I’ve worked with hundreds of our oft named captains of industry, savvy business owners and budding entrepreneurs and without fail they all have great minds full of brilliant ideas.
True leaders have surprisingly little in their heads. Don’t get me wrong, they have an enormous capacity for thinking but they develop a hierarchy of thought and clarity of vision. And it is this that translates into action. The rest of it is just noise and this, they relegate to a secondary brain space. It’s just background noise to them.
All leaders want to be successful. Many are scared of the unknown and some are terrified of failure. Yet on their shoulders, many will depend and from their actions, businesses will succeed or fail. Strategy is the life-blood of any business. I hear people say that money is the lifeblood but that simply isn’t true. Money oils the wheels and is needed in various levels of supply to ensure that all of the other elements do their work.
The old saying “fail to plan and you are planning to fail” haunts many of our leaders as it did Benjamin Franklin. Simply described, strategy is no more than planning and attributing the available resources in order to achieve a goal or aim. So if it can sound this simple, why is it so hard to do for many good leaders?
Well, it’s down to two things in my experience. Firstly, many confuse tactics with strategy. Tactics are the tasks we do to work towards the strategic goal. Secondly, leaders try to serve too many masters. The first part is relatively easy to fix. Simply concentrate on the why instead of the what and the how. The second part is much more difficult. Masters are the people who have a stake in what you are doing. Time is indeed a punishing master, finances a constricting clerk. Competitors don’t stay still for long enough to shoot them and shareholders…well, they just don’t understand what you’re going through. As for family, they want what you want but they just want you home in time for dinner. And you! Well, many of our leaders work for psychopaths…themselves.
So if we think of an American football team, the goal is to win the Superbowl. They can only do this if they are consistently better than their competition, that they can consistently sustain that betterness and that they can score one more point than the third-placed team. So their first aim is to score enough points to get them to the Superbowl final.
Each area of the club will manage a prescribed range of outcomes and outputs. Physios will get them and keep them fit. Nutritionists will make sure they eat optimally to achieve their targets and ensure they have enough fuel to get them over the line. Finance will ensure that the income and expenditure flows to and through the club as and when needed. Groundkeepers will prepare an optimal playing surface including the exact dimensions of the pitch. Team managers will devise and impart to the players a whole range of tactical plays and team psychologists will ensure that they are mentally tough and resilient under any conditions. The players just get to dress up and earn most of the money…they are, after all, the dream team (and the product – the human capital). Once in the final of the Superbowl…all of these things form a microcosm of activities and events finely tuned to achieve one aim over a few hours in the game…finite details and knowing every strength and weakness both teams possess and finding those moments where the extraordinary happens.
So if we follow this model. We work out where we want to be in say five years from now. We can visualise what it looks like and how it feels. We examine where we are now and what we need to do to make the journey from here to five years away. We consider resources, the market, our products or offer and the health of the business. We know what we need to make the journey from starting point A to finishing point B. We have a plan, a strategy.
But we often disregard the most important part of the plan, the people. Imagine the Superbowl winners. They will have exactly the right person in the right role completing the right tasks at the right time. They are hired for their talent and the club then sets about developing their skills to the level at which they are expected to consistently perform. Everyone is matched exactly to the strategic needs. Most businesses fall short because they don’t recruit properly or develop their team to the optimum. Businesses simply hope that everyone will step up to the plate and do what is needed. Much of it is by chance.
The owner of the business will articulate their vision and ensure that each area of the business has the resources deployed at exactly the right time and monitor progress to ensure everything stays on track. Their sole responsibility is resources. To make sure everyone has exactly what they need to be highly successful. And as Franklin often said, “a penny saved is twopence (tuppence) dear”. By cutting corners in an attempt to serve a profit master, leaders can simply lose sight of the goal. The first thing that is cut is training…imagine setting out to win the Superbowl if you cut the training.
When I ran businesses I put myself through a system of development to learn about selecting Board Members based on their motivated abilities. When I use this tool to develop leadership teams, I can see very quickly where there are gaps and what impacts this will have on achieving the aims of the business.
Thanks for reading.