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The Secret to Owning a Successful Business:

LEADERSHIP

The Secret to Owning a Successful Business: LEADERSHIP

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

Sustainable Growth, the cornerstone of any successful restaurant or business, rests on the shoulders of three profound elements: Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

In this article, we’ll focus on Leadership.

LEADERSHIP

What is Leadership?

Countless volumes of books, articles, podcasts, blogs, and conferences do their best to help leaders every day to get better at this thing we call Leadership. I always like to go simple and start with a definition from one of my best friends, Merriam. Webster, of course.

The dictionary defines Leadership (noun): as a person who guides or directs a group; Leadership (verb): to guide on a way especially by going in advance or to direct on a course or in a direction.

NOT EVERYONE IS A LEADER

Contrary to some contemporary thought, not everyone is a leader. Leadership is about more than influence. While there certainly is a special essence of influencing those who are being led, there is also a clear depiction by the definition of guiding and directing while also going in advance of those who are led.

Admittedly, in every organization, there are far more people that should assume Leadership that don’t and to paraphrase something Pat Lencioni shared in a recent conference I attended, there are probably a lot of people leading that should not.

WHAT DOES LEADERSHIP MEAN TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Now that we understand the essence of Leadership and leading, what does that mean to your organization?

Can we look at any organization with the same lenses?  Yes…and no.

Sustainable Growth rests squarely on the shoulders of Leadership, and the balance of that Leadership is dependent upon the context of your business, and your organizational dynamics.

LEADER DEVELOPMENT AND DIVERSITY

When analyzing influence in your restaurant or business, you should begin with two concepts:   leader development and leader diversity.

LEADER DEVELOPMENT

Sustainable Growth best occurs when there is more than one leader. There must be depth as well as a breadth of Leadership.

If you are reading this as a restaurateur or even a small business leader, ask may yourself, “Am I the only leader on my team?” The only excuse for answering that with a “yes” is if you are the ONLY person in your organization (even then, a Sustainable Growth MindsetTM ensures you don’t stay that way for long)!

Over time, hiring and investing in middle-level leaders and helping them take the initiative to improve their leadership skills will pay considerable dividends: for them, for you, and most tangibly, your organization.

LEADER DIVERSITY

Think about what type of leaders you have in your organization. Certain leader types may be more effective than others in your space.

Some leaders love details! Details energize and make them tick. Surely you know somebody like this?

There are still some that are exceptional at helping everyone see the BIG picture, visionary and inspiring as they articulate the 30,000-foot view as few others can.

Additionally, there are those of us energized when surrounded by people–the team we work with, a robust audience, or countless customers and clients.

Lastly, there are those empowered by the closing of a door, finding themselves alone in peaceful solitude with their ideas.

Which of these is good?  Is one worse than another? Can there be a “good” or “bad”?

DETERMINE YOUR LEADERSHIP TYPE?

Are you a Maverick or Pioneer? An Operator or Reconciler?

What about those on your team?

In the fast-paced restaurant industry, where the customer’s desire is instant gratification, Leadership is critical, details matter, and self-awareness is the beginning of a leader’s growth journey. Your team’s future growth depends on it!

Take our short, quick persona quizzes (click here) or have your whole organization figure out where they are on the spectrum. It will help you and your team see yourselves in a different way, and improve, regardless of where you are.

3 QUICK-ACTION STEPS TO SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

Here are three actionable tasks that may serve you well in your endeavor to bring out the best in your business through Leadership:

  1. Assess yourself and your team’s personas. Send SLA’s Leader-persona quiz (FREE!). This exercise alone will increase self-awareness and learning.
  1. Bring the team together—in whole or in parts—and share personas. What do you see? Any surprises? Any trends or fresh observations?
  1. Lastly, ask yourself, “Are we balanced?” Do you have gaps? Blind spots? If so, generate some options that will improve your team’s balance.

LET’S GET OUT THERE AND DO IT!

Which D-Day Leader are You?

Which D-Day Leader are You?

June 6, 2019, is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the intrepid invasion at Normandy, France. Less than a year later, Hitler was dead and Nazi Germany defeated.

Many factors led to the success at D-Day. Strategic Leadership was a key difference. 

The Allied military leadership team outclassed the Nazis, completely fooling them as to the location of the main invasion, taking advantage of their byzantine decision-making process, and preventing large-scale counterattacks on the landings.

The 4 main allied commanders in the Normandy campaign: Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley and Patton were great leaders, yet each was hard-wired differently. They complemented each other — turning diversity into strength.

Find out which D-Day leader most closely resembles the way you are hard-wired as a leader. 

Five secrets to doubling your workforce

(without more people or gizmos)

Five Secrets to Double your Workforce

Only about one-third of employees in the United States are engaged at work

Julie, we will call her, was so frustrated. She was in charge of a nonprofit that supported an important cause. She had talented people and enough budget to execute their programs. Despite all this, they just couldn’t seem to get anything done.

According to Gallup, only about one-third of employees in the United States are engaged at work. The other two-thirds are physically present but mentally absent.

Julie’s challenge was a bit different. Her employees were engaged but only about one-third of the time … and, of course, at different times. The other two-thirds seemed to be consumed in backbiting, frustration, and unproductive churn.

These 5 low-cost, high-impact efforts are changing all that.

  1. Take the time to explain WHY. Julie would get frustrated when her employees asked her to explain certain policies and decisions. She believed she was being second-guessed. After reflection, she recognized that most of her answers could be summed up with “because I said so.” She discovered that her reaction to the questions was part of the reason for the backbiting and friction.

According to Forbes, explaining WHY has a tendency to improve employee confidence, productivity, as well as the employee’s ability to problem solve and innovate.

A Change in mindset

Julie began using a different approach. She changed her mindset and began to interpret WHY questions as indicators that her employees cared. She took the opportunity to validate their concerns and explain her rationale. When she found that she could not offer a compelling answer, she worked together with the team to come up with a better policy.

  1. Take Responsibility. Julie prided herself on high standards. She set tough goals and challenged her team to meet them. When questioned by the board of directors about a shortfall, Julie often began the explanation with “the person responsible for X is working very hard, but …” She thought she was backing her team. They believed she was throwing them under the bus and blaming them. They never took risks or tried new approaches. Like others, her employees concluded that following the status quo was the safest way to avoid getting blamed and, perhaps, fired.

When Julie realized that her approach had these inadvertent negative effects, she changed her language to “That’s my responsibility. We’ll get to work on it.” She also made sure to distinguish between accountability and blame. She held her employees accountable for things under their control, like developing sound plans to achieve goals and then executing those efforts to standard. But she also made clear that no one was to blame for outcomes that were beyond their control. This reduced the finger-pointing that was wasting time and damaging morale.

  1. Hire for Culture. Every organization seeks the best possible talent and Julie was no different. She carefully outlined the skills for each position, diligently combed through candidate resumes for the right background and experiences, and conducted interviews to choose among the finalists. Normal practices.

Julie’s nonprofit had an average employee retention of 24 months. Every two years, most of her twenty-person team changed. Of those who left within two years, most were due to a culture mismatch — numbers consistent with national trends. With an average salary of $70,000 and an estimated turnover cost at 75% of annual salary, Julie was burning over $1 million in the revolving door.

Determine the ideal culture for your team

Julie used our tool to determine the ideal culture for her team. She discovered that a Collaborative team best addresses the nonprofit’s mission and challenges — one focused on teamwork and innovation. She had been hiring highly-qualified people who were individually competitive, which was undermining coordination. She was also hiring process-oriented people who wanted the comfort of executing routines rather than explore new ideas. Both were creating workplace friction and frustration.

Hiring for culture only works if you have clearly defined the values and expectations of your desired culture. Now, she can begin hiring the right people. Cutting turnover in half will save her nonprofit $500,000.

  1. Put people in roles that match their leader persona. Part of Julie’s turnover challenge was burnout — a common problem for nonprofits. Good people worked very hard, grew exhausted, and burned out. Their last six months on the job were marginally productive. Julie’s team was physically diverse, but most tended to think the same way.

Our leader-persona assessment led to some interesting observations. First, her team was imbalanced toward detail-orientation. This partly explained the innovation problems — she did not have Mavericks or Pioneers who were hard-wired to challenge the status quo. Her Operators and Reconcilers worked very hard to come up with new ideas, and some ideas were very good. But the work exhausted them, contributing to the high turnover for these positions.

Second, she had Jim, her only Maverick, working as the chief of staff, which meant he was trying to play the Reconciler role of building and managing consensus among the team. Jim was a super policy advocate, but he was terrible in this new role. Julie, an Operator, found herself constantly refereeing disputes among the team – something Jim was supposed to handle. She was tired of it. Jim was growing frustrated, too, and she did not want to lose him.

Julie put Jim back in the advocacy role. She is seeking more Mavericks or Pioneers to support her need for innovation and is hiring a Reconciler for the Chief of Staff position.

5. Involve your team in creating the annual business plan. Like most nonprofits, Julie had a 5-year strategic plan. She outsourced the work to a team of consultants. They listened carefully to Julie and the board about the challenges the nonprofit was facing and the main capabilities and initiatives to advance their cause. The consulting team produced a very well-organized strategic plan that was supposed to result in $2 million growth.

The problem was that no one other than the consultants really understood the theory of success, so everyone just kept doing what they had been doing. This was not going to yield better results. Her team was like the other 90 percent who failed to execute their strategies successfully.

Create a new strategy

Julie worked with us to create a simple new strategy to address the changes in the environment. She explained the updated approach to her team and how each of their efforts contributed. Using SLA’s implementation plan model, she had her teams develop their annual tasks and requirements. They were, in effect, aligning their own work plans for the year to the strategy. Dedicating three one-half days to this effort was painful.

But the payoff was immediate. There were no more unresourced, pie-in-the-sky ideas, disconnects between activities and desired outcomes, or competing silos. By outlining the needed resources and setting their own deadlines, the teams gained ownership and accountability for the execution.

Julie reckons that change alone boosted employee engagement from about one-third to about two-thirds.

These five new habits are helping Julie double employee engagement, effectively doubling her workforce’s productivity at very little cost.

Julie is an amalgamation of clients who have experienced these challenges and outcomes.

 

3 Ways to Tell if Your Culture is Killing Your Organization

  1. Is your annual turnover higher than 20 percent? Hiring a new employee could cost as much as 50% to 200% of their annual salary.
  2. Do you have toxic leaders or employees? Workplace incivility costs an estimated $14,000 per affected employee.
  3. Is your workplace culture out of step with your strategy? If so, your team is underperforming. This is part of the reason most strategies are never executed.
Workplace Culture Economics

Culture eats talent for breakfast

“Culture,” the late management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “eats strategy for breakfast.” I like to see them as two essential courses, along with leadership, of a 3-course meal. Two out of three is not good enough. A poor culture will undermine a good strategy and drive out good leaders. Poor leadership will damage a solid culture and strategy. A bad strategy will impede the growth of a well-led team.

Culture eats talent for breakfast … and spits out anything it does not like. Talent that matches culture becomes part of the organization. Talent that does not fit gets rejected.

Here’s the trick: your workplace culture is not the same as your workplace values. The culture is defined by what actually occurs at work — hour-by-hour, day in and day out.

Organizations that focus their hiring practices on talent tend to have workplace cultures that grow organically — regardless of the official values that hang on the walls. Hire competitive talent and you will get a competitive culture, even if your official values champion cooperation and collaboration. Hire cooperative talent and your push for a competitive workplace will find resistance. Hire talent that is at odds with your values and you will eventually have a toxic culture.

One former client, James Cook Media, was experiencing an annual turnover of around 100 percent. This fast-paced, innovative company, was hiring highly talented people. The problem was that the new hires expected a steady rather than dynamic work environment. The revolving door was a massive drain on revenues that were bankrupting the company.

We help define culture.  We get results.

We helped them define their culture and the types of employees that would best fit. They began making culture fit their top priority. This dramatically reduced turnover and helped save the company from bankruptcy.

The American Association of Suicidology was experiencing declining revenues. Their dedicated employees had low levels of engagement due to poor strategic direction. When Colleen Creighton took over as the Executive Director in 2017, she recognized the need for a proper strategy. We worked together on this with the board of directors. Once approved, we coached the staff to develop a business plan to implement the new strategy. In effect, the staff was creating their own work-plans for the year.

Employee engagement rose from about 40 to 80 percent — with significant impacts on greater revenue, lower costs, and higher levels of initiative.

Here are three quick ways to check if your culture is damaging your organization:

  1. Is your annual turnover higher than 20%?
  2. Do employees report workplace toxicity?
  3. Are your culture and strategy aligned?

According to one study, poor culture fit accounted for 89 percent of hires let go within 18 months.  

Use our workplace culture quiz to help you identify the ideal culture for your organization, so you can specify values that make sense and improve your hiring practices.

 

Leader Development is Like Gardening

Leader development is like gardening

Leader Development is Like Gardening

I was struck recently by a Harvard Business Review article called “The Feedback Fallacy” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. The authors rightly criticized the faddishness of so-called radical candor and radical transparency, noting that such critical feedback is often counterproductive (and may be used as an excuse for office bullying and toxic behavior). The authors also caution that performance feedback can be idiosyncratic, revealing biases of the person giving feedback.

Instead of providing critical comments, the authors argue that leaders should focus on what each person does right and encourage them to do more of it.

This approach has its merits. To be sure, recognizing when people are doing something right is good for morale and self-esteem. People are more inclined to repeat and improve upon their natural strengths than to spend time and energy improving perceived weaknesses.

At the same time, I know I get better when my speaking coach, Jan Fox, tells me to stop doing X and to do more of Y. She’s tough, but always supportive. She helps me improve what I do well while also helping me tackle my problem areas. Would you want a speaking coach who ignored your “ums” and “you knows”?

Jan’s approach is best summarized by what Strategic Leaders Academy business owner John O’Grady calls gardening – you help the person amplify their natural strong points and prune away what impedes growth and performance.

The key to doing this well is by focusing on improvement without trying to turn someone into something they’re not. No amount of feedback, for instance, will transform an extrovert into an introvert; no amount of coaching will change a detail-oriented person into a visionary. Demands that someone become a different person are counterproductive.

This is the idiosyncratic problem noted by the HBR authors: leaders tend to try to clone themselves; that is, their feedback can be aimed at making the employee become more like the supervisor. This approach only works when the employee has natural inclinations that are similar to those of the supervisor. For everyone else, the feedback is ineffective and often causes resentment. Over time, you can imagine how this damages diversity and balance in the organization.

Proper gardening – proper leader development – is a process.

It begins with knowing yourself and your employees. Knowing ourselves helps guard against idiosyncratic feedback and promotes diversity and balance. Knowing our employees helps us to provide feedback and developmental experiences that are most likely to bring out the best in each person and to prune away problem areas.

Our leader-persona assessment is a good first step to becoming a proper gardener for your employees. Knowing each employee’s leader-persona will enable you to help them be the best Operator, Reconciler, Maverick or Pioneer they can be. You will also reduce the tendency to provide morale-damaging idiosyncratic feedback.

Forge Balanced Teams
Take our leader-persona assessment below

“Our employee engagement improved from about 40% to 80%, thanks to Chris’ support.” Colleen Creighton, Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology.

Let’s discuss ways we can help you have positive outcomes, too.

Pro Tips:

  • Amplify your Operators’ strengths in planning and execution. Give them the tools they need to excel at these tasks and to hold people accountable. Don’t needle them about needing to be more visionary or more outgoing or to speak more during meetings. Do, however, address behaviors that may come across as badgering or clinging to a problematic status quo.
  • Amplify your Reconcilers’ strengths in teamwork and consensus-building. Empower them to iron out differences among teams or teammates. Don’t pester them about needing to be more innovative or a better planner. Do, however, address tendencies toward watering down issues, status quo bias, or running themselves ragged trying to please everyone.
  • Amplify your Mavericks’ strengths in solving wicked problems. Give them important issues to address and the license to pursue new ideas and solutions. They will need Operators and Reconcilers to keep those solutions feasible and grounded in reality. Avoid criticizing them on attention to detail or not being sufficiently enthusiastic in social gatherings. Do help them address challenges associated with aloofness, impatience, and impracticality.
  • Amplify your Pioneers’ innovative strengths. Encourage them to challenge the status quo and to come up with ways to push the envelope of performance. Make sure Operators are nearby to keep their ideas prioritized and practical. Avoid beating them up about attention to detail or planning. Do help them address issues associated with a lack of prioritization and overloading people in good ideas.

Follow these guidelines and be better at delivering helpful, thoughtful, and productive feedback to your team.

The Four People your Team Needs to Succeed

The Four People Your team Needs to Succeed

To grow sustainably, every team needs four critical people.

With them, your team has the right balance to execute, solve problems, innovate, and maintain harmony. Without this balance, an organization is vulnerable. These four people are the Operator, the Maverick, the Pioneer, and the Reconciler.

We derived these four archetypes by overlaying two critical characteristics: introversion versus extroversion and detail versus vision-orientation. These characteristics provide distinctive inclinations that reveal the roles in which people are likely to thrive.

Forge Balanced Teams
Forge balanced Teams

Operators are mission-focused.

They nail the details and hold people accountable. They help you execute to a high standard.

Mavericks like to question the status quo and solve chronic, wicked problems.

They help you avoid complacency and keep your focus on the issues that matter.

Pioneers love to rally people behind new ideas and innovations.

They will help you recognize emerging threats and seize opportunities.

Reconcilers are natural team-builders.

They know how to manage processes and to gain and maintain consensus. They keep egos in check and harmony on your team.

History provides some great examples.

George Washington, an Operator, built a balanced team as head of the Continental Army and later as our America’s first President [Hamilton (the Maverick); Jefferson (the Pioneer); and Knox (the Reconciler)].

Building America
Building America

Abraham Lincoln, a Reconciler, had a “Team of Rivals” [Stanton (the Operator); Chase (the Maverick); and Seward (the Pioneer)].

Winning the Civil War
Winning the Civil War

During World War Two, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, a Reconciler, carefully cultivated and maintained his balanced team [Bradley (the Operator); Montgomery (the Maverick); Patton (the Pioneer)] that, together with the Soviets, defeated Nazi Germany.

Winning World War II
Winning World War II

What happens if your team does not have all four?

Google is a good example. In the 1990s, founders Larry Page (Maverick) and Sergei Brin (Pioneer) excited many investors with their breakthrough ideas. They, however, could not make the business work. At the insistence of the investors, they brought onboard Eric Schmidt (Reconciler), and Jon Rosenberg (Operator) as CEO and Senior VP. Google became one of the most successful companies in history.

Google's Balanced Team
Google’s Balanced Team

Key Tips:

1.  Hire intentionally – make sure you have all four represented and empowered
2.  Assign people to roles that enable them to thrive. Most vision people can do details, and vice versa, but doing so drains their energy faster.
3.  Check to see if you have a balanced team (take our quiz below). If not and you cannot bring someone in to fill the role, then consider hiring a consultant or adviser. You can also ask someone on your team to play the role, but you will need to find ways to address that their energy may drain faster.

Which American President Are You?

Which American President are You?

These American Presidents lead with authenticity. When you know your leader archetype, you are empowered to become the best version of yourself. When you learn the archetypes of others, you can coach them to be the best version of themselves. Which American President are you?

What’s your Servant-Leader Archetype?

Which great leader are you?

Servant leaders come in one of four broad leader-archetypes: Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks (PROM). 

Your servant-leader archetype is outward-facing, describing how you best contribute to the world, whether that is your company, cause, vocation, or community. 

 Once you know your servant-leader archetype, you can be very intentional about serving as the best version of yourself. Once you know the WHOs of your team, you can help them serve as the best versions of themselves. Your energy, team performance, and internal communication will improve significantly … immediately.

Take our assessment to find your PROM Servant-Leader Archetype. Share it with your team and compare results. Do you have key leaders among all 4 types?

Which Hall of Fame NFL Coach are You?

Which Hall of Fame NFL Coach are You?

Find out what NFL Hall of Fame coach shares your leader-persona

Take our 9 question quiz. Share it with your team and compare results. Do you have key leaders among all 4 types?