Be prepared to handle a natural disaster when it hits your community or business.
Be prepared for when your competitor stumbles to serve his or her clients extraordinarily well.
Be prepared for when your client of 15 years changes course and doesn’t renew 35% of your business.
Be prepared for when a product glitch causes turmoil that results in you losing key executives.
As a business leader, your job is not just to deal with today’s challenges, but also to prepare yourself to handle the challenges of the future. Be prepared.
Yesterday I went to my son, Ben’s, “Back to the Future Day” where parents get to sit in the classrooms as the students go through a normal day. I sat in a Language Arts, World History, and Spanish class. I was quickly reminded of the real work involved in teaching middle school students. I hadn’t been in a 6th Grade classroom in 38 years, but as the teachers covered compound predicates and ancient Egyptian history about the pharaohs I realized the amount of detailed preparation and planning and execution that goes into a 90-minute class.
Then I thought about my day job, and the many business leaders I work with over a year’s time. It struck me again that to be a truly effective business leader you have to bring your best performance every day as you go about influencing how other people think.
You might only interact with a certain employee, supplier, or customer once in a year’s time. Are you having the type of influence that you want to have or are you just going through the motions? How about with the employees, suppliers, and customers you see on a regular basis? Are you treating them with the same level of respect and standard of excellence that you provide to your newest employees, suppliers, and customers?
Leadership in a moment of crisis is important, but those moments are small in comparison to the daily challenge of being a great leader regardless of the situation. To be a great leader, you have to bring your very best every day in every situation. That’s how you refine your leadership capacity to be ready for any moment.
Over the past fifteen years I’ve provided 1,700 executive coaching sessions for over150 senior-level executives and managers in over 30 industries. I’ve noticed that those who go on to greater success and those who stall in their careers or get let go share one thing in common and one thing that separates them.
All 150 of them had at least one aspect of themselves that was keeping them from being more effective as a business leader. That’s what they had in common.
What separated those people who went on to greater success from those who spiraled downward or maintained the status quo was the willingness to tackle that one aspect of themselves. The stubborn ones refused to adjust an obvious weakness whether it was the way they talked to people or dressed or made decisions or implemented plans. Why did they refuse? Arrogance, pride, ego, the usual stuff. But the business leaders who could accept that they always needed to improve were the ones who made adjustments, overcame a singular weakness, and became more effective.
Do you know what one thing is holding you back from being a better business leader?
Are you willing to make adjustments in order to overcome that one thing?
This weekend I attended a board retreat that was facilitated by organizational consultant extraordinaire, Nancy Brodsky. Early on she talked about consensus versus majority rule.
She explained that consensus occurs when everyone has an opportunity to share his or her thoughts, everyone listens to the collective input, and then a decision is stated by the facilitator and/or the boss, which is further discussed by the entire group until it can be actively supported and implemented by everyone. Nancy then pointed out that consensus is not achieved through a majority vote, that it’s not a compromise, it’s not necessarily your first choice, and it’s not a win/lose situation.
I’ve never been a big fan of consensus in the past because I felt it was just the lowest common denominator that everyone was willing to accept. However, after watching Nancy guide two days worth of discussions, I realized that in the end everyone supported the final decision even though it was reached through long debates. It was the debating and exchanging of perspectives that allowed a better end result than would have been reached if every decision was based purely on a vote.
In other words, powerful consensus can be reached through effective and patient collaboration. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to a decision. Take a little longer and get to a decision in a way that everyone can support it.