How do you create the future you want? As your business grows and transforms, you find new challenges to deal with. Many leaders struggle with their futures. For the serving leader, it is critical to get beyond the day to day activities and begin to develop your plans for the future. Many business owners have a difficult time determining what’s next for them beyond their business. Over 80% of entrepreneurs claim they built their businesses to be sold. Then why do so many struggle to disconnect from their business? Having interviewed many founders of high growth businesses, I have discovered how difficult it is for these leaders to create a great second act for their lives beyond their businesses.
I thought it might be helpful to share a process I use when working with these business leaders. I use a four step process that helps them reconnect with the things they enjoyed when they started their businesses while applying the knowledge they gained through growing it. Continue reading
After the events in Boston last week and several calls from friends in the Boston area, I’m reminded again of how fragile our lives are. When you spend time around first responders, you learn how quickly things can change our lives. Over the years, I’ve had many friends in the military and in first responder units and still spend time working out with many of these fine men and women. After the events of last week, one reminded me of what he learned in the Navy SEALs, “the only easy day was yesterday.” It seemed to me that might be an interesting topic to share for this week’s blog. How can you apply what our finest in the military and first responders already know to your life and your business? But first, let me thank all of the people who help keep us safe. Thank you for all you do and all you’ve taught me over my lifetime about being serving leaders.
Here are four strategies I’ve learned from first responders that you can use in your life and business today. The first strategy the military and first responders embrace is they are constantly training. These men and women work day in and day out to improve their performances. They constantly train at high levels and are always getting immediate feedback on their performances. They practice constantly so that in an emergency they can instantly react. In many corporations, training is not a way of life. When I taught at Fort McNair, I shared that too many small and midmarket businesses spend little time on training their people. Because of this, they allow the business environment to control their destinies. They see training as a waste of time and their results show it. If you want great predictable results, consider adding regular training to your team’s schedule. When I add training to my clients’ businesses we achieve record sales months in less than 60 days, month in and month out. Continue reading
On Monday, April 8, 2013, we lost a truly remarkable lady and leader. Before there was Condi or Hillary, there was a woman who could stand up to men and lead their country to greatness. To paraphrase Churchill, I would say Prime Minister Thatcher was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. When Prime Minister Thatcher spoke, the world listened. After the she left the world stage we heard very little from her again. She was a paradoxical leader at a time when world freedom was at stake. She was a conservative feminist. She chose to lead in difficult times. What can we learn from this unique woman who helped create the world we live in today? Continue reading
Why do so few entrepreneurs reach financial independence? I believe it’s because many entrepreneurs are willing to settle for less. They build an organization that will not grow without their involvement. Previously, we talked about the first three reasons why entrepreneurs start their businesses. To build an organization that people want to buy, you must be willing to work outside of your organization. Today’s blog talks about my favorite kind of entrepreneur, the serving leader. Let’s talk about what happens when you do everything right and achieve your goals that take your business from good to great. By thinking about how you’re going to leave the business early and often, you begin to create the future of your dreams. The difference in your results is staggering. The quality of your life changes in ways you can’t even imagine today. So, let me share with you how we can work together to change the world.
The fourth reason entrepreneurs start their businesses is to change the world. I find most of my better known clients have an incredible drive to change the world. They are passionate about what they do and they never tire of working with people and their key ideas. These people are visionaries and serving leaders. During the early stages of their business, they are able to woo people to their ideas and their business. They reach out to many different stakeholders in their communities.You can feel the energy coming off them when you sit down to talk with them or if they are in a room full of people. Continue reading
I’ve been involved in succession planning since the late 70’s. It was the first consulting job I did with clients and I still am actively working with organizations on their talent management and succession planning. I’ve worked on over 100 succession plans for key clients and partner organizations.
The first reason succession planning is not done is because there is always something more important to do. For most entrepreneurs, they are still actively involved in their business. They can find a hundred other things to do than talk to about who will lead their organization after their gone. Over 50% of my client s don’t put an emphasis on organizational sustainability. They are brilliant at what they do. In many cases, they’ve created visionary organizations. The problem for many is that they cannot see a time when they won’t be involved in their business. So why invest time into something that won’t build a lasting leadership legacy. My challenge is to get them to face their own mortality and still remain a long term client.
The second reason there is no succession plan is the founder doesn’t feel that someone else can do their job. For many in North American men, their lives are so tightly aligned with their careers, take away one and the other begins to falter. I have found than many market leading organizations begin failing when the founder can no longer see the future. Since many of my clients are technology based, the leader is unable to deal with disruptive technologies and capabilities in their markets. As their technologies mature, the type of leadership required also changes. Since many entrepreneurs are controlling by nature, when change begins to occur they may hold on tighter to the leadership of the organization. Leaders who have built significant organizations are not willing to bring in leadership that may add another dimension to their organization. In the worst case, they may begin chasing the out their successors, either because of fear of the unknown or they’re afraid they’ll be thrown out before they’re ready to go. The other part of this is that the leader can misread their own health and drive. They don’t notice health problems until it’s too late. I’ve seen several of my clients die before their successor is chosen. Sometimes it’s not a health issue but a random act the owner suffers. I’ve seen at least several senior leaders die in unexpected plane crashes and, in one case, it took out 3 of his successors. In the military, there are always succession plans to follow. You should have one too.
The final reason succession plans fail is that the leaders and their leadership teams underestimate the impact of a new leader on their organization. When Jack Welch named Jeffrey Immelt as his successor, several key executives left to run other organizations within several months. In the case of GE, they had incredible leadership depth to call on after the executives left. When a new CEO is named in a midmarket organization he or she may lose a critical member of the leadership team. If you’re in a small nonprofit, the moment you promote a new managing director, several of your team members may begin looking for roles outside the organization. You must be prepared to deal with these situations. The better you are prepared for the worst the less harmful it will be to your organization. We will talk more about how to do this in a future blog.
The challenges for a smaller business may also include a financial component to the succession plan. In many privately held organizations, when a team member on the leadership team leaves there is financial burden that the organization takes on. Since the stock is not publically traded many times the cash payout for private stock can cause additional hardship to the organization. I’ve also seen many smaller organizations struggle to pay both the former CEO and their replacement the compensation they feel due to them. This can undue and unnecessary stress during their transition.
Next week after the succession strategy conference, I will bring back the financial piece of the succession strategies process. For many of you CEO and Managing Directors, you will find this next blog incredibly helpful. I’ve got my copy of CFO for Dummies out and I’m not afraid to use it. Next week, we will share the financial secrets of succession strategies. See you next week.
The first lesson George Washington might teach us is that it’s better to dodge a bullet than take one. As a military leader President Washington had several horses shot out from under him in several different battles. He understood that you can’t make things happen from the back of the battlefield. Serving leaders are willing to lead from the front and are willing to do the things they ask others to do. He understood leaders must step up and take responsibility for their results. Entrepreneurs understand that if it’s going to be done right that sometimes means they must do it.
The second lesson to learn from Washington is that he had extensive formal training in the military. He had a formal military training in the British army. He learned the more traditional ways of battle from generations of great military leaders from England. George Washington didn’t let his advanced education and experience limit his ability to recreate the rules of war. He developed strategies that would allow him to use his fledging army to confound the world’s most powerful military. Entrepreneurs must know how to create their own opportunities in the markets they work in. Going straight at your opposition is most likely to end in a loss for your team. As you organization continues to evolve so should your go-to-market strategies. Be agile when you competitors are larger and dominate smaller markets to increase your profits.
The third lesson to learn from Washington is to know when to strategically retreat and regroup. George Washington understood you can’t win every battle. Use what you learned to step back and develop a different strategy. He was the master of using the environment to change the way we fought and won. He was willing to take risks and seize opportunities when others didn’t see them. He crossed the Delaware on Christmas Eve to surprise and defeat his enemies. Successful entrepreneurs must know how to seize new markets when they appear. You must create as many opportunities as you find. Leaving old markets to enter new ones is critical to your organization’s success and growth.
The fourth lesson to learn from Washington is to know what you are good at. President Washington was a man who was very comfortable with who he was and what he wasn’t. He invested his lifetime knowing what he did best and then delegated to others around him to support his efforts. He spent significant time knowing what he needed to create success both here and overseas. He then found the most capable men and women to support his dreams. Purpose driven entrepreneurs know what they do best. They then find others with complementary skills to do the things they don’t do well.
The final lesson to learn from President George Washington was to know when to leave. Succession is a hot topic today for many business founders. Knowing when and how to bring in the right people is critical to a sustainable organization. If any President was ever given an opportunity to be made King, it was George Washington. He chose to leave office because he understood that our country, and ultimately, our form of government could not be built on the back on an individual, no matter who they might be. In a truly courageous act, he helped create a Constitution and a culture that would far exceed his life and impact. Many great entrepreneurs have failed to create the culture and structure to live beyond their vision of the business. Entrepreneurs must be willing to plan for the unplanned and develop an organization that transcends the individual founding team and develop succession plans for key people within the organization. Then even the best leaders must be willing to step down and create future leaders in the process.
Most of us are very familiar with the stories about Washington; the infamous cherry tree, the silver dollar across the Potomac, the winter in Valley Forge. Looking past the school stories you’ll find we have much more to learn from the Father of our country.
I have found over the past 25 years of guiding hundreds of flourishing companies in hiring the best sales professionals, there are several things that successful leaders do in hiring sales professionals that other leaders don’t do. I will share them here over the next several blogs to get you started in the right direction. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’d be more than happy to talk about your individual challenges.
The first step is to identify what you want in a sales professional. Do you understand what key skills will be required in the person you hire? There are many types of successful sales professionals in the market, but that doesn’t mean they will be successful in your organization. Most leaders tend to hire people like themselves. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Many entrepreneurs are very successful sales people in their own right. They tend to want someone just like themselves without considering what key factors are involved in the job if they are not doing it. Many leaders are very good at building sales at the beginning of their business because they are offering a new product to the market. The way you sell products when they first become available is different than how you sell when you begin facing the competition. Many early sales are unprofitable, but when owners look back on their early success they fail to remember this.
Many entrepreneurs fail to find the right sales professional because they don’t identify the key success factors in their organizations’ success. For example, they need a person with prior experience selling in a market similar to theirs. They may hire a sales professional who comes from a larger competitor without realizing the selling circumstances for the individual was completely different. It’s one thing for a sales professional to get an appointment with a potential client when they work for IBM. It’s another thing entirely when they represent a startup organization. Do you know how to position your product in comparison to your competition? Do you know who is the right person is to call on for your product or services? Do you have current clients in their industry? Most successful sales professionals are good because they are able to target their efforts to the right clients and decision makers. They have a finely tuned understanding of how to find these clients and how to take them through a sales process. If you’re unclear about your target, it could take your sales professional longer to achieve the success you expect. During the interview process you should try to uncover who the sales professional would try to sell your products and services to at first. Ask for specific examples and why they think these organizations would be good potential clients. Take time to discover who the sales person would call on but also why they would chose these clients. How does it match up with your current clients and future customers?
To increase your hiring success, develop a target client profile that will help you and your potential sales professionals understand the type of clients you want them to acquire during the initial stages of their working with you. I’ve found most midmarket organizations struggle to identify the type of clients they want to add to their customer base. They leave it up to the sales professional who spends significant time chasing clients who don’t fit or aren’t profitable clients for their businesses. When you are a small business you may have been able to be less selective in your customer acquisition process but as you continue to grow, you will need to become more focused on what type of clients your business can serve best.
To achieve hiring success, the more time you invest in understanding your business, the more success you will have in hiring the right sales professional. This initial research will help you better understand your business and will also allow for increased success in hiring the right individual at the right time. A bad sales hire can cost your organization between $300,000 and $1,000,000. It is critical to begin with a strong understanding of what business development skills you need in your next sales hire. This information will also help your current sales team succeed as well. I’ve used sales meetings to develop this material in the past and have been very surprised how it positively impacted my current sales team’s efforts, as well.
Next week we will talk about how to develop and interview guide that will help you structure your interview process for success.
A friend sent me a copy of President Obama’s first inaugural address and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say this year. Having had the opportunity to see President Barack Obama speak several times, I’m looking forward to hearing a great and moving speech. My friends inside the White House are telling me we should expect something incredible. Having written many speeches for many great leaders, I thought I’d share what I hope to hear on Monday.
I’d like to see President Obama ask for our participation is something larger than ourselves. We are living in trying times. Many people are still either unemployed or underemployed. He could ask us to believe in ourselves again. Why ask versus tell? Well, most great leaders understand the power of asking to get involvement from others. President John F. Kennedy famously asked his fellow Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Serving Leaders ask other people to get involved in their greatest challenges.
I would like to see President Obama inspire us again. Inspiration may be his greatest gift as a leader. John Quincy Adams said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.“ I know President Obama understands the power of inspiration to move others to his point of view. Let him inspire others through the power of a shared mission. Serving Leaders inspire others to take action towards their dreams.
The third thing I would like President Obama to do is challenge us. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I don’t anticipate agreeing with everything a president does. However, I have the right to be able to disagree with his thinking. I’d like to see President Obama challenge the way we see things and allow for discussions about the challenges we face as a country. Let him advocate his position to the people who disagree with him and accept a frank discussion of the issues. Once these conversations are completed and these challenges debated, let’s be ready to move ahead. Serving Leaders understand that challenges are our opportunities to grow stronger together.
In closing, I would like President Obama to use his ability to influence others to convince us why it’s so critical to take on the big challenges today in a civil, thoughtful way that includes everyone’s point of view. There is nothing to be gained by letting time pass. We face many towering problems in our society today. If we hope to continue to be the world’s leader, we must start solving our problems today. Abraham Lincoln once said “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Let us begin the work today to build our country for our children’s future. Serving Leaders understand why it is important to take action today for a better future tomorrow.
Many of the people I worked with in military intelligence had a different view of the act of war. Many were detached from the reality of war and the consequences of how they presented their findings impacting civilian leadership decisions. After I read General Schwarzkopf’s autobiography I began developing a better understanding of what our military officers had to deal with on the field of battle. I started asking my military colleagues different questions about how they applied key leadership concepts to the military.
There were three keys I took from General Schwarzkopf’s writing. They helped me shape my discussions with military and executive branch leaders after 9/11. I also understood some of the people I worked with had worked with General Schwarzkopf. So quoting from Schwarzkopf’s book would not give me instant credibility with these men and women. I had to try to incorporate these lessons in our overall discussions on what we were trying to accomplish in our service academies.
The first key I shared was “When placed in command, take charge.” My team was made up of leaders from all branches of the military and many were trained to work well in a command and control system. I wanted them to be able to slip in and out of leadership roles as the situation changes. This was a different view than many of my peers proposed. I shared several examples of why leadership needed to be individual, as well as team based. Today, you can see this strategy working in many of our best frontline military leaders.
The second key was “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle.” When working with the military you learn they leave very little to chance and everything to choice. They constantly drill and work on the details of their missions. They keep drilling so they are prepared for almost every eventuality. Their team members know their roles and are able to move at incredible speed when operating in the field. This provides their commanders incredible flexibility in dealing with any enemy. I’ve seen similar agility in other high performing teams of first responders in Ohio. These teams drill and then drill again until everything is working at 110 %. That extra 10% save lives in the field. You can only get it by working hard in drills.
The third key was “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.“ This quote was the capstone of our new strategy framework. When in doubt, rely on character to carry the day. I share this with every executive I work with. Most professors I work with stress strategy as the critical element to an organization’s success. I’ve found the opposite is true. The more character the organization’s leaders have, the more likelihood of enduring success. I’ve seen this work for many of the leaders I’ve worked with for the past 30 years. In an era where leaders’ careers are measured in 2 or 3 year cycles, many of my clients’ leaders have been serving for decades in their roles. When asked why their success has lasted so long they always share it’s about character.
This leaves me with my favorite quote in regards to General Schwarzkopf. He said, “True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that’s what courage is.”
Thank you, General Schwarzkopf for teaching me about the true nature of serving leadership. Rest in peace, Sir. Your lessons on leadership will shape future generations of leaders around the world.