2- System for establishing goals, vision and direction.
Most business owners I meet have a pretty good idea of the direction they want to take their businesses. It’s sort of floating around in the atmosphere and they pull nuggets of their vision out from time to time as needed. But often it’s not written down and laser focused. This lack of focus and direction hurts a business more than most people know or care to admit.
Great leaders are very clear and definitive about the vision, goals, culture, standards and objectives of their business.
There is a system for developing these as well. In virtually every case, when I support a business owner in the process, I have found that walking them through our system for defining and getting these elements in writing elevates their confidence and ability to lead their organization dramatically.
This process must following the steps behind understanding markets and potential however. It doesn’t make sense to create a vision based on a situation where there is no or limited market potential.
In our Level 7 Full Access or i2 Program, we have a whole series of systems that are designed to help business owners identify and clearly articulate their company goals and objectives.
3- System for Creating an Enthusiastic Collective Focus. (A clever way of saying – effective communication)
Good leaders figure out a way to effectively get their message – their vision – across to others. Some leaders are natural communicators. People literally hold onto their every word. In some cases people might have some challenges or hang ups communicating goals and objectives. To those types I say, your people are not mind readers. Figure out a way to get your message out in a way that will inspire and engage them.
Good leaders develop effective and consistent systems and forums for communication. The hold meetings. They send memos. They do a video. They enlist others to tell the story. But they get their message out until people get it and OWN it.
How will you know if you are leading well?
Very simply. You have followers. Not employees who are engaged cause they are being paid. It’s more than that. You have people that are engaged, enthusiastic, committed and understand where the business or organization is going. They want the result like you do.
If you don’t see evidence of that in your business, go to work evaluating and developing your leadership systems.
- Understanding Markets and People
- Defining Vision and Goals
- Proper and Effective Communication
I have another confession. Last week I shared my experience dealing with tension and resistance.
This week I confess that I got caught up in the shiny objectives. You know…some idea caught your attention and before you know it you went down a rabbit trail that wasted your time and energy.
Entrepreneur are especially susceptible to this kind of behavior. We are problem solvers. It’s our nature. We are masters at identifying something that’s not working and then we find a solution. We love new ideas, tools, methods, technology and gadgets.
We are unique in this sense. Special. In my opinion, it’s one of the reasons I think business owners are so valuable to our economy and society.
We fix and get stuff done! Yeah! Give me a B – B. Give me a U – U. Okay you get the point.
However, this wonderful gift and talent can be a curse. Some of us get bored too. We need a new adventure.
I experienced this syndrome firsthand this week. I got caught up in a shiny object. I spent enough time going down a rabbit hole that afterward I felt dirty and needed a bath. No it wasn’t anything weird or disgusting.
I just realized that I had gotten off course from my primary mission and goal long enough that I felt guilty and frustrated. Like I just had wasted a whole bunch of time. My wife says, “Nobody got time for that.”
So I felt guilty like I feel after eating that extra piece of pie or cake. (mmm…did I just say pie?)
Here are the lessons I learned from last week.
#1 – Stay focused on my goals. I have found that if I review them daily – even for a minute or two – it helps me stay focused on what matters most. It helps, by the way, to have written goals and perhaps a vision that really matters to you.
#2 – Be disciplined when it comes to engaging in innovation. Let’s face it…that’s what we do when we are chasing the shiny object…we are innovating or looking for a better way of doing things. Innovation is critical. We just need to do it in the right time and right way.
#3 – Give myself permission to chase a shiny object from time to time. I had suggested to a client to spend a couple hours on Fridays to have fun learning new things without any expectation to do anything with it. Just feed the entrepreneurial animal in you.
#4 – Get a hobby. I have one by the way…I just wasn’t engaged in it last week. Business owners are notorious for getting bored and getting off track from their goals. I will tell you that my most successful clients stay focused on their primary businesses.
Okay…so I’ve made my confession. What about you? Have you found yourself chasing a shiny object from time to time? What do you do to stay focused?
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?
I’ve had something on my mind lately. Actually walking through some of my own personal growth challenges and I have come face to face with something I haven’t paid much attention to in the past. Not that the problem or challenge didn’t exist, I guess I just wasn’t conscious of it.
Oh…but I am now.
I believe for some, you might be able to relate and learn from my own challenges and what I am going through.
I’ve made some important decisions regarding my business lately. Expansion and growth kind of stuff. You know…the kind of stuff you probably think about all the time as a business owner. (By the way, some of the things I am doing WILL be of interest to some of my wonderful followers. Perhaps YOU! So be on the lookout. If you can’t wait to hear about it, shoot me an email or give me a call).
The trouble all started when I stopped thinking about moving forward and started taking action.
The fact is I was experiencing the problem before I took action but it went to a whole new level once I started moving.
The problem was tension. Now I know you know what tension is.
It’s the feeling you get when you are standing still but KNOW you should be moving. It’s that uncomfortable feeling of knowing where you are is not where you would like to be.
It’s also the feeling you get when you start moving and you are experiencing uncharted waters. You know. Pressing beyond what feels comfortable. Taking chances.
So I had tension before I started moving. Then I experienced a whole new level of tension once I started moving.
Reality #1 – Unless you’ve achieved a level of complacency or ambivalence to your business and life, you are going to experience some tension when you aren’t taking action. Something inside will be prompting you. Always! Accepting and acknowledging this truth is the first step in managing it.
Now once I started moving, in addition to the tension, I encountered a whole new problem.
It was almost as if the forces of the universe, an enemy, had decided to come against me and my pursuits and oppose me.
I was clearly being challenged. Every time I took a step forward, I was getting knocked back two steps.
I was suddenly faced with a choice. Retreat or advance.
I knew if I retreated, I wouldn’t be feeling the resistance anymore. Just the tension and knowing that I didn’t want to go back to where I was.
If I continue to advance, I knew I was going to have to do something different. I was going to have to apply a level of effort, intelligence or approach things in a new way.
Choice made. Advance!
Doing things differently; adopting a new approach includes one or more of these three points.
1- Get you mind right and in the game.
It really comes down to commitment. A choice. A resolve.
Successful people – business owners – set a goal, establish a vision and decide that they won’t quit or give up.
Over the years of working with business owners, quite frankly, this is the primary reason why I see so many fail to accomplish the things they set out to accomplish. They run into resistance and their personal resolve and commitment isn’t strong enough to deal with the resistance.
They will blame outside circumstances and others. But the problem is between their ears.
Lesson 1: Learn to stick with “it” no matter what. But you have to know what “it” is first. Set a goal you are firmly committed to achieving. Then decide there are no other options other than to make it happen.
It also helps to rally people around you who will encourage, support and fight with you…even when you encounter extreme resistance.
2 – Engage in the right work.
In order to accomplish your goal you have to know what the right work and actions to take. I’ve discovered that in order to break through barriers, I can’t do the same things the same way.
In business, the right work is strategic work. It means asking the right questions. Asking and answering the questions IS THE WORK.
The book Art of War by Sun Tsu, which according to some people is the greatest military strategy book of all time, offers great examples of the responses that come from asking the right questions first.
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril” – Sun Tzu
In business it’s like saying, study yourself and your competition before engaging in advertising activities. The appropriate strategic questions might be:
What strengths do we have over our competition? What can we do better than anyone else? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we position ourselves to capture the market we can serve best.
Asking and answering these things IS strategic work.
If you are not engaging in asking the right question, you might not be doing the right work in the business.
Here are some other pretty cool business related strategies from Art of War. Click here to read them.
Lesson 2: Have the guts to do the right work, to change your approach, to stop doing the same things you have done every day. You might lose a battle or two along the way but you will win the war in the end.
3- Do work the right way.
This is tricky because there are so many different approaches that could achieve the results you want. One of the ways to maximize your odds to find the best approach is to understand this very important philosophy:
The key to success of any business is dependent on the quality of its systems. Improve your systems improve your business.
With that in mind, doing the work the right way means that you are always looking to create and innovate the best system.
There are four elements that will help you develop great systems.
1- Define the goal of the system. You must know the purpose of the system and how it is performing. If I place an ad in a publication, my goal might be to maximize the number of qualified prospects that call my company to set an appointment.
2- Then create the system itself. In the example above, create a great ad. If you don’t have a system to create an ad that will produce the result, find someone that has a track record for creating ads that convert.
3- Engage the system and track. You have to make sure the system is working. In the case of the advertisement, I would then need to track how many calls I get from the ad I placed.
4- Innovate as needed. Based on the performance of the system, you may need to make a strategic decision to improve the system. Sometimes the best decision is to leave it alone and work on a system or area of the business that isn’t performing as well.
I started this whole conversation around the subject of tension and resistance.
I’ve concluded that we are going to experience tension and resistance when we advance towards any goal or endeavor. I also know that we can minimize the tension and resistance by managing our mindset, engaging in the right work and developing the best systems.
The key, like most things, is to do it.
Here I go.
How about you?
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.
Business owners have trust issues. It’s true! If you feel trapped in someway by your business or don’t believe your business can work without you – you have trust issues.
What exactly do we need to trust in order to establish freedom? What do we need to trust so we can feel confident in our business and our people?
In a typical people dependent business model, answering those questions can be quite difficult. Most of the time a business owner in that environment has to trust their people on many different levels. They have to trust their knowledge and ability to perform specific tasks and functions in the business.
They have to trust their people’s judgment and decision making ability. They have to be able to count on their people. They have to trust in their own ability to innovate and create a model for business that will work. Just to name a few.
In a Level 7 Business, the business owner only has to trust 2 things.
- They have to trust that they have systems, procedures and processes for doing business that will produce the optimal or desired results. In The Level 7 System we call this The Principle of Creating Replication.
- They also have to trust their people to follow the systems. In The Level 7 System we call this The Principle of Facilitating Compliance.
You can’t have one without the other.
Want to get over your trust issues, build an amazing business and establish freedom? Focus on building a business based on creating the best possible systems that produce results and establishing an environment of accountability with your people.
It’s really that simple.