I love reading anything written by Larry Bossidy. He was one of Jack Welch’s right hand men at GE and is the former CEO of Allied Signal. Plus Larry is the author of two outstanding books on business: Execution and Confronting Reality. Larry has a gift for taking a complex business issue and distilling it down to three sentences.
Recently I came across a piece Larry wrote on business leadership that once again hits the nail on the head. Not only does Larry ask some tough questions, but he also gives some great suggestions. Here’s what he has to say.
“How are you doing as a leader? The answer is how are the people you lead doing? Do they learn? Do they visit customers? Do they manage conflict? Do they initiate change? Are they growing and getting promoted?
When confused as to how you’re doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. You’ll know the answer.
You won’t remember when you retire what you did in the first quarter or the third. What you’ll remember is how many people you developed—how many people you helped have a better career because of your interest and your dedication to their development.”
So… how are YOU doing as a leader? It doesn’t matter whether you own the business, manage a division or supervise an administrative assistant. Or maybe you are an owner-operator learning to direct a new helper. One of your primary jobs is to develop the people who report to you. It is only by developing the people under you that you’ll ever escape the tyranny of doing everything yourself. So in this SFS Instructor’s Blog post (and my next one) I’ll discuss some ways for you to determine how well you’re developing your people.
How many projects do your employees INITIATE? Do your people come to you with ideas and suggestions for improving the way the business is run? Do they offer suggestions on ways to increase sales, reduce expenses, improve efficiency or even better how to “Make the Cheerleader? (I put the “Cheerleader” in their to make Steve happy!)
Or do your workers simply nod their heads up and down when you spoon feed them tasks to perform or goals to hit? If your people aren’t “engaged” in their work and initiating things on their own let’s consider why that might be.
Have your employees initiated projects before only to have you almost automatically shoot their ideas down? As business owners we sometimes do this without even knowing it. How many times have you said without even thinking, “We already tried that and it didn’t work.” Or “That’s too complicated.” And of course the old reliable, “We’ve always done it this way, and it seems to have worked all right up until now.” When you make off-handed comments like these you might as well shut the door and turn off the lights on employee initiative!
Or have you failed to act on a good idea suggested by an employee? Sometimes a good idea will mean you have to step out of your comfort zone. Other times our egos may get in the way of supporting a good idea that we didn’t think of ourselves. So we drag our feet until the idea (or the employee!) goes away! Or somehow we just never find the money to fund it.
No matter how you slice it the result is ultimately the same…people eventually stop initiating projects and bringing new ideas to you and that will subtly cripple your business. (And of course potentially great employees will leave which is even sadder.)
In my next post I’ll talk about the old employee “push/pull conundrum” and how to measure your people’s progress.