Ego is a powerful force in business. It drives us to work harder, to succeed, and to do our best. It is a key element in the makeup of a successful sales and business leader. Without it, losing the sale or missing the numbers would be much more tolerable. Good enough would in fact be good enough.
However no one is infallible and no one has the market for good ideas and decisions cornered. It is a good manager that will make a decision and move forward, but it is a good leader that will recognize when a better solution than their own has been provided, and adopt it.
Our egos will make it hard for us to accept that we are either wrong, or that someone else may have thought of a better way of doing things. Always be prepared to defend your decisions and directions. However it is equally possible that those that are questioning you are not correct, but do not dismiss them out of hand.
A review and discussion of different points of view will serve several functions. People want to feel that their input is valued and heard. Different points of view make the overall business stronger by removing blind spots associated with too many similar points of view. If they are not correct, they have had their say and will be stronger supporters of the current directions.
If they are right, you have to check your ego at the door and acknowledge it, and then make the changes that are for the betterment of the business.
Many times in business you will see foolishness occur, even in your own enterprise. Opportunities that are clearly visible will be missed. Improper directions will be issued. Bad courses and strategies will be followed. It is your responsibility to bring them to management’s attention when you see them. When you do this, remember two things: Bring a good alternative or corrective action, and don’t complain.
Bringing solutions to topics and issues that you raise is seen as good leadership. Everyone can see a problem. A leader will take the initiative to bring the accompanying solution.
Complaining on the other hand is a pastime that almost everyone participates in at one time or another. However, complaining about topics, issues or directives, without proposing an accompanying solution to your complaint will make you appear ineffective as a leader. Complaining is a non-action oriented event, and a good business leader is action oriented.
If you can not find a suitable alternative or solution to an action that you find disagreeable, then say nothing. There probably wasn’t one to be found prior to the action being taken. Any other comments will be seen as complaining, and few people like a complainer.
Robert McNamara was a former president of Ford motor company, A Secretary of Defense under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and was generally known as one of the first “whiz kids”.He was involved in returning Ford to profitability in the 1950’s and such global events as the Vietnam War, the Cuban missile crisis and the USS Pueblo controversy.Through out those events he maintained a directive that stood him and the country in good stead. He always said to get the information first, and then check it again.
We have all looked at a report, spreadsheet, balance sheet or P&L and after glancing at it said that everything looked in order. With the shear number of documents and emails that we have to look at in one day, we find ourselves falling more and more into this habit. We get to feeling that if things look right, then they must be right, right?
To be truthful, in many instances the simple answer is usually the correct one. Your instincts and a scanning of the documents will do. Things will be as they seem.
However there will always be the exception to the rule. You can not allow a bad habit to lead to a bad result. You will need to get into the good habit of double checking and triangulating your information. You need to understand where the information you are working on has come from. There are very few events that call for such an immediate response that you cannot re-look at the data before acting.
A good manager will look at the information and if it looks right, they will take action. A business leader will look at the information and if it looks right, will look at it again to make sure that it is right, before taking an action. That’s how you make sure you are acting on a studied decision instead of reacting to an external stimulus. Sometimes it might appear right, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Checking the data again seemed to work well for Robert McNamara.
Lulls happen in business. It is very rare that there is a prolonged period of non-stop functional engagement. Holidays, vacations, general economic and market changes occur so that sometimes there is just not as much business to conduct as there is at other times.
It is normally at times like these that management comes by to see what you are up to. We’ll talk about this in another article.
What we will talk about here is the difference between doing something and making progress. Remember how your mom would always think of something for you to do if she found you relaxing or watching TV. That was activity. The management equivalent can be the number of reports, plans and strategies that you will be asked for as a result of any changes to the general business, market or economic conditions that may arise.
Progress for your mom was you moving from elementary, to middle, to high school and beyond. Sure there were report cards every quarter, or semester, but the overall progress toward the goal and objective of graduation had a significantly different and longer time line. The current management equivalent for progress is not so easily quantified. We seem to be in a quarter (3 month) over quarter cycle where year to year changes have lost their importance.
The key is to realize that progress takes time. Activity can be immediate, but can the advancements it generates be sustained? Perhaps, but we seem to have become very focused on immediate responses and gratifications. We need to understand that activity is immediate and short term, and to also understand that there may be quarters where the activity may not put us at the levels that we want. We need to keep our focus on the longer term goals and objectives if we are going to really make progress.