Small changes. Big goals. Just start the shift that seems so imperceptible at first. If you’ve ever watched an hourglass, the sand seems to accelerate through the little hole the more time has passed. The little changes can seem not to have an impact, but if you follow the road out into the as yet undetermined future, your destination will have changed. In an exciting and mysterious way.
These small messes, the project incompletes, the ideas, the notes, piles and sketches, can get away from you. The squeaky door, the not so clean car, the hole in your favorite socks…the little bothers that we overlook.
I made a list of all the little slivers that were bugging me, the almost invisible to anyone but me things that I knew I had to fix. To fix, to accept, or to remove. Until I started the list, these things were just underneath my awareness, but in a file running on a loop somewhere in my mind. The I need to do this, I should do this, someone better do that or else items that cause the background hum of dissatisfaction.
The list is just a list right now, slightly overwhelming in it’s size and magnitude, but next step is to break it down. Split the list into do it myself and delegate. Split it again into now and later. And finally put the now items on my calendar. When you schedule it, it becomes real.
One of the lessons that I have learned in my years in business is that what got you to where you are will not get you to where you want to go. There are multiple facets to this, from your mindset, to your actions, to the people you have working with you. In all organizations there is a revolving door, people come, people go. This is inevitable and part of the cycle of business, yet I didn’t always think this was the way it was.
I remember in the early days of my leadership, when I had just begun to open my mind to the idea of growing my business beyond my threshold of control. We had a group of people, my “A team”, as I referred to them, that were managing our one location. I began the process of intentionally meeting with them on a weekly basis. These 5 people, along with my husband James, were my inner circle. This was a big growth phase for me as a leader, because these weekly meetings gave me the incentive to identify and clarify what the keys to our success were thus far. We became very close and grew together as we troubleshooted and planned the growth of our business from 1 location to 3. This phase of our growth was dominated by innovation and improving what we were doing, as well as how to duplicate our standards as we grew.
What is curious though is that only one of those 5 people are with us in our organization now. They were with us at the precise moments in our growth that they were supposed to be, but gradually they most moved on to other opportunities. Some I was ready to see move on, because we had reached the limit of where I could help them grow, but some were very hard to say goodbye to. It was sometimes very difficult to have someone move on and not take it personally. But what happened, though it is only clear to me now in retrospect, is that it opened the path for the next phase of our growth. The knowledge that people will always be moving in and out of our organization is now clear. The key is to ensure that the people coming in are operating at a higher level than those that are leaving, if the opposite is true there is a big problem.
By far the biggest change that had to happen to get me where I wanted to go was my mindset. Where did I want to go? I wanted to be able to grow my business, for many reasons, both selfish and not. Ego played its part, as well as wanting to increase my income, but the most compelling reasons where the ones that I needed to evolve into. This began when I realized that money and reputation were empty goals. I began to change my thinking, not intentionally at first, but as a progression as I realized that I wasn’t feeling the satisfaction and accomplishment I was seeking. A shift began inside me, a shift to wanting to serve more people, to give jobs, to help people grow, and this made the stresses and incredible time demands of operating a business worth it. The desire and excitement that I felt at the beginning of my business came back as I found a new and bigger reason to do what I do.
The recurring theme that I keep hearing about when I talk to other business leaders is how difficult the people part of their business is. There is a common belief that employees, the hiring and retention of them, getting them to buy in and take ownership, and their performance and attitudes is the business owner or manager’s thorn. I’ll be the first one to admit that it can be challenging, but only if you stop learning and growing yourself as a leader. When I started in business the company had 3 employees. My husband James, me, and one dishwasher/jack of all trades named Martin. That was tough. We were solely dependent on Martin showing up for work, which he did with about 60% consistency unfortunately. In 1999 though, the economy was booming in our area, and we were rookies in the restaurant business, so had little time or knowledge on how to recruit more and better people. Now in 2017 there are more ways to hire and recruit than I can count on my fingers, and we have over 80 people working with us in our 4 restaurant locations to serve the guests that come in to see what we are about.
We have an amazing group of people working in our businesses, and there are 4 rules in the process of hiring, retaining and maintaining the culture in our business that we have set. These rules are really universal as you grow your number of employees.
1. Define your vision for your company, organization, or team. Even if you are not the owner, as a leader of people, even as few as one person, it is the most important job you have to be able to share a clear vision of what success looks like for the team, what your mission is, and what your beliefs are as far as the team’s potential.
2. Always be hiring. This means that you should always make room for people that come to you and want to be a part of what you are doing, but only after you have set the expectations with them during the interview process. Carry business cards and hand them out. Be excited about what you do, you attract who you are.
3. Set the expectations up front. The interview process is a sales opportunity. It is where you share your vision and what you are doing to work with your team and help them grow. It is the perfect opportunity to practice active listening with the people you are interviewing. More can be read between the words if you are focused on listening instead of formulating your response or thinking about the next question. Share with clarity exactly what constitutes a great team member.
4. Train and connect. Invest time and energy to train them as they are on-boarding, even if they are highly skilled. Even experts in their field will need training on the way you do things, your outlook, and how to uphold and grow the culture. The training NEVER stops. You have to have this mindset, and spend the time to connect with your people. You have to care about them as individuals, as whole people who have lives outside of work. There is no shortcut to this most important step. Invest in your team, they are more important than your clients.
In my early leadership days I had a much different outlook on people. I have needed to evolve and grow and learn more about myself in order to be able to grow my company. I used to hire out of desperation, anxious to get anyone in there to help me with my heavy load of responsibilities. I thought the people I hired would know without saying what was important. I was so motivated by having people like me that I rarely asked them to do things. I avoided conflicts, and wanted to always keep the peace. I couldn’t understand how some people wouldn’t get along. When someone left the company, I took it personally, thinking they didn’t like me.
As time progressed, I began to listen to outside voices. One of the voices was from someone with a very fear based mindset. They were more educated and successful (it appeared) than I was, and in a position of authority that I respected. Their belief was that your employees are your enemy. I tried on this outlook for a time, but it did not feel right to me. If you live from a place of distrust, you are living in fear, and will attract situations that prove you are right to distrust. I say it again, you attract WHO YOU ARE, not what you say.
Leadership is a journey, a process, and entails the important job of working on yourself. The more you know about yourself and understand your own beliefs, the more you can grow as a leader. The secret to creating a positive, growth minded, servant leader culture begins with you. What are you doing every day to build on your strengths?
Looking at the tiny humans that are the children I am reminded that we all still have those little beings deep inside us. We think we have grown up, we get jobs, have kids, get married, buy cars, go into debt, we do all sorts of “grown up” things that are the markers of being an adult. Yet deep inside we are the same souls. We have grown older, into bigger bodies, but the “Me” is still the same. We still carry the same needs, for attention, for love, for acceptance. Somehow we have been conditioned into believing that when you Grow Up, you leave those things behind. Grown Ups are mature, they are responsible, they know better, but the events that shaped our childhood are the molds that we grow into. We still crave the love and attention, we still get scared, we still get cranky, and we still need to play. I love to be with babies and young kids, because they remind me time and time again that we are all like little children, just trading our dolls and trains for kids and jobs. We want to be grown up and big, but still need a hug and a kind word. The competition that began for mom and dad’s attention carries on to the climb to the top, the desire to be seen, the belief that we are worth it. Remembering this helps me to stay soft, to be open, to hear and to listen, with myself, the people I love, the people I lead.
“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.” Confucius
Listen to what you say, especially in your head. Eliminate the words that are not empowering you.
embrace these…….eliminate these
Other words to cut out of your rhetoric… “but”, which negates what you said before, and “try”, which, as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I will try invariably invites failure. The words we use are what shape our experience.
One of the most inspiring people I know is a man who is helping me develop our leaders in our organization, and whenever I ask him how he is, his answer, almost without fail, is “FanTAStic!”. The tone he uses when he says that powerful word, with extra emphasis on the “TAS”, brings me up a notch, and his positivity is contagious. Your words have power. Change up your answer to the question, “How are you?” and see what a difference it makes, not only in your own mood, but in those around you.
Great answers to “How are you?”:
Better than excellent
Couldn’t be better
So incredibly grateful
How to develop people? Questions are the answer. It’s like panning for gold, you have to take the time and sift through to find out what motivates someone. Over the course of my day there are multiple opportunities for me to coach and train, some are quick on the spot lessons that don’t take much effort, but some are bigger ones that benefit more from a face to face one on one. Going into these sessions, I already know in my head what I want to teach or the behaviors I want to shift, but integral to the success is that I remember that they need to figure this out on their own. I can sit and lecture and teach, or I can sit and ask and listen.
The questions I ask are open ended, never yes, no or whys. Questions like:
• What motivates you?
• What can I do to help you lead better?
• How can we work better together?
• What wears you out and what energizes you?
• What’s the most important tool I can give you to help you be successful?
• What do you know that I should know?
• What have you learned recently?
• Can you give me three solutions to the problem you gave me?
• What improvement can you make that would make us better?
• What is the one thing you would change so you could do better?
• Do you see any opportunities for us?
• What would you do differently if you had my position?
• What question would you like to ask me?
The more I practice the better I get at shifting from telling to asking. It shifts our culture question by question from ME to WE, gives us common ground, and helps empower our people. Questions, or rather better questions, are always the answer to how to develop people.
If you are in business for yourself are you automatically an entrepreneur? Or instead do you just have a job with a fancy title and a lot of responsibility? The way you answer those questions is the difference between being a business operator and a business owner. At the beginning of the venture it is most likely that you are in that key role of operator. Your new business is like a new baby, it needs a lot of tender loving care, cries a lot, and makes a lot of poopy diapers. You need to be an attentive parent, fixing the problems, finding the right people to take care of your baby, clean up the mistakes, nourish it and help it grow. Your role is ultra important, and it is easy to get stuck here. If you are the kind of person who would even contemplate being in business, let alone make the jump and put yourself in charge of your own company, I’d venture to say you have some desire to control your surroundings. This is an asset at the beginning, as you are developing your brand, your team, your brick and mortar or virtual identity.
The danger is that the role of operator is very seductive. It fills your need to be important, to be busy, to be needed, to make a difference. You fall into bed at the end of the day with no energy left to think about your own personal demons. Or you may even fool yourself into thinking that you are an owner, yet the business still relies on you for the day to day decisions that ensure it’s success.
This was me for many years. I thrived on being an operator, and my business benefited from my attention. It was necessary and positive. But where it becomes a topic of importance is if you want to grow. I was pushed to grow and learn to be an owner by the sheer volume of work that there was as our business became more successful. I had to learn to step back and give away some of my control if I wanted to not only preserve my sanity and personal life, but enable my business to blossom. I began to realize that I could accomplish more by spending time working ON my business, not IN my business. Gradually I have shifted into my new role as business owner. I still work IN the business, but when I am IN it (physically or not), my focus is ON it. On making things better, on coaching my team, on finding a way to add more value, on seeing the big picture. It’s a whole new world, and my baby business is walking! Welcome to Entrepreneurship.
As the leader I am here to offer support to those that are following me. I am not here to tell them where they are wrong, instead I am here to stand beside them and work together to see why something is not working. I am here to share with them my vision of a better way. A better product, better service, better world. I am no smarter, no more creative than them. I simply have an awareness that the best way to solve a problem is together. I know that what is needed from me by the people I lead is always changing. There are times when they need me to make the hard calls, and there are times where they need me to give them the reins. A big part of my becoming the best leader I can be is continuing to learn myself, to continue getting in touch with my internal guidance system, my intuition.
Know when to lead and when to follow. I have followed, I have led, and it is clear that it is never either/or if you want to continue to grow. It is just as vital that you follow, follow someone or something that is gifted where you are not. Listen to different voices, get out of your invisible walled world and see what others are doing or thinking or making happen. No one believed a human being could run faster than a 4 minute mile, but once that record was broken once by Roger Barrister, it kept getting broken again and again. What was once impossible became possible, and we followed.
I follow so I can lead. I follow and learn from people who are making a larger impact than I am, I follow and learn about living a healthy lifestyle, I follow and learn from my children as they bring me fresh outlooks from minds less cluttered with history. I follow great leaders, present and past, who have changed the world by delivering the same message, in different voices. The message to love, to accept, to give, to embrace, to be kind. That we have free will, we are the creators of our world. Look around, look up, look upward. No matter how gifted, how skilled, how aware we are in an area, we all have some things that we are not so good at. Don’t be blind to them, and follow when you need to. Check your ego at the door.
I am first and most instinctively an artist. I love to create, to build, to make things better. The process of taking my dreams and ideas and bringing them into reality is my passion. Whether I am creating a meal, baking a delicious dessert, painting a canvas, or building a new restaurant, I can easily get in the zone when I am being purely artistic.
Being and entrepreneur and being entrepreneurial are two very different things. I became and entrepreneur by following in my parent’s and grandparent’s footsteps and building my own business. But to be entrepreneurial, to be willing to take risks, that was something I had to learn. At the beginning it was easy, I had nothing to lose. We were broke, in debt to our eyeballs, and so it was easy to see only the bright side of opportunity. What became more difficult was to continue to take the risks as we achieved success. Once we began seeing the fruit of our labor, and light at the end of the tunnel, my aversion to risk began to rear it’s head. I wanted to stay an artist, creating and doing and getting my hands in there. I didn’t want to risk losing my art in order to grow. I even had proof that this would happen. My selective consciousness had latched on to conversations I had with more successful business owners. Conversations that contained statements like, “I wish I only had one location like you, things were so much simpler then.”, or “If you grow your company you won’t be doing what you love anymore, you will be managing processes and numbers and people.” These statements stuck and served to enforce my desire to stay put. Until the life changing moment when I realized that my resistance was all based on fear. Fear of failing, fear of losing, fear of being alone. This was the beginning of my education on being entrepreneurial.
The third evolution has been into leadership. Could I have tapped into this earlier? Perhaps yes, but looking back with the perspective that time brings, I can clearly see that I needed to go through the steps that I did. I needed to learn to be willing to fail again. I needed to learn to take risks to build my self confidence. I needed to learn that what stops me, what stops almost everyone, is Fear. The awareness that developed in me as I learn about myself gives me the tools and the self confidence to be able to bring people along. To teach, to inspire, and to help the people I am leading see life from another perspective. I am still an artist, still an entrepreneur, but also a leader.