Thursday, May 03, 2007

My Business and Life Lessons

My Business and Life Lessons
Copyright 2007 - Jennifer Britton. All rights reserved.

Dave Prouhet over at Business Advice Daily, a small business advisor, had a great post earlier this week on My Business Life Lessons. Author and Management Consultant, Jm Stroup, over at Managing Leadership, emailed me this morning, encouraging me to add my own thoughts through my own blog this week. You can visit's Jim's excellent post the other day "Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks". Dave will consolidate and post all our blog contributions as a single list in a short while.

As a former manager myself, and now a business owner and management trainer, coach and consultant, I am always amazed at how the principles of business, leadership and management are transferable across industries, sectors and niches. Here are a few of the golden rules I live and work by:

1. People are the strength of the business -- Invest in your people, you invest in your organization. At the end of the day, a business is more than just its' balance sheet. It is a web of people and their strengths and talents. Treat your employees well, and you will tend to get engaged employees, willing to give it their all. Invest in your people as much as you can - and remember investing is not just about money.

2. Pay people first: This issue pops its ugly head a lot in the small business world, non-profits, and increasingly in larger corporations. Make sure your people are paid! Late pay cheques or payment for invoices is not just a legal issue, but it will weaken the foundation of your most important resource - your staff and/or suppliers.

A number of times, especially at the end of a fiscal year, I am always surprised to hear about business owners and CEOs paying themselves first, and others later. What's the impact of this? What can you do as a manager, or business owner, to make sure your people are compensated on time, and for what they are worth?

3. Build your team - As Jim Collins says so eloquently in Good to Great!, get the right people on the right bus in the right seat. Hiring wonderfully skilled people only gets its' leverage when they are in the right position, at the right time, with the right organization and culture. Take time to build your team, in terms of recruitment, training and ongoing team building intiatives.

4. Recognize the leader in all: If you haven't gathered through reading this post already, I come from the school of participatory management. I truly believe that there is a "leader" in each one of us. The more we can as managers, coaches, leaders find the "leader" in others and create the environment for them to step into their leadership capacity, the more engaged and productive your staff will be. My philosophy as a manager was always to work myself out of a job -- not the most financially sustainable, but certainly the most important for organizational capacity building.

What leadership qualities do your staff possess? How much have they explored their own capacities? Is it time to invest in some leadership training for your team?

5. Delegate wherever possible: A very common pitfall for business owners and newer managers is to hoarde responsibility, taking on every little task, and failing to share authority and responsibility. The cost? Burnout, disgrunted employees, and even business failure.

By building the capability of your team, and leveraging their strengths and interests, delegation is a natural progression. Not every task can be delegated in every situation, but what could you pass on to another? What would be challenging and a stretch, but within a person's capability? What support would you need to provide that employee?

I often refer to delegation as a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the stronger your team becomes. Delegation of tasks builds ownership of the results to the team, and hence, a stronger organization.

6. Create Momentum -- I speak a lot about Building Momentum in my work and my writing. Momentum is a wonderful thing and enables work to take on a life of its own. Whether you are a new business owner, or a seasoned manager/leader, what momentum is present in your work right now? Like a snowball that gathers up speed (and size) as it rolls down the hill, what will it take to steer that momentum towards the results you want?

7. Regular Consistent Effort -- A number of management speakers like Robin Sharma, talk about the value of regular consistent effort towards goal achievement. Small, daily actions over time can have a huge impact. It's like making a 1 degree tiller change that may seem small at the time, but will move your ship to a totally different location.

Ask yourself, what is one goal you could focus on this month, and take small, daily action steps towards? I'd love to hear what your results look like after a month!

8. Ensure that people are clear about their roles and responsibilities. Whether you are a business partnership, a team or a couple, spend time looking at the roles you play and how it all fits together. Lack of clarity about roles, and who is responsible for what, costs business billions of dollars every year. In today's world of matrix management and virtual teams, role clarity and clear understanding of responsibilities is taking on even more importance. Not sure about where to start with this one? I'm sure that others blogging about this, myself included, would love to support you on this through some coaching or training work.

9. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate - Effectively!: In my world of work and life, communication is the foundation of everything. Invest in becoming a more effective communicator-- is what you are saying really understood the way you intended it to be? Globalization and working across cultures quickly shows the cracks in our own communication styles. What do you need to focus more on?

10. Be Clear on Your Vision - If you don't know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? I could say a lot about vision, values and purpose...and will leave it for another post, but ask yourself, "What is my vision for my work in 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?". What is the fire in your belly? Are you walking your talk?

I hope that you've received some value from what's turned out to be quite a lengthy post. I'd love to hear which of my golden rules resonate with you. What are your top work and life lessons?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,
Jennifer

Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, CPCC, CHRP
Potentials Realized ~ Group Coaching Essentials
Toll Free: 1-866-217-1960
Email: jennifer[at]potentialsrealized[dot]com