By Ken Keller
In my weekly column I try to ask questions that provoke and statements that engage business leaders to think more strategically.
If 2017 were a football game, it would be half time. It’s the break in the middle of the game, an opportunity to understand what’s working and what’s not, and to set plans for the second half.
Whether you’re winning, tied or losing at this point, consider my five essential building blocks required to win or, at a minimum, stay in the game.
1. Don’t lie to yourself. The first building block is self-honesty. This is when the leader looks in the mirror and squarely addresses a fundamental question: Do I have the right people on my team?
Either you believe that your employees, associates and business partners can help your business succeed, or you don’t.
If you don’t, but pretend that you do, you’re only sabotaging yourself. You’re certainly reducing, if not eliminating, any chance you have at winning.
It’s a simple exercise: get out paper and a pen, and make two lists: those people that help and those that don’t.
2. Improve yourself. The second building block is more personal. For your company to become better, you, the leader, must become better first.
Personal growth paves the way to business growth.
You didn’t get to where you are by sending someone else to learn what you needed to learn, from elementary school through college or grad school.
Whether you enjoyed every class, the purpose of going to school was to expand your brain, to encourage you to think and teach you how to do it.
Competitive advantages emerge as a result of taking time to think.
Albert Einstein was credited with saying, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
This is one of those clichés that happens to be true. You need to set an example by continuing to learn and encouraging your people to learn too.
If you want a better company, defined as an organization that is delivering better outcomes, you have an obligation and responsibility to “grow” your employees, which means making them better.
3. Measure what matters. Building block three is simple. What gets measured gets done, because what gets measured often improves.
Measurements include volume, revenue, cost of goods sold or service delivery costs, profit, cash flow, operating expenses, employee morale, addition of clients, client losses and employee turnover.
Identify what matters most to your business success, and measure it.
4. Engage your team. The fourth building block relates to your employees. Too many employees today feel like Mongo, the larger-than-life size simpleton sent to intimidate the sheriff and townspeople of Rock Ridge in the Mel Brooks movie, “Blazing Saddles.” At one point, he breaks character and looks straight into the camera, saying, “Mongo only pawn … in game of life.”
The Gallup Organization has measured engagement levels of employees all over the world for many years. Engaged employees are considered loyal and productive. Disengaged employees are just putting in their time. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy and spreading their discontent.
As I write this, only 32 percent of the American workforce is engaged.
5. Prune as needed. The fifth building block deals with the remainder of the employees. How can you hope to win in 2017 when 68 percent of your employees are not interesting in playing for anything more than their next paycheck?
That’s the challenge every business leader has, to increase the engagement levels of the people on the payroll. Recognizing the situation is a good start.
I have had the honor of working with many fine business leaders through the years. The difference between the highly successful and those not in that category was simple. The high performing companies had leaders that took action quickly, and did not linger with their decision-making.
Take this advice and do something with it.
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 Ken.Keller@StrategicAdvisoryBoards.com. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.