We Don’t Have to Be “Our Own Worst Enemy.”

By Tony Ford
Ford Leadership Solutions

Ingenuity, originality, boldness, ambition, aggressiveness, over-achievement. These are just a few of the character traits we entrepreneurs tend to embrace and appreciate in others. I wonder why?

Could it be that these are the traits that come naturally to us, but not to others? Even so, it only partially explains why we sometimes struggle to get our people on board with our ideas and goals. So what else could be missing that makes our day-to-day business operations such a struggle?

In a word: CONSISTENCY - or, to be more accurate and helpful, the lack of it.

Before I get too far into this issue, allow me to confess my guilt as a business owner who has failed consistently (no pun intended) in this area. My own history and the fact that I find this situation in almost every company I mentor lead me to the conclusion that owner inconsistency is a primary cause for:

  • Lack of trust – When pressed for time, options or answers, we often throw our own company rules out the window by failing to explain why the situation called for an “exception” to our employees.
  • Employee turnover – We promise new hires one thing and give them something less, driving up training costs and damaging our reputation.
  • Bad attitudes – We demand positive, cooperative attitudes from our employees but model impatience, anger and immaturity when problems arise.
  • Inferior profit margins – We set margin standards for our sales force and then make “special deals” with particular customers that break the rules.
  • Poor sales growth – We convince ourselves that we have figured out how to keep growing our sales without ongoing, real-world input from our employees and customers.
  • Decreasing market share – We achieve just enough success to think we can just casually check-in on what our competitors are doing instead of executing a disciplined plan for keeping up with their activities.

If you are like me, none of these issues come as any great surprise to you as a business owner or leader. In fact, our bookshelves are filled with volumes dedicated to solving these exact problems.

Titles like:

  • The One Minute Manager
  • Management by Objectives
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Good to Great
  • The Rockefeller Habits
  • Traction

If you were to read them all, you would find a central admonition that sounds something like this:

Owner – You are the primary example for consistent conduct and rule-following in your company. No matter what your employee manual, vendor contracts, mission statement or advertising copy says, YOU are the singular common denominator that determines how your employees, vendors and customers will engage with your business. If you make building/maintaining trusted relationships and providing high quality service your consistent practice, they will follow your lead and protect your reputation in the marketplace.

But how? What is the magic recipe for walking through your hectic, chaotic business day with the focus required to be a rock-solid, consistent role model?

Allow me to share four solutions that I have used personally and with my clients that seem to produce consistent results:

  • Regain your perspective – Pull up the calendar and plan some time away from your business to think through what you are really trying to accomplish. A lot has changed since you first chose the path you are on, and periodic course-corrections are mandatory in reaching your goals. Do not allow the winds of change to convince you that your original goals are no longer attainable. Situations come and go, but you are the one who chooses where to put your efforts. It’s YOUR business -remember that.
  • Reaffirm your people – Believe it or not, your employees and vendors want to please you. They are continually solving problems that you will never know about in order to “protect” you. Honor their concern for you by demonstrating your appreciation for them. Recognitions, words of affirmation, contests, trips, and other incentives keep people inside your affirmation bubble.
  • Rely on professionals – Stop trying to be good at everything. Talk to other business owners you respect and surround yourself with a small group of trusted professionals. Then leverage the wisdom, experience and best practices they bring when facing strategy, financial and legal obstacles or opportunities.
  • Relax and enjoy – Try hard to always remember why you started your business in the first place. You saw an opportunity to use your skills to build something the world needed and would pay for. Turns out, they still will – but it means nothing if you are not enjoying the experience. Lighten up and enjoy the cool things that come with sitting in the big chair!

When we learn to lead our people as a confident, consistent business owner every day, we open the doors of opportunity for them and satisfaction for ourselves. 

That’s how I see it – how about you?