Deck: Although these five leadership principles may seem like common sense, living by them is not common practice.
By: Richard J. Bryan
Frank was ex-Special Forces with a fine arts degree—an unusual mix. He achieved a lot in his business career by following five simple principles that he was able to apply to any business, and many have achieved a lot by learning to do the same.
If you can apply these same principles consistently to your organization, you will find that you are able to move away from being a micro-manager and instead become far more strategic in the way your run your own business.
So what are these magic principles? Really, they are just good common sense, but as Frank was fond of saying, “Good business is just common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not common practice.”
Principle 1 – Define Your Role
Too often, business owners are not clear on difference between management issues and ownership issues. Management issues include dealing with the daily HR concerns, accounting and administration and the sales process. They are seemingly urgent matters that must be dealt with in a timely fashion. The person overseeing these functions can be the business owner or an appointed manager.
Ownership issues are the things that only the business owner can do, such as dealing with the shareholders, banking partners and setting the long-term strategy for the organization.
Frank’s approach was simple: have a clear split between ownership of the business and management of the business and find the most talented people to run day-to-day operations. This sometimes means that the owner needs to step aside from management and make way for a better-qualified leader. A good example of this would be the way that Bill Ford stepped aside as CEO of Ford Motor Company to allow Alan Mulally to take on the role back in 2006. The result was one of the most successful business turnarounds in US corporate history, as Mulally took Ford from near bankruptcy to record profits in 2013.
Concentrate on an area where you are talented and do what you are passionate about. Let others take care of the things that you are not so good at and which conform to their strengths. Everyone will benefit.
Principle 2 – Create a Compelling Vision
One of the most effective ways to harness the potential of an organization is to get everyone pulling in the same direction. However, without a compelling vision, this can be difficult to achieve.
Frank realized that vision is a crucial component in getting employees to understand the direction the company is trying to go and encouraging them to generate meaningful suggestions as to how to get there. It doesn’t matter if your vision revolves around customer service excellence or creating innovative products, as long as it is both inspiring and challenging.
Frank did not believe in having a vision that was just there to tick the box and display on a plaque behind reception. Rather, it was an important part of the overall company strategy.
Put some time aside to work on your business rather than in your business by developing a vision that enables you to grow your business and achieve your life goals. Don’t make the excuse that you are too busy to spend this time crafting a quality vision—it will be the best investment of time you ever make.
Principle 3 – Hire “A Players”
Frank believed that the key to running an organization successfully in the longer term is to hire great people. As he was fond of saying, “If you can surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are then the chances are your business will do just fine.”
Many leaders feel insecure about hiring really smart people, as they believe that it will undermine their credibility, but Frank knew that building a great team enhances your reputation as a leader.
A CEO of a $100 million company remarked recently that when he first took on his role 10 years ago, he believed that he was the smartest person on the management team. That made him very nervous, as everything revolved around him. “Frankly, it was exhausting!” he said. However, he has since invested in hiring great people, and now he considers himself to be surrounded by people that are much smarter than him.
Make sure that hiring “A Players” is a priority for you as a business owner or leader.
Principle 4 – Develop Trust
The key to leading your team of “A Players” is to develop trust. This is what keeps them working for you in the long term. Frank knew that if you can be a good coach and mentor rather than try to micro-manage your best people, you would find that they trust you and are more loyal to the organization. “After all,” Frank would say, “People leave bosses, not organizations!”
“A Players” know their market value. What keeps them working for you is not money, but the ability to work independently and express their talents in their own individual way. They are self-motivated and driven to achieve excellent results. Too much interference from their immediate superior can be very demotivating—their drive comes from within.
Principle 5 – Have Some Fun!
Frank was always firm but fair in the way he led his people. One of his greatest strengths was knowing when to have some fun.
Celebrating success—such as winning a major new customer or having a particularly profitable quarter—was always something that he believed in doing as a way to reinforce the positive behavior that caused it.
Even when under extreme pressure to perform, Frank knew the value of a joke or light-hearted moment to relieve the tension. Look for opportunities in your own business to have some fun, as this can be a key retention strategy for your “A Players.”
By following Frank’s simple principles, you can not only grow your business, but also have a lot more time available to spend with your family and pursue other interests. As Frank would say, “You only live once, and life is short, so you had better enjoy it!”
Richard J. Bryan is an international speaker, executive coach and author of the forthcoming book, Being Frank: Real Life Lessons to Grow Your Business and Yourself. Through his experiences as the 4th Generation CEO in a family-owned business, Richard gained a wealth of knowledge and developed into a true leader. By applying his creative strategies, Richard helps businesses hire the right people, forge dynamic teams and increase their profits. For more information, please visit www.richardjbryan.com.