Owning a business, running a department, doing the best we can is a constant challenge. Not that our pants are on fire all the time, but that there is always something that diverts our attention, demands our time, and competes with the activities that are the main and best use of our time.
Every business owner and executive team I work with has an element of hiding these challenges – pretending no problems exist within the organization. Yes, there are a percentage of leaders that really don’t know there are problems, and I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. You know there are problems, yet it’s hard to say them out loud, to fully define these obstacles since doing so makes them real. Really real. So real that we don’t want to see how much in the way our problems may actually be.
And at the root, we pretend because other people might notice. Have you ever wondered when it became a weakness to have issues out in public? When it became a weakness to not be able to fix our own problems?
It’s not a weakness. It’s an undeveloped skills around problem-solving and decision-making.
Problems have existed since the fledgling of our culture, and amplified with the easy acquisition of power when we used our ego. Ego creates a rigidity and a need to be right. Then came technological inventions, and our continual adaptation of that technology to solve problems – regardless of whether or not it represents the best tool. And on and on. We keep our problems (and the ongoing use of maybe-not-useful tech) inside our organization, maybe even to ourselves, thinking that we must do it on our own.
We are moving forward, and we don’t have to do it alone. (That’s specifically the reason I created the Baseline to Benchmark Forum. I kept meeting business founders and executive teams who felt alone and burdened.)
The rules of engagement we’ve set up are what our employees will step up to. When we draw the lines, and make them rigid, we limit our (and our teams’) ability to problem solve because we, the business owners, have drawn all the lines.
The funny thing about this kind of line – the answer to every situation – has no impact on chaos. Chaos exists outside every answer we spent time thinking up, presenting, and making “the way we do business.”
In my first business, RegNow, I was guilty of this. I knew it all, knew what was needed … and I locked down what each person did, and reprimanded them for pushing the boundaries. (Why? Because there was a time, place, and way to bring up new ideas. You got it, my ego was in the way!) I got in my own way:
- With the need to be taken seriously (I was 20).
- Thinking that I was the only one who knew what was best for customers and clients (I was close-minded).
- By using consultants before I was willing to admit my problems (I failed a lot without learning a lot).
The results were loud and clear, in spite of fantastic business growth:
- High employee turnover;
- Low loyalty within the team;
- One-way communication;
- Always large problems, never small ones;
- Lack of deep personal relationships; and
- The list goes on.
Three businesses later, it’s clear that chaos will always topple rigidity.
RegNow was a success. It was strong and sustainable for 10 years after I left. While I did some things really right, I can only image the possible achievement … if only I’d led differently.
The things I did really right were less quantifiable, and in a time where metrics were everything I was insecure and took out that insecurity on everything and everyone else. I sought control in a world of chaos.
That control – that rigidity – also turned out to be my biggest obstacle in the next two businesses. And those businesses failed. They failed because of ego. The need to know and thinking I already knew.
Recently I talked with Dr. Richard Liposky; one of the life lessons he’s learned and shares is that “when you think you know, you probably don’t.” Apparently I wasn’t willing to change to see change after the first failure – because I did it twice.
Chaos is where magic happens. Chaos deepens relationships, finds new markets, discovers services that add value, strengthens the culture internally and bolsters positioning externally with our competitors. It’s how we use chaos that determines the sustainability of our company.
Grab Chaos By The Hand. Rethink Thinking.
Because you are not alone. The Red Direction team, led by yours truly, work with you to look at underlying issues. These unnamed issues point to the root of the problems you are experiencing in your business.
To do this, we must shift our thinking. To rethink what we’ve always thought. To be a student again. To look at things with our eyes open and without expectation or judgement.
And … LEAD.
LEAD stands for Launch Effective Aligned Decisions.
- Launch. We must start. Staying busy with other things, waiting indefinitely, or even taking a tentative step forward adversely affects results. You measure results. I measure results. To launch means to know the problem, the product, the market, the reason for doing something so actually doing it isn’t overwhelming.
- Effective. The stronger our organizational culture and communication loops within our companies, the more effective we can be. Our organization must know what effective means to us (and how to measure it) when we conduct business.
- Aligned. This seems obvious, but it isn’t. Communication, values, and shared meaning are key here. As leaders we create the space to which our employees show up, which in turn determines how they succeed. When we know what aligned looks like, we can see what it means when someone is operating and behaving outside of the expectations that are set by example.
- Decisions. Yes! This is THE hardest thing I see when working with clients. So many what ifs, what we don’t know … when we don’t make decisions, we are making excuses. It is up to us to make a decision (since we are always leading by example) and, through evaluation, complete the steps through to set up the next decision to be made.
- What do you wish you could change right now?
- Is your ego getting in the way of that change?
I’m ready to hear the answers to these two questions!
At the beginning of this article, I stated that you don’t have to do this alone. I meant it. After completing a Baseline to Benchmark Forum, Donna shared this with me
“There is a weight off of my shoulders because I have a usable mission and vision statement as well as clear strengths of the business. The application process is short. It is insightful. And when we have a video call meeting, together we’ll add depth and begin the process of getting clear about what you need in your business right now. At the least, you’ll have committed a small block of time to developing your business. At the most, you’ll gain realizations that inform priorities and business goals.”
At Red Direction, the abovementioned concept is woven into the mix with each person, on every task. Purposeful, responsive team building strengthens my crew’s ability to come together and work with creative tenacity on project and problem-solving alike.
Still feel like you need a bit of help with some business direction on this topic? Then ACT to Plan by contacting me for a 30-Minute Unstuck Quick Consult. We’ll discuss your aims, where you are, and where you should be to move deliberately toward your team-building goals!