Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

3 Ways Human Nature Sabotages Strategy

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Human nature is a wonderful thing.3 ways human nature sabotages strategy

Ask 10 people how long it will take them to complete a task and I’d guess 7 or 8 of them will underestimate the time required.

That proportion might increase if the 10 are all type A personalities – i.e. business owners or entrepreneurs.

We see this when we take teams through our strategy and business planning processes.

For example, at a specific point, we prioritize the things they need to do to close the gap between their company’s current state and where they want it in 3 years’ time.

Typically the teams want to tackle more items than is humanly possible given their resources.

There’s no ideal number of items – the complexity of each item is only 1 of the variables – but we’ve seen time and again that completing a few key tasks produces better results than taking on too many.

One point teams overlook is that the items that didn’t make the cut aren’t going anywhere. They’ll still be on the list when the top priorities have been dealt with, and can be tackled later in the year.

People don’t believe us when we tell them this. Why, because in our hectic world there are so many distractions that it’s becoming unheard of to finish a project that takes more than 10 minutes to complete.

So, we tell people to block off time in their schedule 2 or 3 days a week to work on the priorities. And we tell them to allow nothing – not voice mail; not email, not their colleagues, not even their boss – to distract them during that time.

A company’s culture can be an incredibly powerful, positive force. But it can also multiply the negative impact of human nature.

This dark side prevails when, for example, carrying a superhuman workload is considered to be the only way to prove your commitment to the company.

A negative culture is often unwittingly fostered, and maintained, by the business owner or management team. So we work on them by, amongst other things, reminding them that Michael Porter said, “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”.

Does that work? Do people change?

The smart ones do and, strangely enough, there appears to be a direct correlation between leaders who change and companies being successful.


If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy The Single Biggest Thing A Business Needs To Grow

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts.


Jim Stewart is the founding Partner at ProfitPATH. He has been working with business owners for over 16 years to increase profits and improve the value of their companies. LinkedIn


5 Traits Effective Business Owners Share

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

I believe the single biggest thing that separates companies that grow from those that don’t is the owner’s awareness of the need for change and their willingness to do so.Traits shared by effective entrepreneurs

So, I was interested in a recent post about traits that effective entrepreneurs share. Sure enough, it contained a quote saying that if owners commit to learning more about themselves and becoming the best that they can be, they’ll find that challenges are really opportunities.

But what other traits, according to the post, do effective entrepreneurs have?

1.  They’re surrounded by people who share their passion. They need to be because, in our experience, entrepreneurs expect everyone to want to work long hours, get by on a shoestring and to continue to persist in the face of adversity.

We often find that even owners of well-established businesses expect every employee to feel the way they do about the company.

2.  They know themselves. The post makes the point that “When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you’re better prepared to build a team that complements you and can help you reach your goals”.

True, but while some of the owners we work with understand their strengths, they don’t – or won’t – admit their weaknesses. While prevailing wisdom may say that’s a bad thing, I’m not so sure.

Some of the personal characteristics that make great leaders – in politics, the military and in business – can also be considered weaknesses. But you can’t have it both ways. You have to deal with one to benefit from the other.

3.  They are true experts. Most of the successful business owners we deal with had been working in their industry for some time before going it alone. And they made the break to deal with a gap, shortcoming they saw.

So they are subject matter/industry experts. Unfortunately they often think this expertise extends to all other aspects of building a business.

4.  They take action. I totally agree. They are unafraid of risk and willing to make decisions without waiting for perfect information. And that is not the same as being reckless because, in fact, the best entrepreneurs are not.

5.  They fail well. Mainly, I think, because they see failure not as something negative, but simply as a step toward success.

There are so many examples. Like Edison and his 900 odd attempts before getting it right. Or Winston Churchill (not an easy person to be around) who said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

You will find the author’s take on these traits here.


If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Perspective – It Really Matters….

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts.

6 Ways A Business Owner Can Influence Culture

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The 6 Ways a Business Owner Can Shape Culture.

Communicate and publish the company’s values, vision and mission as widely as possible. This first assumes that they were identified during the strategic planning process. Repeat and discuss them at every opportunity; put them on mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads and baseball caps; reward everyone who can not only remember them – but who also know what they mean.

Be a role model for the values. Employees watch the owner and other leaders’ behaviour all the time. Inconsistencies between the written values and day-to-day action send loud messages about the real culture. For example, having “investing in employees” as a value and then not providing funding for training is inconsistent. So is saying that “being innovative” is a value while punishing employees who attempt to innovate but fail.

Tell stories and help create legends about people. Stories are a great way to reinforce the desired behaviour and culture. If, for example, an employee goes out of their way to help a customer, the owner and management team must repeat the story – and encourage others to do so – at every opportunity. That’s how legends are born. Richard Branson shows how here.

Ensure the organization chart supports the culture. A company’s organization chart is a major way in which they embed and send signals about the culture. It’s easy to be inconsistent. For example if the stated aim is to foster collaboration and teamwork, a flatter organizational structure will be much more effective than a very hierarchical one.

Design the work space appropriately. Much like the org. chart, the physical layout of an office, plant or warehouse can affect company culture. For example, an open environment with no walls creates a very different atmosphere than one in which everyone has their own office with floor to ceiling walls. Neither approach is wrong, but both can be really inappropriate and unsupportive of values and culture.

And number 6 is – The use of rewards and status symbols. Salespeople are usually compensated using reward based systems e.g. commissions, bonuses for being over quota for a quarter or year; trips to exotic destination. But the people on whom the company relies to make and deliver the products or services the sales force sell frequently aren’t rewarded in this way. This difference in approach to pay can damage the culture by creating divisiveness or, if left unaddressed, even bitterness. On the other hand, used effectively rewards and status symbols can build an achievement oriented culture.

In Summary

If a business owner isn’t pro-actively shaping the culture in the company, one will develop spontaneously. And while the culture can support the development and execution of great strategies, which get great results, if it is inconsistent with the strategy, it will dramatically reduce the odds of the strategy being successful.

Taking the initiative and developing a culture which will help increase operating profits and build shareholder value is simply another aspect – or even by-product – of good leadership.

Post History