Those that join the military learn quickly about unit discipline. All of the toughness and craziness of basic training is designed to get soldiers to respond to certain situations that the drill instructors know they will face, and to respond in a disciplined, planned manner. In business, employees do not get that sort of training. So when the wheels start coming off the wagon, how will they respond?
Tough questions. How would your organization answer them? Any thoughts you might have?
Founders and leaders of companies may find it easy to work for the love of it. Their time spent creating an idea that becomes a company is full of passion and love. They have a strong sense of pride and investment in the organization. It is like they have given birth to something that they want to nurture, cherish and grow to become something great. What if they could pass on that same sense ownership to their employees?
Consider Bobby Jones who was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete at a national and international level. When asked why he never went pro, he answered, ”for the love of the game.” How powerful would it be to have a full staff complement of employees want to sign up for something that gives them meaning and purpose? We can look at the individuals that join the Peace Corps or VISTA and want to capture their passion. We can stand in awe of the doctors that go to the front lines of war with Doctors Without Borders; and the lawyers fighting the death penalty for convicted felons. They have passion for what they do. They are joining established organizations because in their gut, the organization represents who they want to be.
Company leaders ideally want to hire people who can be that passionate about their work. It is not an easy task. It is easier if the leader exhibits the passion, paints the vision, sets the example and shares the values that will enable a prospective employee to get it intellectually and then feel it. As the organization grows, every person doing the hiring needs to be able to do the same thing. And it can’t be phony- it is not just for the purpose of an interview. Every company needs to live it, breathe it and reinforce it continuously. It can be done. It takes work, it takes awareness, it takes mindfulness.
People want believe in something. They want their time spent at work to be meaningful. Help them make it so. Is your passion shared by your employees? If not, are you willing to do what it takes to get them there? Are you willing to build a culture of employees who work for the love of It?
Leaders are people too. They react to triggers, they get their buttons pushed just like everyone else. But one of the competencies that a leader is supposed to have is the ability to ignore it when those buttons are pushed. They are supposed to know that bad decisions happen when they are purely emotional, based on anger or some immediate unexpected event that provokes them.
Organizations expect their leaders to be able to make smart decisions under all circumstances. Decisions need to be rational, whether they are based on a lot of data points or one view. Leaders need to always remember that their decisions are signals to their employees and to those outside the organization who may be impacted by them. That, in decision making there is a thought process at work and there is consistency with the vision and mission of the organization.
Leaders who are reactive and who shoot from the hip might like to think of themselves as “cowboys” in the heroic sense, while they be petrifying everyone around them. Leaders need to give their teams a sense of security, of predictability, and of caring- caring that the decisions will be made with their well-being in mind.
Knee jerk reactions are the antithesis of the above. They create employees who are afraid to be in front of the boss and afraid of what the boss may do when others are in front of him or her. And fear does not fit in a strong culture
If you are leader with a quick trigger, learn to count to 100, giving you time to think before you act. You will make better, more consistent decisions and you will get better results all around. What are your thoughts?
There is no rule that defines what every organization’s core values need to be, no right or wrong. Values represent the principles that an organization is going to follow to help them achieve their vision. Many companies use words like respect, collaboration, customer-centric, quality and team as their values. Others of a different type use words like hard-charging, aggressive, take-no-prisoners and competitive as theirs. Again there is no right or wrong.
But to achieve those values, a company must define the behaviors that support them. And then must insure that there is consistency in those behaviors’ definitions. The latter set described above sounds perfect for a competitive athlete or ex-military who have come from that type of culture. But the behaviors required still need to be defined and where the lines are drawn needs to be made clear. Clearly nobody would recommend actually killing or harming a competitor; or threatening a customer into purchasing more. Yet on the surface the values could be interpreted as consistent with such behaviors.
Values are often words on a plaque or in a strategic plan. But they are brought to life and ingrained in the culture through the behaviors that truly define them. And the organization will stand or fall based on how well the values and behaviors are enforced. Accountability cannot be selective- it must be uniform.
Values, behaviors, and accountability are a package in successful organizations. Are your values empty words or the real deal?
What does it mean to move to the next level? It is a phrase often spouted without clarifying how it is being used. It could be the next level in gross sales, moving from $5 million to $10 million. It could mean moving to the next level in product development, moving from a single product or service line to more than one. It could also mean that the organization is becoming more diverse in the way it is structured with more individuals fulfilling individual functions rather than a few wearing several hats.
Next level thinking requires a strategy and a lot of planning. It doesn’t just occur. Growth can be organic or by acquisition- both require forethought. Innovation to create new products or services is a process, and the better the process the more likely the success.
One of the big questions to be answered – What will the organization gain by moving to the next level? If top line sales growth wreaks havoc with sales strategies and lowers margins substantially, is it worth it? If unmanaged and miscommunicated innovation destroys process and dilutes the company’s brand, what was gained?
The next level is about construction. We have all played with blocks or played jenga. It’s working collaboratively to move the business vision to the next stage. Construction takes a strong foundation insuring that each layer above is stable as well as strong. Trying to build on a weak foundation leads to disaster.
Your strategy in thinking about the “next level” should start with a good hard look at the present state. Is your desire to move to the next level blinding you to a need to address the present state first?