Monday, December 3, 2012

Born to run?

One of the high points of my former life was making a presentation to the Board of Directors of an iconic US company (a revered household name that will remain nameless until you buy me a drink.)  The company and its CEO had gotten into hot water with investors, and we were briefing the Board on recommended strategies and a series of specific actions to rebuild trust.

The Board consisted of a proverbial pantheon of international business leaders.  Following our presentation, we had a lively discussion of our recommended strategies, as you would expect of this group, one of whom was the CEO of a giant global engineering company.  He lasered in on the tactics, specifically how my CEO client would oversee implementation.

During the back-and-forth on that topic -- my client stated that he would approve the final plan and leave implementation to his staff --  it became clear that the engineer operated his company differently,  through tight, personal command-and-control, down to such minutia as final approval of all press releases.  He confessed as much.

Astonished, a fellow Board member asked, "G----, how do you find the time to lead your company if you're doing all of this work?"  It was a extraordinary moment.  (This chief executive was later dismissed by his Board.)

It is a great irony that many who lament the lack of "ownership" among their employees do not set an example for their employees to follow.  They may run their business, but do not lead it anywhere.

Immersion in the details of your business is appropriate, up to a point.  And it is certainly no guarantee of success.  More often than not, the opposite is true.  Are you an owner/manager who:
  • Goes on sales calls?
  • Edits marketing copy?
  • Approves every customer quote?
  • Is involved in the hiring of all staff?

If so, you are likely feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and resentful.   You are putting more in, and getting less out.  You have a job, not a business.

The lesson:  Leading is not the same as doing.  If you want a business that grows beyond you, then you need to grow all of those involved with it.

In the weeks ahead, I'll outline some lessons on effective management culled from some of the CEOs, business owners and other organizational leaders with whom I have worked; an "Owner's Manual" for 21st century small business leaders.

Next year is here.  It's time to get a move on...and to make some progress doing so.

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