“Success is people dependent. Leaders must be in the business of match making, motivating, and genuinely caring about the success of others”

One of the key hurdles for potential leaders is understanding that Leadership and success are both extremely people dependent.  We all know it is easier and safer to do things ourselves rather than depend on others.  Usually the attitude is that we can do it better, our way, and it will be much less stressful.  And if you are a one person shop, or have no direct reports nor desire to, this attitude is likely in check.   However, if the situation is any different and this concept is not fully embraced, it becomes the number one limiting factor to success, organizational growth, and personal leadership growth.  We have all had bad experiences in our attempts to find the right people, motivate them, and care for them, however we have to get over it and must never forget that our capabilities as leaders are totally people dependent.  Therefore we must learn from each mistake and focus on picking the right teammates, motivating them, and genuinely caring for them.

It all starts with picking the right people.  We should never hire anyone unless the thought of having them on the team is truly exciting.  Hiring is tough and disrupts our other duties, which makes us very suceptable to losing our patience and making the wrong choices.  Here is an easy test for ourselves or anyone else on our Leadership team – ask “Should we hire _____?”.  If there is any hesitation do not do it!  And for those we are excited about, we should validate that they:

  • Are smart and have the experience/knowledge to succeed
  • Are a match between personality and the role
  • Are a fit with the culture
  • Are leadership potential (ask them to draw their life path and look for a consistent past of going the extra mile
  • Fully understand the expectations of the role

Motivating starts with understanding how others are motivated.  Some are motivated by recognition, some by praise, some by constructive critcism, some by just being left alone and being treated fairly, etc..  To understand what motivates others requires us to know the person and to care about those motivating factors.  It is work, but just like anyone else, it is work a leader must enjoy in order to be good at it.  If we are truly passionate about leadership one of the questions that should be asked consistently is how we motivate others and what we can be doing better.   Motivating our team deserves/requires constant attention.

Genuinely caring about others is fundamental to motivation.  If people do not feel cared for, they do not feel the need to care.  Knowing more than just the work side of a person is crucial.  In a recent interview one of the questions we asked an interviewee was: “Who was your worse boss and why?”  When the interview described that person, the number one reason they were picked was because the person simply did not care about the individual.  The individual said “While we all know that our primary purpose as employees of the company is to help the company meet it’s goals, it is very demotivating if that is all your boss ever focuses on”.  By not caring about the person and their life/interests outside of work, his old boss demotivated him and likely the entire team around him.  Sadly, it is doubtful the boss had any self awareness in what he was doing wrong.  Some would say he was more of a “manager” rather than a “leader”, but isn’t that argument unacceptable?  The last thing we should ever want for our organization is for us or someone in a leadership role be named as a peron’s worse boss ever.   A manager that is not a good leader/potential leader, should not be in a managerial role.

Let us never forget that the number one asset of an organization is the people within it.  Pick right, motivate, and care.

“Each customer interaction is an interview”

Customers interview us every day and having the right players on our team is crucial because the interview is based on the representatives of our organizations.  Our team must be prepared, dress appropriately, have charisma, good follow-up, and must have expertise that is applicable to the customer/solution.  Failing in any of these areas is irresponsible and not acceptable.  As organizations, we are hired just like an employee is, and in similar fashion we are rarely the only organization being interviewed.  To win, we must consistently put our best foot forward.  The most successful organizations interview well and win the job/partnership the majority of time.  

Once we win a customer’s confidence (the job), the interviewing continues.   We can’t win the job and then disappoint the customer later in the relationship.  Customers hold us accountable just as they do their employees.  They should/will replace us with someone else if we are not meeting/exceeding their expectations.  The need for great customer service, communication, processes, and great people, is organization wide – not just in the front end business development process.  We should have the types of team members that make us feel as though everyone is an excellent and helpful customer service representative, not just a select few.

And lastly, let’s not forget the importance of our team interviewing the customer.  It is extremely important to ask pointed and genuine questions to let customers know that we are just as concerned about having a good fit as they are.  We want to know their challenges, their goals, and how we can help.  Without this information it is hard for us to provide real value.  Just “checking – in” from time to time is not providing real value.  Being a consultant is being a good partner.  Giving before receiving is crucial.  Starting a meeting with a product or company information dump is the equivalent to being “just another sales person”.  How can one recommend what is in a client’s best interest if that interest/need is yet to be known?  Asking solid questions and caring about their business first, typically leads to flipping the demand factor.

Most organizations do a less than superior job interviewing initially and throughout the customer relationship life cycle.  We should embrace this as one of the easiest competitive advantages to execute on.  It is as simple as treating every customer interaction like an interview for a job that we must win, each and every time.

“There is no larger priority than having the right people in the right roles”

Having the very best people is a key differentiator.  It is not a fancy software system, contract vehicle, or a marketing/advertising campaign that leads an organization to success.  It is the people that suggest those new systems/processes, the people who implement them, and the people who take care of the customer and focus on forward progress on a daily basis.  The vast majority of success is directly attributable to a person or a group of people within an organization and as leaders we must never forget this key principle.  When it is forgotten, we see leaders trying to do too much themselves or trying to find a magic switch to flip, rather than focusing on improving the team for long term growth.  The importance and focus on having the right people is forgotten often.

Success comes from a culmanation of the very best people.  Therefore, we should be more excited about the people in our organizations than anything else.  If not, we are likely falling down on the job as leaders and some changes need to be made.  And when we are seeking new additions to our teams it should never be taken lightly.  The recruiting process can be stressful, but we should be excited about the potential of adding team members that will be future leaders and that will truly make a difference in the organization.  One constant is that we have an opportunity with each new hire to add someone to the team that will knock our socks off.  Someone that is all about helping us grow and their own personal growth.  Someone who has the drive and capability to grow and replace us – if we are able to continue replacing ourselves it is likely that everyone in the organization is growing.

Adding or making a change in team members is truly a huge opportunity.  It is an opportunity that should be given just as much priority as our largest customer or the largest deal we are working on.  In fact, finding and cultivating the right people is arguably more important to the long term success of the organizaiton than any current deal we are working on.

We must also remember that the way people fit with the organization is just as important as the individual themselves.

“It is much easier to maintain the commitment to growth and leadership if we consistently allocate the majority of our time to ideas with legs and people with passion”

There is nothing more exciting than a great idea or a passionate person.  They are both required fuel for growing organizations.  New and valid ideas create a visual effect of what can be, and in turn they motivate everyone on the team to push forward towards a common goal.  Passionate people help come up with the ideas and help in successful execution.

“Ideas with legs” are ideas that have a valid chance of materializing into a sound and successful business model.  Each organization validates ideas differently based on the industry, but there are many common things to check for, such as customer demand (will customers really want it, or do we just think they will), potential market, sales/price models, competition, and what success needs to look like in order to justify moving forward. Just as important is the notion that we should put ideas to rest if/when they do not materialize so that we can turn our attention to the next project.  Focusing on ideas without thinking ahead about their vailidity/success potential, or allowing an idea that was once valid to continue festering within the organization past its expiration date, are both fatal strategies.   Not having a great idea is not a reason to focus on a bad one. 

Passionate people are our future leaders.  They are rare and more valuable because passion is something that has to be there, be found by them, or potentially influenced by others – it can rarely be taught.  The level of passion and drive that a person has is a combination of what has happened in their previous life, their personality, what they believe is important, how much they care in general, and their desire to win.  Passionate people are similar to valid/exciting ideas; the organization cannot grow without them.   The organization’s largest return comes from spending the majority of time cultivating the  passionate/future leaders of the organization, and a close second to that is spending the required time and energy to find new passionate team members to bring into the organization.  

As we continuously assess our organizations, we must balance our attention between new/valid ideas and passionate people.  And when there is not enough of one or the other, we should be concerned and focused on making changes.