The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an American citizen. In November 2016, legendary Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully received the award at a star-studded event in the East Room of the White House.

As his award was presented by President Obama, Scully stood teary-eyed, seemingly embarrassed by all the attention. He shared a stage with Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Diana Ross, and 18 other beacons of American culture.

After the ceremony, Scully was interviewed by John Dickerson of Face the Nation, who asked about his keys to success as a broadcaster. Scully quoted Laurence Olivier, saying, "My success comes from a humility to prepare."

I found Scully's comment stunning but only mildly surprising. Scully was acknowledging that his mastery as an announcer had less to do with what he did in the booth, and more to do with what he did before he climbed into it.

A lack of preparation is pervasive in our business culture. It's on display every day with people who miss critical deadlines and are ill-prepared for meetings.

I have had the honor of working with wildly successful entrepreneurs. People who hire me have one trait in common: the humility to prepare. They tend to have clear intention with everything they do.

They typically employ the following seven practices:

1. Have a holistic view of well-being

Futurist Bob Johnson points out that there are seven types of well-being: physical, spiritual, societal, financial, mindful, interpersonal, and in work. Start by defining what happiness is and set up your schedule to pay yourself first. 

I have run a virtual company for 15 years, in part because when I worked for others, I felt imprisoned by the arbitrary constraints of physical walls and schedules. So I started a company that could provide employees with the freedom to be the best versions of themselves.

I block out time for things that are dear to me (like yoga, almost every day) and plan my work accordingly. I encourage our employees to put their families first. 

2. Make your values nonnegotiable

Leaders constantly reinforce their values in meetings and through visual management. For example, if your values are important to you, they should be on display--in your office lobby, meeting rooms, and facilities. 

In my company, to promote freedom, we demand absolute integrity. I don't have the time or inclination to constantly supervise people, so my staff has to be accountable to themselves. 

3. Get feedback from a broad range of constituents

Build systems to regularly obtain feedback from employees, advisers, and customers. One of my clients, a consumer packaged goods company with more than 500 employees, solicits feedback from every employee in the formation of strategy.

As many of the company's frontline employees are closest to the customer, they are a primary source of innovation. I am the person gathering this feedback, and it can be hard to hear. But getting unbridled feedback from your employees and customers is the best way to improve. 

4. Plan your work and work your plan without making excuses

Great business owners don't use excuses like a lack of time or money for not having a plan and sticking to it. Our best clients hold strategy meetings at least once a quarter and they make their plans very visible. This drives accountability and improves the results of departments and individuals. 

5. Know your numbers

Even if you aren't an accountant, you have to know how the sausage is made in your business. This is especially true for gross profit and levers that you can pull, such as labor.

Have a formal, monthly financial review and a real-time scorecard in public view. Teach your people what the numbers mean.

6. Bring your employees along for the ride

The best-run companies have a special energy in which employees understand the vision of their company. Departments work together because their objectives cross organizational boundaries.

Don't set objectives for a single department in a way that will create silos. For example, if only accounting is responsible for receivables, how likely is it that sales will lend a helping hand? Not very.

7. Lead the tribe

Hierarchy is dead. Today's organizations require collaboration and buy-in.

Understand the dynamics present among teams, departments, and cliques. In my case, I just make sure my employees know that I care about them as individuals: their dreams, their fears, and their aspirations.

Lead your company with intention and humility. It's a better way to live. Let's all make Vin Scully proud.

Published on: Jan 25, 2018