To grow your business, grow your people


Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

Whether leading one or thousands, the responsibility is the same. Yet I think it is rare today to conduct an interview with someone for a leadership position with an attitude of helping others become more successful.

Sadly, most people at work these days are all about “me” and to hell with the “we.”

One of the more significant contributions of what Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation is that those who served in the military during the World War II timeframe learned something called teamwork.

I recently interviewed a gentleman who spent his early adult years in the U.S. Navy. It was a defining time for him; he told me he learned how to take orders and how to give them; how to work with others to achieve a goal; and how to learn to depend on others. At that time, the country was at war so these things were needed to survive.

He went on to say that he was sorry that so many of the people who work in his company didn’t learn the concept of teamwork, and he has to expend massive amounts of energy to get people aligned and focused so that they move in the same direction.

He said, “No one wants to be the private; they all believe they should start out as a general. Few like to take orders but they all want to give them.”

I’d like to think that people working today want to learn, they want to grow and they want to be part of an organization that brings meaning to their life. They want what they do to have an impact.

That isn’t true in about seventy percent of the working population. The vast majority of people simply want the most money for the least amount of work they can get away with. These are disengaged and actively disengaged people according to Gallup.

Are these harsh words? Yes, but they are the truth.

This is where the person who leads becomes critical. Give whatever title is appropriate: business owner, CEO or boss.

The leader sets the tone, provides the direction and should lead from the front, using carrot and stick, as appropriate, moving and motivating followers to a better future.

It starts with direction. This answers the where question: where is the company headed?

Leaders often think of the future but don’t speak of it. If the future isn’t spoken about, employees wonder if there is one. If the future is too audacious, followers won’t believe it can happen. In this the leader must let people know that there is a future but today’s work must be completed first.

It continues with education. Education is different than training. Training refers to having people learn specific skills. But educating people means expanding their minds so they continue to learn.

Successful organizations today are learning organizations, places where people are not only sharpening skills but growing their minds for the betterment of themselves, the places they work and the customers they serve.

There are plenty of people working today who are not interested in bettering themselves. Yet they want the security of a steady paycheck. In this economy, nothing is secure.

After direction and education, the third step in the process is accountability. This concept frightens leaders and followers alike, usually because holding people accountable is uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be. It shouldn’t be.

But it is.

The best leaders, the most successful ones, set clear expectations and then regularly monitor progress towards goals. When corrective action is required, the leader does what is necessary, even if it is unpleasant.

The last step is to have appropriate rewards when goals are achieved. The best rewards involve recognition. Many organizations fail to celebrate successes, by individuals or teams. Without celebrations, people will wonder why they should continue to work hard, be engaged and follow their leader.

It’s a simple system. The acronym is DEAR: direction, education, accountability and reward. When used, people follow their leaders and they will become leaders themselves, the ideal situation for any organization that wants to become better.

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 The Signal.



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