Want Real Growth in Your Company? Itâs About How You Lead. And Sigh. And Learn. And Change.
I heard this story the other day and cringed.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced that employees canât work from home any longer. First Richard Branson criticized her. Then former employees said that indeed, current employees were taking advantage of the policy. Then the social mediasphere set up positions on either side. So who is right?
Which part of this story made me cringe? Not the change in policy. Not the former employees supporting the current CEO.
Itâs the question that this debate is focused on: âwho is right?â
Iâm going to shout now so protect your ears if you donât like contrary commentary: âWHO IS RIGHTâ IS THE WRONG QUESTION TO ASK! IT IS IRRELEVANT TO THE REAL PROBLEM. STOP WASTING YOUR TIME ON THIS RIDICULOUS ARGUMENT.
Without context, we have no idea what problem Melissa Mayer is trying to resolve with this solution ( I hear its about increasing conversation at the water coolerâŚ but how come? Thatâs a solution, not a problem to solve). So everyone gets to argue about the solution, which is all about satisfying everyoneâs desire to feel righteous, rather than focusing on the desired end result. And this scenario is playing itself out in businesses across the country.
Warren Bennis, says âLeaders do the right things.â Bennis is a leadership guru and a University Professor and the Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of California.
He makes a different distinction about Managers âManagers do things right.â
So is Marissa Mayer doing the right things? Who knows. You shouldnât care. What you should care about is whether you are lulling yourself into a false sense of security with how you manage your business. Are you leading it or managing stuff?
As a Business Owner Are You Focused on Doing the Right Things?
Consider this idea for a minute. As a business owner, how do you make evaluate how you spend your time â are you doing the right things? Or doing things right?
Successful business owners have the ability to look up from what the are working on and self-evaluate.
Using self-coaching questions like âwhat problem am I solving and is this the right way to think about it?â Asking this question helps you to get real about what you what you apply your energy to.
As one of our clients likes to tell us, âit sucks big time to discover I should have been working on the big picture instead of some picky detail that anyone could have doneâŚ but better to find out now, right.â
Business owners who come to terms with the fact that they and their team are working on something in a way that will never take the company anywhere but here, can then change direction. Without a big guilt trip, blame game or a trip down disappointment alley. Or a mind numbing debate about who is right.
Here are a few signs that you are not wearing your leadership hat and how to switch:
1. We get asked this question all the time when introducing new practices to business owners. âHow do you do thisÂ properly?â Bad news for those of you who like to ask this kind of question. Thatâs the wrong place to focus. Wear your leadership hat. Instead of thinking more about whether things are being done âproperlyâ, you want to care more about the result you want out of pursuing the action in the first place. I know, this answer could irritate some people.
Tip:Â Change your focus from doing something âproperlyâ. Instead ask yourself âwhat result will we get if we do it this way? Is that the result we need?âÂ Example: How should you do a performance evaluation? It all depends on what attitude and action you want your employee to have when they leave the meeting.
2. Driven business owners often get caught in theÂ Time Game Trap. They measure how long something takes against their expectation of when they think their staff should have got it done by.
Without being involved in the planning, this expectation is destructive.
Driven people want the gratification of having that project off their to do list. Itâs a zero sum game though: You look around and think, âwe should have had this done by nowâ and start to sweat how long everything is taking. Everyone sees the bossâ irritated look and starts to doubt and second guess themselves. Productivity gets worse. And everything takes even longer.
If you useÂ timeÂ as your primary measurement about what is being âdoneâ or ânot doneâ, you are setting yourself up (and your employees) for chronic, debilitating disappointment.
Tip: Your top priority should be to ask âis the project we are working what is best for the businessâ.Â Example:Â If you think itâs taking too long, take a deep breath and let go of your disappointment. Your disappointment is your problem to manage, not your teamâs.
Now become a good investigator: ask your team using genuinely curious and insightful questions âwhat problem are you hoping to solve with this project?â Focus your discussion on the impact of this project on the business. Then evaluate how time is being spent. âWhat resources do you need to move this forward?â Acknowledge whatÂ hasÂ been achieved. That act will get you what you really wantâŚ inspired action and more momentum.
3. What you want to work on is out of sequence with what needs to happen to get the project moving forward. We call thisÂ Step Skipping. A former business owner decided to retire. He invested his money by buying franchises. He wanted to demonstrate how fast he could make them profitable. He had some brilliant ideas for how to scale the business. Heâd spend his days in the back office writing his business plan, while out front, his new minimum wage employees struggled to run his business. We can all be seduced by the big idea forming on the horizon and forget to handle whatâs right in front of us.
Tip: Look at your immediate projects. Each require leadership and management.Â Example: Using self-coaching, ask yourself the Leadership question first: are we working on the right next step? Then ask your team (or yourself if you donât have a team yet!) the management question. Are we managing the right things âare we doing the right things to get this next milestone met or keep the operation flowing smoothly?â
Wear the Right Hat Before You Act
To run a business and grow it, always remember to look up and notice what youâre occupying your mind with. Pause. Manage your own reactions to that stream of thought.
Then think with your leadership hat first. Ask yourself âwhatâs best for the businessâ. Then remove that hat and think with your management hat. Then act.