Recently I was lucky enough to hear a well respected business man speak at a local event. Over the course of 5 years the organization he led grew by 2,000%. Over the following 5 years they were able to grow by another 200%. He and his team did this in the face of more adversity than imaginable. It would have been very easy for them to have given up at any time or to not have believed it was possible to grow by even a small fraction. However, they focused on the positive and started innovating and adding the best people to the team, while slowly overcoming their existing challenges. Sure they had more challenges along the way, but each day they became stronger and were better equipped to handle them.
There are many pollutants that can jeopordize growth, such as: people with I/we can’t attitudes; competitors practicing bad business ethics; factors within a current industry; polictical agendas; teams settling into comfort zones; a sense of entitlement; etc. At the end of the day these are all just excuses. Whether it is individually or organizationally, there is always growth potential and the ability to grow is always present. We must not let others or outside factors infect our perception regarding growth opportunities.
There is always a smarter way, a better path to winning, a better direction to take, a better way to accomplish a task, and even a better way to lead. What we have to do is stay positive, block out the noise, and continue moving forward. Be innovation, believe, and surround ourselves with like minded individuals. There is no work environment more fun and exciting than one of a growing organization, where everyone plays a part in the day to day progress. As long as we keep our perception healthy and improve our teams by adding others that feel the same way about growth and progress, it can and will happen consistently.
It is easy to fall in the trap of believing that a single person, event, or time is the determining factor in getting to the next step. People, events, and time are all crucial to growth and success, however they are still pieces of an orchestra in need of an orchestrator and leaders are the orchestrators.
People need leadership. Even the absolute best and most successful want it and need it. When we hear of organizations that have fantastic customer service, operational efficiencies, financial results, etc., we know that they have great people. We also know they have great leadership throughout the organization. Team leaders at every level are periodically setting new goals, motivating and caring for their team members, and doing everything they can to hold them accountable and help them be successful. There are a tremendous number of great people, however what determines success is how they work together and leadership.
Events need the influence of Leadership. At any given time, organizations should have a list of impending events that could positively or negatively effect their success. Without leadership, awareness is either lacking, or no action is taken to influence the probability of these events. Taking the lottery tiket approach is irresponsible. If we anticipate the good and the bad, we must do everything in our power to influence the outcome.
Time can be our friend and with time comes wisdom. However time can be a trap if the belief is always “that will come with time”. The reality is that things do take time. It takes making it through a 1-2 year sales cycle with a new product before we can deteremine if it will be successful long term. It takes a year or more for new key people in the organization to completely understand the organizationa and their role. However, too much acceptance of the time factor is a dangerous excuse. While we have a responsibility to be realistic in our planning, budgeting, etc, we also have the responsibility to lead the organization and others in an effort to defy perceived time contraints. For example, lets say we have a change that we know needs to be made, but we do not know how to go about doing it. It is both irresponsibile and a waste of time if we do not seek advice and knowledge from others that have the experience. Great successes take a tremendous amount of work and time, however leadership can have a huge impact on the amount of time and energy that goes into the effort.
The only magic wand that exists for things we have not accomplished or do not yet know, is leadership.
In our efforts to lead and develop others in our personal lives, this may or may not apply depending on our interests. For example, there are many young folks that are never given a real chance in the world because they have no one to teach them “how to be”. We may (and should) offer some of our time to help, but it is a personal preference.
In the workplace, finding the best people is, and always will be a challenge, but it is also the secret to long term growth and profitability. A growing organization is typically classified as such because of the success of a tightly knitted group of individuals that are all producing at max capacity and loving what they do. These folks like growth and to continue growing we must find other like-minded individuals to add to the team. Sometimes organizations lose sight of this in their growth efforts, especially if the growth is fast paced. Just remember that lack patience and bringing on the wrong folks can be very costly.
It is near impossible to change people unless they have the desire to grow. Without this our leadership efforts will lead to frustration and turnover. Identifying this characteristic starts with the hiring process; during the next interview, be sure to gear some questions around their desire to grow, and openness to change. One good question is to ask them if they read, and if so, what do they read? This can be quite telling about a person; it shows that they are always trying to expand and grow themselves. Another good question is to ask them to give you a timeline of the things they have done over the course of their life to grow, similar to drawing a line chart that slopes upward with all of their accomplishments.
Once a new person is on board, monitor and observe their behavior early on to make sure they emulate the desire to grow. Some things to look for are:
- Desire for feedback – they play an active role in asking what they can do better.
- Work ethic – are they punching the clock, or are they doing what it takes? Do they have to be told to go home because you fear they will “burn-out”, or are you having to kick them in the butt just to get 40 hours in?
- Are they smart? – This is hard to confirm prior to hiring, but it is easy to identify once they are on board. If they do not “get it”, others in the organization will become frustrated with them and they will not have much early success. Make sure to attend presentations and meetings where the person is given the lead. A smart person who gets it (or may not even fully understand yet) will be able to handle themselves with poise and confidence.
- Is it apparent that they view the job as an “opportunity”, or is it just a job to them? Those who truly view it as an opportunity will be putting everything they have into the position.
- Can they focus? – Many individuals lack the ability to focus. It may be an issue related to Attention Deficit Disorder, or it may be because they have things going on in their personal lives that are capturing the majority of their attention. Lack of focus should be identified and addressed immediately. If it is an attention disorder, encourage them to get medication. If personal issues are the problem, let them know that you have noticed their lack of focus and while you are there for them, these things must be compartmentalized because it is affecting their performance. Without focus, time spent developing the individual will be wasted because not much of what we teach them will get applied.
What we are really looking for is if we still believe in the person after a week, a month, a quarter, etc. This is the gut feeling that comes from observing them early, making sure they know how things “work around here” and seeing how they react to the opportunity that has been given. Focus on finding the right people from the beginning, and make sure early on that they truly desire to grow, and that they continue to emulate the same ideal candidate that they presented themselves as during the interview process. If confidence in the individual is lost we must ask ourselves why, and if it is for good reason don’t delay in making a change.