What do you want your company to be?
Do you truly believe that culture eats strategy for breakfast?
Do you really understand the jobs your people do?
As an entrepreneur or CEO, most of us tend to have a skill set developed prior to this role. I started my career in sales and continue to love persuading people to use our company to fulfill their needs. It doesn't matter whether you were in finance and accounting, marketing, development and IT, or strategy and operations. You have an area of expertise.
There tends to be a couple of ways leaders of companies focus their attention. They micromanage the areas they know. How could anyone possibly know how to do "that" better than me?! Or they jump into areas they aren't as comfortable with but are fascinated by. The finance person wants to tell salespeople what to do. The salesperson wants to tell HR what to do. The HR person wants to tell marketing what to do.
So, which works? This is the idea that's hard for many to wrap their heads around: Leadership is a science.
Everyone who graduates from Harvard Business School isn't a great leader. The same as how every child raised in a family doesn't turn out the same. There is a science and an art. How we view ourselves. How we view others. How we interpret what we hear and what we see. We are all different.
When building a company, prioritization is important. Leaders allocate their time on the basis of what they like and what they believe the company needs. These aren't always the same thing. If you have a manager who doesn't like to be "micromanaged," many leaders will back away and avoid the confrontation.
"I'm paying them a salary to do their job, so I'll let them do it," Steve Jobs said. "Hire good people and get out of their way."
Unfortunately, that isn't the case for every company and every employee: 1. You aren't running Apple, so the BEST people aren't clamoring to get in the door. 2. With the size of your company, you probably can't afford the BEST people. 3. Great leaders like Jobs and Gates have quotes from them all over the place, but when they were building, it was different. That gets lost on a lot of people.
So, ask yourself the following questions:
- When was the last time you had a meal with a staff person who makes less than $60,000 a year and does a crucial job in your company?
- Rather than tell them stories about how you used to do that job or how they should do their job, did you ask them how they do their job? And how they view other departments?
- Have you ever sat down with an employee at six months into their tenure and asked them about their onboarding process? "Where did you struggle the most?" "What could we have done better?"
- What is the most menial thing you do in your job? Do you make sales cold calls? Do you create graphics? Do you make collections calls? Do you run payroll? Making sure you are in touch with some aspect of what staff people do keeps your connection level high.
Whether you are running a company of five people or 500 people, most leaders don't realize how they are viewed. The majority of their staff are intimidated. You "control" their destiny. You may feel like you need them more than they need the job, but most employees don't always see it that way.
Thus, a connection to the leader is truly important. A coffee, a meal, and during Covid-19, a socially distanced walk in their neighborhood would mean the world to them. The CEO came to my house to take a walk?!
If you are asking, "Why would 'I' go to their house?" we have already found the first problem. It's not always what is easy or what is right. It's about how you engage and how you make people feel that you really care. I hope you really do.