Five questions every business owner needs to ask

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Growing up, I regularly read the comics pages in the newspaper.  One of my favorites was Pogo, penned by Walt Kelly.

One of the most memorable strips for me was when Pogo stated, “Having lost sight of our objective, we redoubled our efforts.”

Now that we’ve reached mid-June, the time has come to review what’s happening and what’s not with your company’s results so far in 2017, particularly if those results aren’t coming in as planned.

In many companies, there is a lot of activity, which is fine, unless results fall short despite that energy expenditure.

While you could easily point fingers and blame this or that person for things that aren’t happening, don’t do it. Don’t be the type of leader who plays the blame game.

If your company isn’t performing that way you wanted and planned, just look in the mirror, because the buck stops with you. As the leader, you own the results and need to be held accountable for successes and shortfalls.

In Jim Collin’s iconic book, “Good to Great,” he speaks about how the best companies conduct what he calls “autopsies without blame.”

This is when an organization seeks to examine why something didn’t work or failed without focusing on who failed.

I offer five questions for business owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs to determine what needs to happen in your company to have a better second half.

1. Is your mission missing?

How often do you reinforce what your company does every day, why people are on the payroll?

In my experience, the best way to do this is to reinforce what’s in your company mission statement.

The mission states what your company does, and it is the responsibility of management to link what each individual does to support that mission.

If your company is misaligned, misfiring, not executing, look for any disconnect between employees and mission.

2. How’s your attitude?

Business success is based more on mental attitude than mental capability. To succeed, to achieve company goals, each employee must have the right attitude, and this starts with the leader.

The leader makes and breaks the company with their personal disposition. Attitude is shown in tone of voice, facial expressions, handwriting, posture, handshake, eye-contact, decision-making, delegating, and management style.

The attitude of the leader always seeps through to those that the company touches and impacts.

3. How have you grown?

Third, how have you grown personally and professionally since the first of the year, and what are your growth plans for the rest of the year?

In order for the company to grow, each individual in it also must grow. Growth means change.

More than anything else, it means doing things differently to achieve a different, better result.

If you are not happy with the progress at the company level, check to see who has invested in their future, starting with yourself.

Leaders set the standard for those that they lead. You can’t expect others to change how they do things if you are not willing to embrace change first.

4. What are you asking?

Fourth, are you asking your employees questions to stimulate thinking or, do you discourage questions?

One common complaint I hear from leaders is that few, if any, of their employees think strategically.

Some leaders prefer that their employees be drones, staying focused solely on tasks. But the wiser leaders know that their role is to create more leaders and understand that the best way to do this is through asking questions.

One leader requires his employees to bring him three solutions to every problem before they have a discussion.

A second owner asks her employees, “If you owned the company, what would you do?” when her employees ask her for her opinion on a business matter.

5. Are you listening?

Finally, and this is a hard one, do you listen to your employees or do you have all the answers?

Last week, I wrote about a common disease that many leaders have about an illusion about being the smartest person in the room.

Nothing turns off an employee more than to be asked for their opinion or thoughts and then for that idea to be dismissed.

Your employees are a tremendous source of ideas and knowledge. Collectively, they know a lot more than ever given credit for.

Employees can be an asset if you tap into what they know.

If you take the time to ask them how to help increase sales, reduce costs and improve profitability, they will have ideas that will help your company be more successful.

These five questions can change your company and change you too. That is, if you are willing to ask and answer them.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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