"You keep on using me... till you use me up!"
This Bill Withers’ song defines how so many of us feel about our businesses and/or teams of people we lead and manage. When we get into ruts and feel like this, we should only look in the mirror. As leaders, our top priority is to lead.
Like any championship sports team that comes to mind, those involved need to share in a vision and then work together to achieve success. As a Detroit native, I have had the pleasure of watching the Red Wings win multiple Stanley Cups, the Pistons have a few championships, the Tigers have a couple of World Series under their belts in my life. Then again, the Lions have yet to win it all during my 54 years on this planet.
I believe all teams, like businesses, are a direct reflection of the ownership. As business owners, key players and coaches on the snow teams reading this article right now, it is our job to call in the right play and lead those doing the hard work on (or in our case – in) the field. Your actions must reflect that drive to the “championship” whatever that may be, for your business.
There are a few key pillars for business success: finance, sales, operations and human resources. You could also consider them to be money, customers, performing the promised work and people. They are “pillars" for a reason because they hold up the entire business. Fail at one and everything falls.
So, which of these are you most passionate about? As a small or start-up business we find ourselves playing all or most of these roles. If we are honest with ourselves, then we quickly realize which ones we like and which ones we shoulder because “somebody has to.” The sooner we reach this moment of self-awareness, the sooner we can move on to the next step — who am I going to hire and for what position?
This decision is never easy, but it is simple. Just pick the pillar of importance that you struggle with the most. The pillar that takes most of your time and yields the least amount of satisfaction. You know, the one you go home complaining about frequently.
Or look at it this way: If you hire someone and give them authority to run the operations pillar, then you can focus on the other three. You know, the ones you love to do. Now, let me be perfectly clear, there is an old business quote that is as true decades ago as it is today: “You can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility.” As you build your team, your responsibility is to insure the success of those who you hire. You need to spend your newly freed up time (you did hire a key person to run a key pillar to free up time, right?) not on the golf course or going home earlier, or coming in later, now you need to keep working as hard as you have up till now, just adding a new responsibility ... that of coach and mentor. This is the job description that will never leave you. This is the job description of all leaders. This is your “career plan.”
Wait a minute! We thought we were in the snow and ice business. I don’t remember starting a people-coaching business. The truth is, we did start a people coaching, sourcing, growing, teaching, caring, loving and tough loving business. After all, what we sell is people’s time. Sure, we sell salt and plowing and shoveling, but I would argue, it’s pretty easy to sell work, buy equipment and find vendors to sell us supplies. How easy is it to sell people on why they should work with you? Provide them with the emotional, intellectual and financial needs they have? And in the end, have them perform their jobs as good, or hopefully better than you ever could? NOW THAT is a game changer. That’s how teams win in every sports analogy I could give you. That’s how the best families build stronger and wiser from generation to generation. And that’s how businesses create a legacy and provide a fun, healthy and loving environment for people to work in.
Make a list of the six most important things to you. These are really, really the six most important things. Carry that list with you for a few months. Look at it daily and ask yourself, “Does my behavior align with this list?” If it doesn’t hit all six — and odds are it won’t — then take something off and put something on that is in alignment with your behavior.
During this time, fill your mind, body and soul with “good stuff.” Read, watch podcasts, talk to others who have what you are looking for, ask questions of others and a lot of yourself ... and by the time you read the next article I submit, you will be looking in the mirror and seeing more than you saw this morning. Good luck and god bless!