Every few years, a new business methodology gets published that gains traction (pun intended).
And like the ice-cream flavor of the day, these leadership and management principles eventually fade with the onset of something newer and more innovative.
(I am a huge fan of Traction by Gino Wickman, btw)
What I’ve found, however, is that implementing change through a philosophy like Traction can fail and there are two main reasons for this.
The two primary pitfalls in applying any business management approach are ego and lack of alignment. These are the two nails in the coffin that will kill how successful you are, or aren’t, in how you effectuate your growth plan.
Being an agent of change inside your business is hard enough to accomplish, but ultimately won’t work unless you have the following pieces in place. (keep reading)
The positive news is this: when these pieces are in place, you’ll eventually catapult your company into something you only dreamed of.
Why business leadership and management philosophies (like Traction) won’t work
I’ve worked in multiple Fortune 1000 organizations, as well as with dozens of high-growth start-ups, and have used a myriad of business management ideologies.
I’ve had the pleasure of learning portions of Six Sigma, The Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish, and most recently Traction by Gino Wickman.
They’re all great, but they’re only as good as the team that works to execute them. To do this, you and your team need to be aligned on three important pieces for this to be something you celebrate. Your team has to have the right balance of people, process, and technology.
The team you have in place needs to be talented, experienced, and committed to the process. They need to have access to the best technology tools in order to execute the plan.
If you have employees that are junior in skill set, or have employees who’ve never worked in other environments with you benefiting from their experience in navigating difficult times, you’ll fail.
Here’s a metaphor: a professional football team won’t make it to the Super Bowl with a bunch of inexperienced rookies and college grads. (no offense to college grads)
A Super Bowl caliber football team needs to possess the right balance of veterans and rookies who are utilized in the right roles, the right system, and under the best coaching tutelage. Your teams skill set, experience, and background should complement one another.
Growing from $5M in annual revenue to $20M in annual revenue takes different people doing different things. You’ll have to make tough choices with your people and even let go of certain team members as you grow, in order to make your company vision a reality.
I’ve found the toughest part of getting this arrangement solidified is the fact that your loyalties will be tested. You will have to let certain people go and hire new ones. The same employees, contractors, and team members that helped you grow from $5M in annual revenue to $10M in annual revenue won’t be the same ones who help you get to $20M in revenue, and beyond. It’s impossible to do the same things, with the same people, and expect a different result.
Second, if you have broken processes, and don’t address them through action, you’ll fail.
These are processes that you can identify AND actually document with the intent to address them through action. And let me stress action. Action is important because without taking action, you’re just talking about the problem without actually solving it.
Each business function needs to have an outlined and documented set of processes which are realistic to execute. Sales, marketing, operations, human resources should have their set of operating processes so every one is working from the same playbook.
Third, you need the technology tools necessary to execute your mission and vision.
Let’s take sales for instance.
- Your sales teams needs to have the right amount of leads to sell to.
- Your sales team needs to have a scalable sales process in order to sell your product or services.
- Clarity wins deals and confusion loses, so your sales team needs to have a product/service that’s gone through a systematic product development process to make it easy for your buyer to buy.
- Your sales team needs to trust the delivery of your product/service.
- Your sales team needs sales goals and a CRM software or business management software for accountability.
Another example of having the right technology tools is marketing automation software.
If your marketing team is operating out of spreadsheets, you’ll fail. There’s nothing like a good pivot-table to get a marketer excited, but attempting to grow a company from $5M in annual revenue to $20M in annual revenue using spreadsheets means you’re doing it wrong.
Another example of having the right technology is in the function of accounting and billing. Cash flow and financial management is absolutely paramount to your business. If you don’t have the right collections technology and financials tools, like QuickBooks, in place, you’ll fail.
People, process, technology. Get these aligned because it’s important.
One of the biggest reasons business leadership and management philosophies (like Traction) fail
One of the biggest reasons business leadership and management philosophies stymie is because of ego.
When you have inexperienced managers, with little to no experience leading growing companies, along with an over-inflated sense of self, you’ll fail on executing Traction, The Rockefeller habits and other management philosophies.
Here’s are six examples of what ego looks like.
Ego doesn’t recognize the need to learn and change.
Many, not all, business leaders think they have every answer for every problem. Admitting they could improve by learning something new is like admitting a weakness. That’s ego. Admitting you need to learn is not a weakness. Don’t be afraid to be judged by others or what they think about you when you ask questions and accept opportunities to learn from others. Good leaders and employees seek wise counsel by asking questions of those around them. Asking questions and seeking wise counsel, keeps your head in innovation and helps you improve.
Saying ‘no’ to new opportunities and ‘yes’ to being focused.
Steve Jobs once said that focus is about saying ‘no.’ He’s right. Jobs said ‘people think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means…it means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.’ If you’re in business, and you haven’t mastered your current target audience through offering them your solution, then don’t chase another industry or audience. Focus on being the #1 or #2 market leader in your specific industry, along with achieving your profitability goals, then chase something new.
Over-estimating your abilities and the abilities of your team.
A lot of business leaders think they’re smart enough to figure out everything. Ever been there? I have. Business owners are expected to wear multiple hats, but don’t kid yourself that you need to wear every hat, every day. Having self-confidence is one thing, but as you grow your business, you need to have people on your team that are more talented than you are, at what they do. Don’t let ego fool you into believing that you’re a master at everything in your business, because you’re not. For instance, I was afraid to tackle my accounting and bookkeeping and afraid to learn about how to track and measure the numbers inside my business. Instead of trying to do it on my own, I hired a CPA and outsourced this function. Now, this person can focus on tax deductions, tax codes, and regulation related to my company. Once I learned to let go of over-estimating myself, I instantly became less stressed and can now focus on running my business.
This one is huge. Like a lot of business leaders, I’ve struggled with this. I feel like having control puts me in position to eliminate worrying about things I can’t control. Yet, the more I try and control through micromanagement, the more that gets missed. Most business leaders certainly care about the details but often focus on the wrong things by not accepting that those around them aren’t perfect. Expectations won’t be met and this needs to be perfectly acceptable because if you’re expecting perfection 100% of the time, with no margin for error, you’re going to frustrate yourself and everyone around you. Did I mention that good people leave your company when you frustrate them? Instead of being overbearing, critical and constantly wondering what your team is doing, you need to create trust and accountability among them, so everyone can communicate freely. Easier said than done, but understand that micromanagement kills innovation and productivity.
Every decision involved me.
This is another gut check moment. Just because you love your logo, your tagline, or favorite color, doesn’t mean that another logo, tagline, or color scheme isn’t the best possible option for your business. You may not like a specific color, a certain team member one of your managers is hiring, and might not agree with the decisions your employees are making, but that’s not the heart of the problem. The problem is you being involved in every decision. You can’t be involved in every decision in order to be successful at executing Traction or The Rockefeller Habits. The real problem with you being involved in every decision is the mindset that won’t allow other ideas to be suggested or considered. The ego problem I’m talking about here is the mindset that remains inflexible. Sometimes you’re simply going to have to accept that the best decision isn’t yours and you won’t have any input into the outcome. Your business isn’t about you, rather it’s about your customers and helping make their lives better. Focus on that instead of being involved in every decision.
You cannot back down and the need to ‘win.’
Ego always wants to be right. Even if this means teaching someone else a lesson because you couldn’t lose. When you get into a spirited discussion on ways to make your business grow, do you back down when listening to others thoughts and opinions or do you persevere until you’ve gotten your way? Do you waste time fighting the wrong battles by looking for ways to win, or do you set aside your pride and fight for something that will help your team embrace your vision? Great leaders know when the battle is over.
These principles are tough to do.
Unless you’ve started and grown a business, it’s hard to understand the struggle of starting and growing a company. The good news is you’re not alone. By embracing these business principles and learning to let go of things you once strongly embraced, you’ll grow your company, your people, and have more peace in your personal life.
Align your people, process and technology and eliminate ego inside your company.
Check this out to learn more about how to align people, process, and technology.