Photo by Cindy Hesterman
Are you a caregiver or a caretaker? I was a caregiver for a while when my elderly mother became ill and eventually passed away. I had some tough decisions to make, which were emotionally and mentally draining, even though I had outside help. It was important to me to know that my mother was comfortable and in the best situation she could be, where people were there to comfort her and hold her hand when she needed it. It’s hard to be alone and I could only imagine that I would want to have someone there for me who truly cared.
There was an amazing volunteer from hospice who would come and relieve me when I was caring for my mother at the end of her life. He had been a hospice volunteer for over 26 years. He had retired and had apparently earned enough that he didn’t need to earn an income any longer. He decided that what he wanted to do was to volunteer with hospice. He spent his days – long days – going from dying person to dying person, providing words of comfort, reading to them and holding their hand. He also gave caregivers a break so they could go take care of themselves for a few hours each day. He was such an amazing man. My mom passed away on a Saturday morning after I had been doing an all-night vigil for 5 days and nights. This man had come every day to stay for a few hours so I could get a shower, run errands, and get some exercise. I knew that my mom was in good hands with him. That Saturday morning when he arrived, he told me he could only stay for about an hour because he had to see 14 patients that day: 14 patients in multiple locations! It was a Saturday and he had already worked a full week. To realize that he was ending his volunteer workweek by visiting 14 different patients at multiple locations was amazing to me. What an incredible, caring person – truly a caregiver!
I’ve met some leaders who seem more like caretakers. A caretaker is someone who is employed to take care of a property, a cemetery, etc. They make it look better by planting flowers, pulling weeds, and doing other things to maintain the appearance of the property. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, and the property may be in much worse shape than it looks. Caretakers are usually working with innate objects, while caregivers are usually working with human beings.
In your business, are you acting more like a caretaker or a caregiver? Are you just touching the surface, making things look nice, but never really engaging with the people around you or making a true connection? How much more of an impact could you have by really getting to know your employees and giving them your care and attention?
I’d suggest that we’d all be better off if more leaders were true caregivers like my friend at hospice – giving from our hearts.
St. Patrick’s Day brings up thoughts of shamrocks, pots o’ gold and good luck. Is your business success a matter of luck? Or intentional value-creation?
One of the best things you can do to ensure a larger pot o’ gold when you sell your business is to hire the right people. Hiring people just like you may not be as impactful as hiring people with different strengths and skills. If you hire people to do the things you do not enjoy, it is likely that they will also do them better than you could, which allows you to focus on areas where you bring more value.
Note that hiring for different strengths and skills does not mean different core values, however. A culture built around consistent and strong core values will attract people with those same core values, and encourage those with different values to find employment elsewhere. As the leader of your business, you should intentionally create the culture in which you want to work, providing your employees with a clear picture of acceptable behaviors that exemplify your core values.
Another thing you can do to increase the value of your business is to implement systems and processes so that the business is not dependent on you or just a few people. Having written processes and procedures ensures that you can easily get new employees up to speed and expand your business. A scalable business adds value in the long-term and allows you to take those much-needed vacations in the short-term!
It takes more than luck to create a successful business. Why don’t you keep that pot o’ gold in mind as you hire the right people with the right core values and create the processes that will enable you to grow? In other words, continue to work ON your business rather than IN your business!
Do you find that you are easily distracted? Especially when you are supposed to be working on something that isn’t much fun? I generally do not procrastinate – I’m usually one of the first people to respond to a request or to tackle a big project. I can really get things done when I put my mind to them – if they are things that I enjoy doing. Head down, focused, intense, and determined are all terms that describe me when I am in that “zone”.
Then there are those things that I really don’t enjoy doing, such as administrative or repetitive tasks. I have discovered that I not only procrastinate starting on those types of tasks, I also get distracted easily when I finally start to do them. If you have seen the movie “Up”, you’ll know what I mean when I say, “Squirrel!”. Whenever they thought they heard a squirrel, the dogs in the movie would stop whatever they were doing, turn their heads and freeze, saying “Squirrel!”. After a pause, they would continue with what they had been doing previously as if nothing had distracted them. In real life, when our thoughts are interrupted, we are less efficient and effective than we would have been without the disruption.
I’ve noticed that sometimes these less enjoyable tasks take me 2-3 times longer than they should have because I have allowed distractions to take me off course. So now when I will be starting a task that I suspect may lead to a “squirrel” distraction, I promise myself a reward if I can get the task done in a focused and timely manner. Awareness is an important first step. After all, I can always chase the squirrels after my work is done!
In Florida, storm clouds often rush in when least expected. Heavy downpours occur, strong lightning, wind and rain come – seemingly out of the blue. Could that happen to your business as well? Are storm clouds lurking far away that could appear quickly and significantly disrupt your business?
What if you lost 30% of your revenue overnight?
In 2004, I had my Vistage group do an exercise where they presented a plan to the group as if they lost 30% of their revenue overnight. Many of the Vistage members pushed back on the scenario, saying it was very unrealistic that would ever happen. However, they begrudgingly did the exercise and created a restructured organizational chart and budget reflecting what their business might look like if they suddenly lost that much revenue. Based on feedback from the group, they fine-tuned their plans to ensure they were feasible. We hoped they would never need to implement those plans.
Does your leadership have plans for 70% reduction in revenue?
Several years later, the economic downturn occurred, hitting some of those same businesses hard. Several members told me that they wished I had asked them to present a plan for a 50% or 70% reduction in revenue rather than just 30% because that is how significantly their businesses were impacted by the downturn. Thankfully they had a good starting point for the changes they needed to implement since some of the toughest decisions had been identified during the exercise in 2004.
What is your backup leadership plan?
I feel that it is very important for every business to have a backup plan for what they would do if something significantly impacts the business in a negative way. Those who have a plan can more quickly take action in an objective manner, rather than letting emotion influence their decisions. Those Vistage members who had a plan going into the downturn weathered the storm much better than those who had no plan. And those who took quick action to right-size their business also survived and recovered more quickly once the economy started to pick up again.
Are you prepared for 2017?
As we move into 2017 and you prepare your plans for growth, I’d highly suggest that you also consider a backup plan in case any distant storm clouds rush into impact your business.
Need to discuss your leadership planning?
Have you heard the statistics about the increase in texting deaths while walking? People have walked in front of cars, walked off piers and run into walls because they are not watching where they are going. While I hope you are not texting and walking, I wonder if this is a good analogy for what is happening at your business?
Is your head down, focused on the past or present? Do you often find yourself getting mired in the detail and crises of the day? How often are you looking ahead, scanning the horizon for what’s new and where your company should be heading? The best leaders schedule time in their week for strategic thinking and long term planning. They ensure they are making time to work on the most important things, rather than the urgent.
So the next time you see someone walking with their head down, distracted by their phone, use that as a reminder to schedule time in your week to focus on the future of your business.
Do you often find yourself saying you are “too busy” or that there “just aren’t enough hours in the day”? I often speak with people who tell me that time management is a challenge for them. A wise Vistage speaker once suggested that we should call it “priority management” rather than time management. I agree since we can all make choices as to how to spend our time.
The fact is that each of us has the same number of hours in each day. Some people seem to be able to find that perfect balance of time spent on various aspects of their lives and business. Others struggle to find time for important but not urgent activities. Have you talked to a leader recently who says they don’t have time to work out? Or to take a day off? Or to work “on” their business rather than “in” their business? What they are actually saying is that those things are not a high enough priority right now. If they were, they would be taking action to make time for them.
If you ever crammed for exams by pulling an all-nighter, you showed how you can shift your schedule to make time for high-priority activities. Grades were more important than sleep that night. Did you ever work so hard on a project that you realized you forgot to eat? The work was more important than your awareness of hunger. If you can put things higher on the priority list than sleep and food (which are pretty important!), then I know you can make time for those other things if you really want to.
Why not identify what you really want and then manage your time according to those priorities?
You may be smart, but are you emotionally intelligent?
Is there someone in your company who is very much attuned to the needs of others? They seem to be able to sense things about people that the rest of us miss. Others have a way of controlling their emotions and remaining level-headed in even the most stressful situations. I suspect each of you can think of at least one person who displays those characteristics. How do they do it?
Chances are that they have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, also known as Emotional Quotient or “EQ”, is often defined as the capacity to understand and interpret the intentions, motivations and desires of others and the ability to understand oneself. EQ is often broken down into 4 core skills:
- Self-awareness — is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions in the moment and understand your tendencies across situations.
- Self-management — involves controlling your own emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social awareness — is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
- Relationship management — is the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.
Studies have shown that 90 percent of high performers are also high in EQ. These are important skills for good leaders. The good news is that EQ can be developed. You can start by taking an EQ assessment to identify which areas you would like to address, then by creating a plan to improve in those areas. By focusing on increasing your emotional intelligence, you will likely increase success in both your business and personal life.
Are you someone who fails to respond? Not to cold-calls or blind solicitations, but rather to someone you contacted first? I am curious what is causing you to behave in that manner? Do you realize that when you reach out to someone else, they must spend time and energy to respond? Your own lack of responsiveness when they reply to you creates more work for that person, who wonders if their message was actually delivered or tries another way to reach you, thus expending even more time and energy. If you contact someone and then change your mind, it would seem to be common courtesy to let them know. You could send a quick note or leave a voice mail message, anything that would enable the other person to take you off of their list of things to do.
Vistage is not for everyone, so I know that many of the people I speak with will not be a good fit for our organization. However, I want to help people and will always try to respond in a timely manner when someone reaches out to me. However, when they fail to respond to my offer to answer any of their questions or provide them with information, it becomes very frustrating. I am left alternating between irritation, concern for their well-being, and curiosity as to why they reached out to me in the first place.
If you read this and realize you have been unresponsive to others, it’s not too late to change your behavior. Just let them know you resolved the situation and no longer need their assistance. Display some no-longer-so-common courtesy!