Just like building anything – a house, a boat, a piece of furniture – building a successful business can be a slightly mysterious process.
No matter how many degrees or courses you have completed, it’s not entirely mechanistic or formulaic. Essentially, you are creating something valuable out of bits and pieces – and it’s not always easy to figure out the best glue to use.
“Take one good idea, add heaps of energy and hard work, gradually mix in well thought-out systems and strategies, and pour out through a set of highly committed people”.
That last bit can be the real trick. When there’s always something more entertaining or promising to think about, gaining 100% focus and commitment isn’t easy. Many business owners just give up – not on their business, but on their people.
“What’s the point of trying to train and motivate them, they leave anyway!”
So what if they don’t?
“They should know how to do this, that’s why I hired them!”
Right. But do they know how to do it your way, or the BEST way, to get the optimal results for your customers and your business.
“I’ve tried telling them, and they take no notice. They’re just not interested.”
Obviously not, at least not in the way you’re telling them.
So matter how good we are at what we do, we don’t have a business until we have people who can do what we do, as well as we do it, so we can manage it rather than deliver it. So learning to build people, to lead them and manage them for peak output, is the real magic in building a successful business.
Here are a few of the primary pointers I’ve learned through my years as a manager, business owner and business strategist.
BUILD YOUR BUSINESS? BUILD YOUR PEOPLE!
1. People will always perform for their reasons, not yours.
Sad but true. Their goals will be different to mine, and I can’t terrorise or talk them into committing to my goals, unless I can give them a good reason. If I want my team to go with me and grow with me, I need to find out continually what turns them on. What are their personal drivers and inhibitors? What are their psychological needs around their work environment? What are their fears and concerns, and how can I help them manage them? What are their values and goals, and how can I ensure they are in alignment with mine? All your strategic planning, your goals and objectives will be useless, if you need someone else to help you make them happen and they don’t have the same level of commitment to them as you do. And that can be fixed, if you can show them how they’ll get what they want if they help you get what you want.
2. People can only perform up to the level of belief they have in themselves.
This was a very valuable awareness for me. I discovered for myself during my early years in management the tremendous power of the Pygmalion Effect – that people would also largely live up to my expectation of them! So I’ve learned that if I want to build my business through my people, I have to build their own belief in their capacity to achieve. Not to the point of any delusion about current performance, but with a real conviction about potential. Not with gooey false praise but with genuine positive feedback. If I want to lift their achievement, I have first to help them lift their belief that they can.
3. People want floors, flexible walls and no ceilings.
While we are growing, we usually want a level of security beneath us, a floor or a foundation. Keep your team informed of your plans and your activities, so they know where they stand. In the absence of information, they will make up their own, and it will almost always be worse than the truth. Allow them flexibility of operation, within specified measurable frameworks. And let them know the sky’s the limit, for achievement, for recognition and for reward. You may not be able to promote them or increase their salary, but you can help them increase their capability and help them enrich their lives.
4. People treasure recognition and need to own responsibility for creating it.
Often when I present and consult, people tell me they don’t get enough recognition. Sad, isn’t it? I usually ask them how much recognition they give. They look at me as if I’m crazy. But a good culture of recognition is carefully and deliberately developed, with praise and appreciation shown both up and down, and sideways. Find fun ways to encourage everyone in your team to recognise achievement in others – but be careful to keep it genuine, spontaneous and both individual and team based. Teach your people to ask for feedback if they’re not getting it the way they want it. It works!
5. All people are creative.
Every one of us has truly created our lives by our choices and our responses to the situations we have encountered. But some of us have been told we’re creative (see Pygmalion Effect!) so we actually use our creativity courageously. Others who haven’t, think they’re not. Encourage and ‘incentivate’ involvement and innovation. Be prepared for change, and don’t allow anyone’s ego (including yours) to be defensive or resistant. Creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged, or it will be stifled and suppressed.
Building a business is hugely rewarding – building your people is much more so. Growing your bottom line is fabulous fun. But so is the reward of seeing people develop – and knowing you played a part in it.