Great Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Love Their Teams

Love their Team TwitterOne frustrating thing I see in leaders from time to time is a negative attitude towards people. Many choose a career in leadership who don’t like dealing with people. Unfortunately, they usually find they are less effective as a leader with this mindset. The reason is that leadership is inherently a people business.

“Leadership is a people business.”

The entire role of a leader is to motivate a team of people towards accomplishing an objective. Great leaders know that. They also know people are messy. People have issues, problems, emotions, quirks, hang-ups, baggage, and can be unpredictable. A great leader can see past the flaws, love their people, and motivate them to do great things. In my opinion, you can’t be a great leader if you don’t love people.

“Great leaders actually love their teams more than they love themselves.” Donald Miller

Donald Miller, founder and CEO of Storybrand, sees it the same way. I like his thoughts on this subject as he reflects on the culture he built at his company. One of the core values he put in place was to “make his employees’ dreams come true by serving clients faithfully.”  I thought it was interesting that he purposely intertwined serving customers with the dreams of his employees. In his view, loving your employees means helping reach their full potential.

“Great leaders can see the greatness in others when they can’t see it themselves and lead them to their highest potential they don’t even know.” Roy T. Bennett

Miller credits the growth of his company to the “secret ingredient” of love. Things changed at his company as they started to live out these core values. As he loved and respected his employees, they loved each other, and they worked as a team to better serve customers. He built a culture of respect with a foundation in love.

He explains that love can be quite scary, though:

Love doesn’t give you complete control over people. Love means you can’t disrespect them when you’re frustrated. Love means you really understand that people aren’t just a cog in a wheel. Love means you have to allow people to hurt you and let you down, and they will, just as you will them. But love also means you forgive, you don’t keep score, you show grace and you protect each other at all costs.

 And sometimes, protecting people means you have to let some people go. People that don’t fit into the culture or try and take advantage of the environment need to be dealt with. The sooner you address it, the better it is for that employee and the rest of the team.

He has two fundamental rules which has helped him create a culture of love and respect:

  1. Hire people who are better, smarter and faster than you.
  2. Never mess with their hearts.

What do you think? Does love belong in the workplace? Can a culture of love and respect boost a company’s performance? How will employees react when they feel their boss truly cares about their hopes and dreams? Why don’t more leaders practice this? Let me know in the comment section below.

Get Up & Get Going!

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“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” Aristotle

As I wrote about in The Secrets of Morning People Revealed, mornings are uniquely important in five distinct ways:

  1. Your willpower is at its highest
  2. Your mind is less scattered
  3. You’re less likely to be interrupted
  4. You increase the availability of time
  5. You start your day with a sense of accomplishment

If you’re going to change the world, you need to get up early. You’ll get more done and you’ll see unique, amazing, and wonderful things. So, get up and get going!

The Discipline of Getting Things Done

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Zen Garden on Beach Photo Credit: Mari Armstrong

I love being an entrepreneur. I love being my own boss. The freedom to operate my business the way I want to is everything I hoped it would be. The downside is, I had no idea how much work it would be. With only a small team, the quantity of work to be done by each person is often overwhelming. The challenge is determining what to work on first.

“If you want to get your ducks in a row, you must first get your head above water.” Unknown

My CFO and I were having a conversation on this topic last week and we agreed that we need to be working on those critical items that are most essential for the business. The key to getting things done is learning how to prioritize actions and having the discipline to follow through until they are complete. It also means saying no to less important activities.

Prioritizing actions when you are overloaded is easier said than done; however, there are some simple steps you can take to determine which activities need to be done first and which actions can be stopped, delegated or put aside. I suggest using the Action Priority Matrix as a tool to help you walk through these steps.

“In order to say yes to your priorities, you have to be willing to say no to something else.” Unknown

The Action Priority Matrix can help you choose the activities you should prioritize to work on and the ones you should avoid. It’s important to weed out the “wish list” from the actions that are needed for the business. This screening process is critical, especially when you have limited time and resources.

 

Keep in mind, the Action Priority Matrix is for individuals but it needs to be tied to the overall business goals as well. Therefore, before using the Action Priority Matrix, it’s essential to understand the high priority goals for the business. If you don’t already have a list of the Top 10 Business Goals, you should develop one jointly with your management team.

Once you understand your business goals, using the tool is simple. Mindtools.com even has a worksheet you can download. Follow these 4 steps:

Step 1. List all the major activities that you need to complete.

Step 2. Score each activity on business impact using your Top 10 Business Goals as a guide (from 0 for no impact to 10 for maximum impact).

Step 3. Score each activity on effort involved (from 0 for no real effort to 10 for a major effort).

Step 4. Plot the activities on the Action Priority Matrix.

Once all your major activities are plotted on the matrix, the next step is to prioritize all your activities. Here are some simple guidelines to deal with the activities in each quadrant of the matrix:

Quick Wins (High Impact, Low Effort). Quick wins are the most attractive projects. They provide a strong return with relatively little effort. Get these actions done first. Completing quick wins will give you a feeling of accomplishment and create momentum to complete other tasks.

Major Projects (High Impact, High Effort). Major projects are critical to the business but they can be very time-consuming. Be careful here because one major project can “crowd out” many quick wins. Set aside time each day (2-3 hours) to work on your major projects but don’t stop working on the quick wins.

Fill Ins (Low Impact, Low Effort). Stop worrying about these actions. If you have spare time, do them, but try to delegate them or drop them altogether if you can.

Thankless Tasks (Low Impact, High Effort). Avoid these activities. They give little return and they soak up valuable time that should be used on quick wins and major projects. Delegate these tasks or drop them altogether.

The Action Priority Matrix is just one of many tools that can be used to help you prioritize your actions. The key to making progress, however, is being disciplined to follow through and complete each high impact action item. Lists are great but actions are better. Your focus should be on completing the high impact action items as quickly as possible and not get bogged down in thankless tasks.

What do you think? Have you tried the Action Priority Matrix? How has it worked for you? What other methods have you used to prioritize actions? What other ways can we tie actions to the business goals? Let me know in the comment section below.

Don’t Ever Start a Band: Six Things to Consider Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

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Jimmy Buffett’s hit song, The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful, starts off with his band members demanding things from him. “Where’s my per diem? Where’s the keys to the rent-a-car? Jimmy, Jimmy, can I open the show in Atlanta please?” He then offers a warning to his listeners, “Don’t ever start a band!”

Buffett’s warning is perfect.

He reminds us that most people only see the glamorous side of making music. This applies directly to business start-ups as well. If you look at how entrepreneurs are portrayed, you would think starting a business is fast, easy, fun and everyone makes a lot of money.

The truth is, creating a successful business is extremely difficult. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all new businesses will fail in the first five years and only a third will survive 10 years or more. This data suggests you are more likely to fail than succeed in your new business venture.

Knowing failure is almost inevitable, why even consider a business start-up? Why leave the comfort of a good job to pursue a risky venture? For one thing, it is one of the most rewarding challenges a business leader can undertake. The odds are stacked against you and it requires your absolute best effort to succeed. It’s also yours. You can shape the vision and culture to reflect your personal values. You will sink or swim based on your own actions. For many, that is reason enough to dive in.

Having recently started a new business, Peak Demand Inc., I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned in the past year. Creating a successful business is difficult but you can make it easier on yourself if you consider these five important points:

Check your motivation. Examine the reasons why you want to be an entrepreneur. If you want to start a business just because you hate your job, you’re probably going to hate this job too. What’s your passion? Is it a lifelong dream? Are you trying to get rich quick? Are you trying to solve a problem in an industry? Do you see an unmet market opportunity? Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 thing so choose something you love doing and can make money doing it.

“Never start a business just to make money. Start a business to make a difference.” Marie Forleo

Understand your skills and experience. This is important. To be successful on your own, you need to be so good at something that people are willing to pay you to do it. If you’re in your early 20’s and starting a life coaching business, don’t be surprised if you struggle to find clients. You haven’t had enough life experience yet. Also, consider your competition. Are you better at doing something than the other players in the market?

“Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash is reality.” Greg Savage

Have a solid plan. Create a business plan that will stand up to the scrutiny of a bank or private investor even if you are self-funding the start-up. Review your plan with respected colleagues and listen to their advice. Spend a significant time on the cash flow projections. You will likely need more cash than you think, so be very conservative.

Hire the right team. I wrote about this in an article called The Secret to Building an Unstoppable Team. To build a successful company, you need a great team. Look for individuals with complementary skills sets, those with a high level of competency, people who have proven themselves under pressure and have a “mission first” mindset. A bad hire will hurt a big company but it will be a disaster in a small company.

Build a support network. Building a successful company requires a strong network of support resources. Connect with other entrepreneurs in your area to seek advice. You will need a banker, a lawyer and an accountant as a minimum. You will also likely need marketing support for your brand identity and website. Look for resources who specialize in supporting small businesses.

Prepare to strap in. Starting a business can be a long and difficult process. Getting customers to understand your value proposition and recognize your brand won’t happen overnight. It can be an emotional rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows. If you prepare yourself and your family mentally for this journey, it will make the ride more enjoyable.

Starting a company has been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences in my business career. Like many, I ignored the warnings, the statistics and the naysayers and dove head first into start-up life. If you are thinking of joining the ranks of entrepreneurs, carefully consider the six points above. The better prepared you are, the more successful you will be. So, go ahead…start a band!

What do you think? Are there other factors to consider before starting a company? Why do so many small businesses fail? Why is start-up life glorified? What has been your start-up experience? Let me know in the comment section below.

Simon Sinek on Loving your Company

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is an author, speaker, and marketing consultant.  He has written three books including the 2009 bestseller Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. His TED talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action is listed as the third most popular TED presentation of all time with close to 32 million views.

When he speaks, people listen.

I love this quote from him, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” 

As an entrepreneur and business leader, I’m working hard to create a company my customers love to do business with. I completely agree with Simon. The secret lies in creating an environment where employees are safe, treated with respect, celebrated and empowered to make decisions.

I want my employees to love their jobs and the company they work for.

What do you think? Is Simon correct? Can customers really tell when employees love their work? Is it possible to fake it? How do happy employees translate to happy customers? Let me know your thoughts.