Founders believe that they need to work harder to lead the company to more growth. So attending every meeting and getting to inbox zero becomes the focus.
The tactical minutia of leadership will keep you busy, but it won’t make you into the leader your team deserves.
In reality, only three things matter…
Secret #1: You work for your employees. They don’t work for you.
The common belief is that you hire employees so you can delegate work to be done. And repeat this to grow.
This is only a partial truth.
This will work for a while, but as you add more and more people, you have to change how you see the people inside your organization.
I have asked hundreds of founders the impossible question… “As a leader of a fast-growth company, what is more important: customers or employees?”
The companies that are growing fast know that their employees are the most essential part of the business. These leaders know these employees must be taken care of.
I started tracking the exact number of founders that said it is EMPLOYEES that matter most. 94.1% said it has to be employees. This is exactly how Richard Branson has created so many companies and seems like he just lives on a private island and plays all day (OK, that part is dead on.)
Bigger companies that are not growing as fast and short-term focused will say it is customers. I get it, but the real confusion here is that leadership’s job is more than getting the results. They must develop employees to perform at their best and work together to find solutions to all of the company’s challenges. This is future-focused leadership.
When you take care of the employees and give them a place to transform, they will take care of the customers like it is their company.
Secret #2: Making the shift from managing the work to leading the people.
When you set a big goal for the company, it is common to focus on making that goal a reality. Then all the people get assigned their work. 99 percent of your time is spent keeping up with the progress of the work. You attend the meetings. You talk about deadlines. You look at the metrics. You put most of your energy into implementing the strategy. You feel as though you must have all the answers.
However, the reality is that you have to let go of “managing the work” and start “leading the people,” so they can become leaders, not just doers.
A visionary leader has to keep their finger on the pulse of the work that is going on, but developing the emerging leaders becomes even more essential. This is where empowering and coaching them begin to be more important than attacking your inbox. If you are honest with yourself, keeping up with your email is always easier than having more 1-on-1 conversations with your team members. Leadership is not about doing the easy work.
Your best employees don’t become your leaders by holding them accountable. These people become leaders by you inspiring them to feel like owners. This comes from the founders and CEOs that I have interviewed about creating a culture of ownership, even when people don’t have a financial stake in the company.
When you lead a person to feel like an owner, they will put their heart and soul into the work. They want to do the job, not just because you are paying them to do it.
Secret #3: You can do it alone, but you can do it faster with help.
Being smart and successful gives you the confidence that you can do it alone no matter what you are facing next. You have likely created the impossible already without the support of a coach.
As right as you are that you can do it on your own, you can also go faster with the right coach that can guide you through that next phase.
The coaching relationship is also very different from those that are already on your teams, like your executive team or a board. These people want you to be successful, but too often, they just don’t have experience in getting people to transform their level of thinking when they must solve a difficult problem. They can give you advice but lack the context to what is going on behind the scenes. They also typically only give you steps to handle it — this might not be the best move for you.
The right coach will have instincts that allow them to know the best way to engage a client — it varies depending on their mindset. Sometimes they need a cheerleader to support them. Sometimes they need someone to help them think through different perspectives. Many times they need someone to be direct and hold nothing back.
The key here is having someone that guides you when you face a challenge. They know how to engage you best to make a commitment that is so deeply aligned with who you are becoming that you make profound changes in the way you lead your people.
You may think you don’t have time for coaching too. I have wrestled with those thoughts also. The reality is that coaching is not something that takes up time; it is a way to focus your time on the most critical aspects of your business, your leadership development, and personal growth.
“Even with a company board and an experienced executive leadership team, I needed someone else. Gene helped me in re-defining the focus of the agency. He gave me clarity on some of the difficult decisions I made in growing the team. Working with Gene as my executive coach transformed us into a fast-growth company and one of the top agencies in Atlanta.”
– Mike Popowski, CEO of Dagger (Ranked 4-times consecutively on the Inc 5000 list)