Entrepreneurship and Servant Leadership Don’t Jibe

I’m coaching a founder (I’ll refer to her as Pam) who is on the fence. Pam hired an able team of designers and artists to create “thinking games” for children. But, she is toying with the idea of managing her business by blending in and serving her team versus leading them in the traditional sense. Pam wants to provide “Servant Leadership,” a popular 21st century management model. In this model the founder assigns roles and tasks to subordinates, and then offers support, such as researching, stocking supplies and running their errands. Mmm…sounds like she wants her subordinates to run the show? Pam is seeking coaching because investors are getting antsy. Abiding by the servant model, she’s having a hard time motivating her team to move forward and meet crucial deadlines. Her startup is in stuck mode and here’s why:

When a founder is taken up with ground level activities, the role of the leader is diminished. A founder needs to have some level of detachment from his subordinates to pursue opportunities for the business, brainstorm ideas and make the tough decisions. This bit of healthy distance from employees allows the founder to articulate the vision and provide direction to employees.

When employees see their founder catering to their needs in an extreme manner, they are less likely to view him or her as an authoritative figure. If problems arise and the servant manager needs to switch to a more authoritative leadership role, entitled employees have a hard time meeting the new expectations independently.

Servant leadership de-motivates employees. It’s is like a parent bailing out his child by constantly stepping into to fix things or to do the homework for the child. When employees think their founder will unconditionally and non-judgmentally resolve issues that arise, it’s easy to take it easy and let quality and performance slip.

A happy ending: After several months of a frustrating, but well-meaning stint of Servant Leadership, I encouraged Pam to take a vote and see how her team wanted her to lead. Not surprising, they voted to have Pam resume her role as leader. They voted to exchange the freedom and nurturing for increased productivity and direction that would give them a sense of fulfillment at the end of a week. Most of them missed the “good stress” associated meeting a deadline and taking responsibility. Her team declared that returning to “real leadership” was better for them and for the future of the company.

Need help leading in a way that maximizes cooperation and teamwork without becoming a servant to your team?  Contact me at [email protected]   

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If Your Creativity Needs a Kick, Seek Unusual Sources

You may have your new product or service up and running, or you’re in the process of getting your new business off the ground. It’s frustrating to lack new ways to be competitive and for solving day-to-day problems.  We typically rely on our experience, knowledge, self-help books and the wisdom of industry leaders for solutions, but sometimes we have to get out of our closed circle of reference and seek “a refresh” from unexpected sources.

As a coach, it’s up to me to offer fresh eyes and new perspectives for my clients to explore. When I feel even close to getting bored with my usual strategies and tactics, I’m curiously drawn to books like The Men Who Changed the Course of American History, Tripping Over the Truth, Stories From Shakespeare, The Alchemist, or collections of mystery stories. Movies like Midnight in Paris or The Darkest Hour remind me, in contrasting ways, that it’s okay to listen to my gut, change my mind and inspire others to do the same. Any books or movies that have to do with discovery or attempts to solve difficult problems of all sorts should be on your list. Perhaps these books and movies won’t give you any direct answers or solutions, but they will add enlightening bits and pieces to what you already know and re-kindle your creative spark.

Need some fresh eyes to help solve a problem in your company? Get COREageous and contact me at [email protected]        

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Getting to “NEXT”

Q: I’m an intrapreneur in my company. I come up with and execute revenue-producing ideas with little risk to me personally. But when a great idea goes bust, I have a hard time shirking it and moving on. I think this tendency will come to bite me when I’m my own boss someday. Transitioning is hard, what to do?  Dan R. Toronto, Canada

“Transitioning” has a broad definition. For those who have the gift of hyperfocus, breaking away from one activity to move on to something else is challenging. You know you need to stop, but you need a team of wild horses to drag you to the next activity. Others need lots of time to stop thinking about one task so as to start thinking about the next task. For example, you may find yourself in a meeting with your accountant, and as he points out the numbers, your “guy in the basement” (see blog from 5-8-18) is still stuck on the design of your packaging.

Dan’s transitioning concern is about moving on emotionally from a failed project to a new idea. Even though he experienced no personal financial loss, the time spent grieving, blaming and shaming wastes time and energy. Lots of hands go up when you ask founders if they know what Dan is going through. One solution is to step back and examine the situation like a scientist peering into a microscope − what went wrong and how you can avoid these mistakes the next time around.  Common missteps to avoid in your next project include:

  • communication failures between persons and departments
  • no “walk through” period to identify weaknesses or ambiguities in the process
  • identifying persons key to the success of the project who were not suited or not in favor of the project from the start– the stealthy saboteurs
  • a lack of oversight during the rollout; poor monitoring the money, service quality and customer feedback.

Swallow that “jagged little pill” and take responsibility for the failure. Even though others may have contributed to the project’s demise, release your grudges. These persons know who they are, what they did and realize they have let you down. You have learned something new about the people you work with. Be professional and remain cordial. Note that especially in small companies, you may need these folks again in the next project. Perhaps, next time, they’ll step up to the plate.

Emotional self-regulation is a core executive function that every self-starter needs to master. Learn about effective, non-medication ways to manage your emotions and make transitions easier. Contact me at [email protected]

 

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Your Values Run the Show

Before you can lead others – establish a mission statement, focus, direct and guide others to bring a product or service successfully to market – you need to clarify your core convictions, your values. The way you lead or run your business is an extension of how you personally conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. Your values indicate what is important to you.

Your core values guide the behavior and the decision-making of your workforce. Whatever values you play out in your life, good or bad, will influence the behavior of your family members, your employees and the outcome of your enterprise. Your team(s) looks to you as the model for the values you espouse. As a leader, you need to show consistently what those “values” talk and walk like.  When the walk doesn’t match the talk, when core values are inconsistent, they become the source of mistrust, cynicism, and low performance at home and at work.

Values are:

  • What drive your priorities in life
  • How you like to spend your time
  • What give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction
  • How you relate to others

Clarifying your values helps you understand yourself and why you  choose to act the way you do. Knowing your values provides focus and identifies characteristics you would like to develop, live and lead by. Take my Core Values exercise  and learn more about you, your family and your team.

CoreCoaching is all about capitalizing on your strengths and developing aspects of yourself you want to strengthen. Contact me at [email protected] 

 

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An Intrapreneur Asks: How Can I Be Heard?

Are you an employee of a start-up itching to play more of a leadership role in your company as an intrapreneur? If you are a founder, you can bet that there are a some employees deep in the trenches with an entrepreneurial mindset; they want to develop, manage and lead smaller, revenue-producing projects within the company. Do you make it easy for them to share their ideas? I received this query from a frustrated employee that said it all:

Dear Rebecca,

How can I share my ideas for making my company better? I work in the customer service end of things, and I have ideas for speeding up orders and retaining customers. When I have suggested ideas to my bosses in the past, they seemed to agree with me, but nothing ever came of it. How can I get heard?   

A Frustrated Intrapreneur 

Dear Frustrated,

Here are 5 steps that will make it easier for your idea to be heard by the right people:

1) Check with your boss or HR to see if your company has a process or a proposal format for getting ideas to the decision maker. Just throwing out half-baked ideas is a good way for others not to take you seriously, or for your ideas to go nowhere.

2) Does your idea fit with the company’s mission and values? Is there a need for your idea? Have you any data or documented customer feedback regarding the problem you want to solve?

3) Can you explain your idea in a couple different ways (Power Point, graphics, a flow chart, etc) that are concise, simple and easily understood? Perhaps you haven’t been heard before because you speak in generalities, digress or talk beyond the average boss’s attention span of 15 seconds (or less)? If so, see my earlier blog for “Getting to the Point.”

4) What are the costs associated with the development and execution of your idea? How would your idea positively affect the bottom line? Or, if your idea had been implemented earlier, how would it have saved time and money, retained customers, decreased stress, etc?

5) How would your idea affect others in the company? Can you get the buy-in from those who would implement it?

If you address all these points and present them with a good dose of passion, don’t be surprised if you get an invitation to the boardroom!

If you are an intrapreneur wanting more tips for “getting heard,”
contact me at [email protected]

 

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