In reflecting back on over 1,000 sessions and almost 10,000 hours of working hands-on with entrepreneurial leadership teams, I’ve observed and learned some great lessons that will help you and your leadership team. My hope is that these lessons will serve as constants for you as you build a great company, and that they’ll give you insight, something to shoot for, peace of mind, a wake-up call, and a few aha’s. Enjoy.
- It’s all about healthy relationships. My most effective clients are those with healthy leadership teams. They have strong relationships and connections with each other. While this sounds soft and maybe obvious, I’m now convinced of it. “Healthy” equals “less effort” and “faster results.” Stephen Covey’s book The Speed of Trust is the best at technically describing this phenomenon. Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team is still the simplest. Are you proud to have each person sitting across from you on your leadership team, and do you feel he or she has your back?
- People do a lot of things right on the way up. But unfortunately, they do a lot of things wrong on the way down, and they do them before noticing they’re on the way down. Jim Collins’s new book How the Mighty Fall is a great read on this subject. A lot of times, as soon as you think you’ve got it figured out, you lose your edge and start bad habits. Are you taking your success for granted?
- There is no easy business. Many think so. I haven’t seen one yet. The grass isn’t any greener. Stop looking over the fence-it’s dangerous.
- Most people would rather not solve their problems. It’s amazing how many issues get dusted over during issues solving. People truly would rather ignore them and hope they go away. The irony is that by going to the root and solving them, you save unbelievable amounts of time, pain, and suffering. Someone must be the force to call it out and go there. That someone is you!
- Build a culture, not a company. I heard this statement about three years ago, and it’s really apparent now. Leaders who constantly focus on their core values and make every decision with them in mind find that everything is a little easier. If you hire, fire, review, reward, and recognize every person, along with walking the talk, the rest takes care of itself. You’ll have more fun, get more done, and have a culture, not a company.
- It still always comes back to The Six Key Components. Keep them strong, and you’ll always be in the upper tier. Our clients with strength in The Six Key Components noticeably have fewer issues, are healthier, make more money, have more balance, and gain much more traction, in good times and bad. How strong are your Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction Components?
- Slow down to go fast. The old proverb is as true as ever. Leaders who take time off, work “on” the business frequently, take clarity breaks, and plan with their teams actually grow faster and get more done than ones who work morning till night, seven days a week. I observe that they are often more creative, solve problems better, and solve them faster. When was the last time you took a clarity break?
- Leaders obsessed with providing value to their customers have fewer issues. The ones who obsess stay ahead. Your company exists for the customer. The moment your company stops providing value to customers, your problems will multiply. Every process, person, system, and service in your company needs to be aligned to solve a problem or fill a need for your customers. If you don’t clearly know what your customers love about you-and what they don’t-you’re missing the point.
- Establishing and accomplishing quarterly Rocks and weekly To-Dos will have the fastest impact on your organization. This requires no additional explanation. Of everything we do for clients, this gets the fastest results.
- Staying on the same page is vital. You’ll save time, money, and stress if you make it a habit to stay on the same page with everyone in your life. The sessions I do when people aren’t on the same page require almost 50 percent more time to accomplish the same result as a team that’s in sync. Are you seeing eye-to-eye with all of your people?
- Most leaders are terrible time and project managers. It pains me to say this, but it’s scary and true. Most people have trouble laying out and executing a plan of attack for their Rocks, special projects, and big goals. Investing in teaching your people to manage projects and their time will bear plenty of fruit. Incidentally, figuring out a simple solution to this is going to be one of my focuses in 2010 now that I see what an epidemic it is.
- Doing the right thing gets you further in the long run, although not always in the short run. It would make your head spin to watch leadership teams decide on the easiest or quickest solution to a problem in order to move on and then watch them rehash it over and over, session after session. Time and again, observation shows that if they had chosen the right and best (though sometimes painful) solution, they would have saved considerable time in the long run. Are you choosing the right solution or the easiest solution?
- The fear of doing something is always greater than the actual doing of it. This applies to everything. Are you letting fear slow you down? Enter the danger. Do it! It will catapult you.
Okay, so there were 13 insights. I tried like heck to get them down to 10. I hope they help. Questions and comments are always welcome and appreciated.