The Best Investment You Ever Made
by Kevin D. Crone
What is the best investment you ever made?
I’ve asked that question many times in our workshop titled “The Eight Mistakes of Growing a Business”. I admit, it’s a trick question. Inevitably everyone’s answers cite either a stock purchase, buying their house, or maybe the money they put into their business. I always wrote down the names of some of my long-term people, like Dave and Kathie Mather, Bill Buslepp, Troy Treleaven and Kevin Robert. I ask my workshop group if anyone answered with the name of an employee or business partner. Usually, no one does.
My friend Lee Straughan in New Mexico, the best leader I have ever known, said that sometimes business people view their staff the way cattle ranchers view cattle. They just put a price tag on them, instead of seeing their people as the real assets and the intrinsic value of their business.
Jim Mackin, Warren Martin, Steve Cardy, Mark Andrews, and Ralph Catteral are just a few names of past clients who come to mind when I think of managers who weren’t blind that way, and who purposely worked hard at being committed to their people. They spent time nurturing and building their investments in human capital. Now, I am in no way suggesting that these people are bleeding hearts who don’t focus on profits and results…. In fact, they broke records. They see leading people as a requirement to get the results and numbers they want.
You and I know there are numerous elements in business that you have to have in place if you want your enterprise to succeed. Some of these include having a good offering; systems set up to nurture clients; hiring qualified, passionate people; vibrant social media and other marketing; and a strong sales team. Yet, things usually hum the best when you have a crew who are excited about achieving something together, excited about their future, and are led by a passionate, enthusiastic leader. When all this happens, business obstacles and personal frustrations are minimized and it’s easier to keep momentum moving towards goals.
I remember fondly the earlier days of our business when a bunch of hungry, fun, caring, interested, passionate, young people got together to figure out how to succeed… and did! Once a business has matured, it is more difficult to engage and lead a team. Usually mature businesses become set in their ways. The organization, standardization and control modes prevail. Oh, to have that feeling of starting out again!
Don’t waste time wishing it were the good old days and things were easier. Instead, wish you were getting better and creating the future – and then take action.
In other words, don’t let your thirst for improvement get stale. It starts and ends with you.
For more than sixty years we’ve been coaching managers to be leaders in our “Leadership Training for Managers” program. It seems that 85 percent of the time their issues are that they can’t turn a group into a winning team, have a tough time bringing out the best in others and raising their performance and achievement levels. They tend to be promoted because of their technical savvy, the fact that they got things done and they worked hard with little maintenance. All those attributes are what we want from employees, yet they aren’t necessarily the same skills required for managers who need to bring out the best in others.
The number one thing you can do to get others excited and have your team perform better: Become genuinely interested in your people! How? Find out what they want and why they want it. Then help them get it. Sounds too simple. Dale Carnegie taught us that no one will do just what you want. As leaders, we have to remind ourselves of that principle or be perpetually frustrated with people problems, which is the number one cause of stress.
- Find out about your people. We have a model we call the “Innerview”. It’s a list of questions you can choose from that helps you stay on track when having a one-on-one, motivational conversation with your team. The Innerview provides a structure to help you take useful notes on each person. If you’d like a copy of these questions, e-mail Amy Blake: email@example.com.
- Put the names of your people in your calendar. Schedule regular meetings with them to ask how they’re doing and what they want to achieve. Coach them, and always give some positive feedback.In groups, always remember to provide a clear picture of what the business is about, its strategy, its vision, the reality and initiatives to get there.
- In your conversations, connect the dots between what the business wants and what your team members want. Seek alignment. Remind everyone that what each of them does is so important.
I still remember Jim Mackin’s vision of an employee-empowered organization. Warren Martin’s model was a family and community environment. Steve Cardy’s concept was average people becoming somebody important while breaking business records. Mark Andrews’ vision called for individuals playing at their personal best. Ralph Catteral wanted fun and profits for all.
These are examples of exceptional, result-producing leaders who bring out the best in others. From where you and I sit, all those visions and missions may seem corny, especially in a frustrating economy, but in business, you have a short window to succeed and you have to constantly start again to get momentum with people. What else would you do? By cynical, critical, and complain and blame every day? Let me know how that works out for you.
This week’s challenge:
Begin an “Innerview” – or something similar – to find out what people want and are committed to, with at least one person. Then let them see how to clearly match what he/she wants with what the business wants.
Feedback & Questions:
Send me your feedback. If you have any questions on how to apply any of the three actions, call or e-mail me. firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-826-7300.
Have a great week!
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