What to do when you realize your greatest limitation is you.

Planning the launch of your own business is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. From the day you first start thinking about your new company until you actually open for business you are living on Fantasy Island with Tattoo and Mr. Roarke. On the island you create an ideal vision of your fully formed business. You should dream big. Because ginormous dreams cost exactly the same as itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot dreams. And that dream you create during the planning phase is the blueprint for the reality.

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Everything changes when you leave Fantasy Island on da plane.

Reality

But the moment you open for realsies, your business will face an unavoidable limitation. And that limitation is You. When you are an entrepreneur your business is only as good as you are.

I have been thinking about that since 2016 when I first launched The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency. Knowing that you are the great limiter is a scary motivator.  It means your business will either be forever limited by who you were and what you knew when you first launched. Or it means you have to continuously push yourself to get better so that your business can too. I have chosen the second option.

Let It Grow. Let it Grow.

I have chosen to grow. As a result, I am on a high knowledge diet. I am constantly seeking books, magazines and blogs that grow my knowledge and perspective. I am listening to podcasts. I am meeting with other entrepreneurs, both informally and in formal meet ups (although never in formal wear).

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I’m trying to grow my brain. (Extra points for anyone who knows where this pic was taken).

I am learning. And getting better. Although I feel as if I have no choice. Because only the growing entrepreneur can grow a business. And as Andy Grove, the famed CEO of Intel once said, ‘Only the paranoid survive.’ (But remember, you need 2 noids to be considered paranoidal).

Righting Wrongs

I am also learning from my mistakes. I am identifying flaws in my thinking, and gaps in my knowledge, and addressing them like Gettysburg. It forces me to be both honest and self aware (but not a werewolf #MichaelJFox).  You have to know your strengths and use them. You have to know your weaknesses, and hire great people with strengths you don’t have.

Key Takeaway

You are your own greatest limitation. This is true for entrepreneurship, relationships and most other kinds of ships. But you have an endless opportunity for improvement. It simply takes a growth mindset. Read, ask questions, study and learn. End each day a little smarter than you started. Seek feedback. And use that to help create a better plan, a better business and a better you. Because once you leave the fantasy world your success depends on it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

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The one phrase that makes me want to scream at work.

Business can be a frustrating game. In this game, a conveyor belt drops challenges at your feet, over and over again. Your job is to solve those challenges before they bury you alive. Like soccer Quidditch and Jarts, some people love this game, and other people hate it.

Team Sport

When a company wins everyone goes home with money. Which makes business the ultimate team sport. It requires great communication to be successful. Since I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I pay even closer attention to the words and phrases used at work. I have found that there are a number of words and phrases you never, ever want to hear in your place of business. They include the following:

  • “Fire!”
  • “You’re not going to like this but…”
  • “Ponzi”
  • “I just called animal Control.”
  • “Sorry, it looked like a real search warrant.”
  • “It worked for Enron.”
  • “The Repo Man”
  • “I handled it, Lorena Bobbit-Style”

But there is one phrase that bothers me more than all others:

“That’s above my pay grade.”

This phrase jolts me like an electric fence. Because it reveals powerful forces at work within the mind of the person who says it, or within the culture where it is used.

A Mindset Problem

Making this statement is a way to shirk responsibility.  It is a way of saying, ‘This is not my problem.’ Or, ‘It is out of my hands.’ Or, ‘I don’t get paid enough to think about these kinds of things.’ This mindset is the polar opposite of entrepreneurial thinking.

A Cultural Problem

If ‘That’s above my pay grade’ is commonly tossed about in your workplace it means your team members feel their opinions don’t matter. Or that they don’t feel free to speak their mind on important topics. It usually represents a clear Us vs Management division within an organization. None of these are good for business.

The Power of Empowered People

I like people who don’t sense a limit to their thinking, responsibility or problem solving abilities. I like people who take ownership. I want my people to operate as if they must make a leadership decision. Which is a product of recruiting the right types of people, and empowering them to always do what they know is right.

Key Takeaway

Take on as much responsibility as you can. Regardless of whether or not the work and the decision-making is part of your job description. Always think like a leader. When you view the world like a manager, department head or CEO, sooner than later that conveyor belt will drop a set of business cards on your desk with a title that matches your take-charge mindset.

The most frightening result of scaring your employees.

I am always surprised when I hear people say they want to be entrepreneurs, but don’t want to manage other people. Without employees you greatly limit the potential scale, scope and impact of your business. Because businesses are powered by people. Just as we measure engine output in horsepower, business output is measured in human power.

To harness and apply human power you have to be able to lead other humans. Which is easier typed than done. A shocking number of smart, talented and hard-working people are shockingly horrible at leadership. In fact, a significant segment of the population fails to even recognize what leadership is. And I have worked with a few of them.

Leading

Leadership means you are out in front, leading people along the right path.  It means you are showing a way forward that others will eagerly and voluntarily follow, because you have made it look smart, right, and even fun.

The Critical Leadership Mistake

Don’t use your position of leadership to push people around. Don’t scare or intimidate your employees or teammates. You may get them to do what you want. But you won’t get them to do anything else. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summarized intimidation leadership this way:

Frightened people don’t take initiative or responsibility. And their organizations suffer as a result. -Colin Powell

If you want people to think for themselves, to take interest and ownership, they can’t be frightened. Creative thinking and innovation require a spirit of support. Because they require risk taking. If your people are afraid to make a mistake they will make sure they don’t. Of course the easiest way to avoid making a mistake is to do exactly what you are told to do. And nothing more. Just like Simon Says.

Key Takeaway

Fright has no place in the work place. In fact, it is so detrimental to business success it’s scary. Initiative and responsibility are the hallmarks of a successful organization. They are the key ingredients that create momentum. Without initiative and responsibility there is no growth. There is no future. And there is no reason to think. Which is the ultimate waste of human power.