Are you willing to become your best?
Instinctively, most business leaders would answer Yes to this question. Why on earth would anyone say No? The challenge comes when small business leaders are put to the test—in the heat of the moment of the day-to-day grind. This is when shortcuts are taken to ease tension and pain. Because after all, everyone is overwhelmed.
One family business comes to mind. The leadership team consists of four people, and three are family members. The company is in the service industry, in operation for 20+ years with around 35 employees. The team put a smart growth strategy in place three years ago and was making substantial progress until recently. They’d hit the ceiling. They felt like their “hair was on fire,” like the company was riding on the backs of the four of them.
I asked them whether they were willing to become their best as leaders and managers for this company. But I told them to wait to answer the question until they took an internal self assessment on where each of them individually stood on these five points:
1. I want a single point of accountability for each major function of the business
The leader has to be committed to letting go of other major functions of the business. When someone else is accountable for a major function of the business, you’ve got to expect that mistakes will happen. It will not be perfect.
My client’s founder (and Visionary) said that he wanted singular point of accountability for each function, but his behavior didn’t align. When he saw that things weren’t getting done to his liking, he would swoop in behind the scenes to fix things up. What made it worse is that he wouldn’t tell anyone about it until weeks or even months later when it came out in a rage of frustration.
2. I want to put the company needs first
It’s easy to say you want this, but do your actions align? If you’re making day-to-day decisions with implications for your career, title, or compensation in mind, then you’re putting your needs first, not the company’s needs. This is problematic because it becomes a continual uphill battle to drive results. But when the company’s needs come first, then it has the growth, profit, and cash to give you what you need. You must be willing to put your ego aside.
My client’s sales leader wasn’t delegating accounts to other sales reps because of the short-term impact it had on her personal compensation. She was holding onto everything with a clenched grip. Another team member called her out, and she ultimately realized that their compensation system was broken. Once she saw that her own actions were limiting the company’s growth and ultimately capping her own earning potential, the team redesigned the system with the best interest of the company at heart. They have since broken revenue and profit records for each of the last four consecutive quarters.
3. I welcome personal accountability
You’ve got to take ownership over your roles and responsibility without pointing fingers at anyone else.
The founder and Visionary of this team was great at identifying obstacles and roadblocks that were holding the company back. He was quick to point fingers when someone else fell short. However, when the pipeline for big deals seemed to dry up, he began to list a number of excuses and tried blaming the leader of sales. But generating big deals was his responsibility.
Processing this issue helped the team to realize that it had been their own lack of personal accountability that led to similar behavior throughout the company. They weren’t consistently walking the talk until this moment.
4. I want a common set of rules for ALL
Different sets of rules for different employees will send conflicting messages to your people. And it will cause additional administrative burden and a higher level of frustration for the leadership of your company.
Double standards just don’t work. The leadership team was tolerating behavior among each other that they would never tolerate from their employees. They were constantly frustrated that their employees were acting out. When we went back to this concept, they realized that they were saying one thing and doing another—and that this was the cause of their frustration.
They were faced with a decision:
- Change the rules for all
- Change their own behavior to be in line with the rules that they’ve put in place
They decided the first choice wasn’t a good option, so they chose the second option and made a list of the behaviors among themselves that needed to be addressed right away. This was an emotional conversation, but it ultimately led to great results for the company, with fewer frustrations.
5. I prefer simplicity over complexity
As your company grows, it gets exponentially more complex all by itself. When it comes to running the company, small business leaders need to intentionally make communication, processes, and systems simpler. Otherwise your company’s growth strategy will hit the ceiling.
Two members of my client’s leadership team were extremely detail-oriented, and they intended to solve their hiring challenges by creating a hiring process. It was a great idea, but they were so detail-oriented that the hiring process turned out to be 55 pages! They were frustrated that their hiring process still wasn’t working. It was too complex for anyone to use! They ended up rewriting a three-page version of the most essential steps. It became simpler to use and to track, and it yielded much better results.
The team members had real, rich, and raw conversations around these five points. Each member of the team reflected on their own behaviors and actions that were holding the company back. They realized that “becoming your best” isn’t automatic, and it isn’t always easy. But the team reflected and reset its priorities with a fresh outlook and a renewed focus.
Since this quarterly session, just over a year ago, the team has nearly doubled their revenue and their profits and they report that they feel like they finally have a team of accountable people in place throughout the company..
Are you really willing to become your best? Reflect on these five points for yourself as a key leader in your business.
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This article originally appeared on the GPS for Small Business blog on August 24, 2016.