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.
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.
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.
I’ve been having a problem with my battery lately. Not my internal human battery. The battery that powers my car. Several times over the past couple of months my car wouldn’t start and I had to jump it to get it going again (with jumper cables, not the Fosbury Flop.)
I decided to measure my car battery with a voltage meter. Sure enough, the voltage was way low, like Consuelo. So I replaced the battery. But two weeks later, with a brand new battery, I found the car dead again. Watt The Volt?
Spotting a Pattern
I began noticing a pattern. When the car wasn’t driven for a couple of days it would wind up dead. It was dead when we returned from a family weekend in Chicago. It was dead-dead when I got back from a 4-day business trip to Atlanta and Orlando. So it was time to take my car to the dealership to get to the bottom of the issue.
Diagnosing The Problem
When I made the phone call to set up an appointment, the service representative seemed to understand my problem better than he should have with the limited amount of information I gave him. When I brought the car in, the representative shared his diagnosis without ever looking at the car. He said:
‘I am 99.9% sure that you have a parasitic draw on your battery, caused by the Bluetooth control module. When that malfunctions it draws down the battery at an abnormally high rate while the car is off. The demand eventually drains the battery until you don’t even have enough power to unlock the doors.’ -Acura Dealership Dave
The test the technicians performed confirmed that we was right. Se we replaced the Bluetooth control module. And the problem disappeared.
Beware The Parasitic Draw!
Parasitic draws are not limited to car batteries. They can happen anywhere. In businesses, on teams, and in social groups. Malfunctioning human parasites draw down the energy of the group, depleting them of power, until they limp along severely compromised, or ruined.
Great organizations, teams and groups require energy to function properly. If anyone in the system is taking away energy, rather than contributing it, you have to remove them from the system. Do it as quickly as you diagnose it. There is no cure, other than a parasitectomy. Don’t waste your time trying to fix it. Removing the offender is the only way to return to full power and achieve your full potential. And you should never settle for anything less.
If you want to accomplish great feats it helps to be delusional. Because doing the really hard things in life takes so much work, luck and timing that it is nearly impossible, if not impossible to do. Which means that having a warped sense of reality may be your greatest asset.
Ignoring Stop Signs
When I set out to launch my own advertising agency, there was no reason to believe it would succeed. There was so much I didn’t know. But I just kept ignoring the many signs that told me I should quit. In the process I blew through so many stop signs that I should have had my business driver’s license revoked.
The Little Writer Who Could
I started my career as a copywriter, and suddenly I was taking on all aspects of a business. I was the head of accounting, human resources, operations (though thankfully not the kind with scalpels), account service, and project management. I was also in charge of buying everything from paper clips to health insurance plans.
I was like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, playing every instrument in a one man band. Beyond tooting my own horn, and marching to the beat of my own drum, while trying to carry a tune, I also had to recruit other good, talented, musicians to join my micro-band. At the same time I had to book paying gigs for us to play. Writing about this now is starting to make me sweat.
Ignorance is key
Only by ignoring how crazy your undertaking really is, and how slim your ultimate chances of long-term success actually are, can you succeed.
Inspirational Movie Quote
One of my favorite movies is the hilarious Aardman claymation film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The lovable but bumbling lead character is The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant. The movie is so dense with wit that I discover something new every time I watch it.
Recently a line I hadn’t taken any notice of before jumped off the screen at me. The Pirate Captain was discussing a far-fetched plan with Charles Darwin. Darwin, being no dodo, informed the Pirate Captain that his plan was obviously impossible. Not to be deterred, The Pirate Captain had a wonderfully short, sweet and appropriate response to the doubting Darwin.
‘It’s only impossible if you stop to think about it.’ -The Pirate Captain
Of course The Pirate Captain is right. We should not think too much about the difficulties we take on. Your thinking will naturally focus on the reasons to believe you will fail. Stopping to think about your challenges often stops people in their tracks. Too much thinking will cause you to stumble into hoops, instead of jumping through them.
It is easy to be intimidated by the process and the obstacles you face when trying to do something difficult. So don’t think about them. When the mission is important but the obstacles are many, just start moving, doing and making. There are solutions to nearly every problem. And there are immovable objects that move once you do.
Yesterday morning my family and I piled into our car to make a 2-hour drive to a basketball tournament in the small town of Freedom, Wisconsin. Freedom is just north of Appleton. If Appleton means nothing to you, Freedom is 20 minutes south of Green Bay. If you are from New York City, or a non-American, Freedom is 4 hours north of Chicago.
Fifteen minutes into the drive, as we made our way down a country road, we approached a large sign that said: Road Closed 1 Mile Ahead. Local traffic only. As we approached the sign there was one car ahead of us. Upon seeing the sign the driver pulled to the side of the road, then quickly turned around and headed back the way we came, presumably to find a different route.
I ignored the sign and continued down the road anyway. One mile later, I approached a small fleet of construction vehicles parked neatly on the side of the road. They had clearly been put away for the weekend. Despite the warning from the sign, the road was indeed open and passable, even for non-locals like me. I drove through the hibernating construction site, and within a mile I reached the interstate on-ramp, exactly as I had planned.
Don’t Turn Around, Bright Eyes.
As I pulled onto the freeway, and reached my cruising speed, I reflected on this seemingly small incident. Because it was symbolic of how we go through life. We all see signs that tell us we can’t go this way or that. We are told of rules and limitations and regulations that cause so many among us to stop and turn around. Because most good, rule following people stop when they are told the road ahead is closed.
But if you want to do great things, hard things or never-done-before things, you can’t follow all the road signs. You can’t pull a u-turn every time you are told no. You have to question, challenge and push ahead. And when you do, you will be surprised how often the closed path advertised ahead is wide open and waiting for you to take it.
If you want to start a business, create an innovative new product or service, or forge a new route, you can’t turn around every time you are told you should. The same holds true in our personal lives. You have to find your way forward. Challenge the rules and laws. Question the assumptions. Don’t just take no for an answer. Find out for yourself what is really possible. Because beyond the no, the stop sign and the dead-end are where all the really great things are found.
Everyone has a goal. If you are ambitious, young or greedy you probably have many. Your goals serve as the magnets on your internal navigational compass. (As opposed to your Jeep Compass). Goals are what feed your actions every day. Without goals you are in danger of drifting through life.With a goal you can paddle, set your sails, or fire up your 300 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, and set a course across the stormy seas of life towards a meaningful destination.
Goals are very personal. They represent our desires, dreams and ambitions. If your goals are large, gaudy or outlandish, like a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), they can make you seem delusional. But it is impossible to accomplish improbable feats without improbable goals.
2 Schools of Thought
One of the great questions in goalology, the study of goals (okay, maybe I just made that up), is whether it is better to share your goals with other people, or keep them to yourself. There are two very different ways to think about this. My great friend Jeff Hilimire and I stand on different sides of the aisle. So we thought it would be worthwhile to share our opposing views.
Analyzing the Analyzers
Adam Albrecht and Jeff Hilimire have interesting similarities. They were both college athletes. Jeff played tennis at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Adam was a discus and hammer thrower on the track and field team at the University of Wisconsin. Both of these cats are also entrepreneurs.Jeff’s businesses include digital agency, Spunlogic, mobile and digital agency, Dragon Army and the great web-building, good-slinging, non-profit 48in48. Adam’s businesses include the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry and t-shirt company Adam & Sleeve. Yet despite these similarities, they have very different takes on goal sharing.
Jeff’s Views on Goals:
I’m a big believer in not only creating focused, tight, and specific goals (both short- and long-term), but also that you should consider sharing those goals in order to create accountability – for yourself and through others.
Many people have goals, but very few spend the time to write them down. When you force yourself to write something down, you’re creating a new connection in your brain with that “thing”. There have been studies that show this, but I’m not going to share them here, mostly because you have Google*.
But I have found the real power of accountability comes when you share your goals with others. If you’re the only person holding yourself to your commitments, it becomes easy to slack off or move the goalposts. Even if it’s just with a buddy, asking him or her to check in on you periodically dramatically increases the chances of you holding yourself accountable.
Personally, I like to share my goals on my blog, which is as public as it gets. And it works! One of my goals is to read 53 books this year (one more than last year,) and people I know ask me when we get together, “So, how many books are you at so far this year?” At the very least it’s a reminder that I committed to something and need to stick with it.
Not everyone needs this kind of accountability, but I’d guess 99% of people do. Let’s be real, while everyone has goals, very few people actually accomplish them. Not because they don’t have the skills, but because they don’t keep at it. They don’t stay focused, they find excuses, and sometimes they even forget. Writing your goals down and sharing them with others is at least one way to give yourself a better chance of success.
* also because I only kinda think I’ve heard that, so I might have made it up.
Adam’s Views on Goals
I used to subscribe to the theory that it was good to share your goals with others. But not anymore. There is a very basic problem with goal sharing. If you tell people you are going to start a business, run a marathon or donate 10 gallons of blood, you start feeling like it is true. Afterall, it has been stated aloud, and those words have floated from your mouth, through the ether, into someone else’s ear hole. That makes it true, right?
Wrong. Talk is cheap. You could say talk is worthless. (Unless of course you host a talk show, or are a police negotiator. In which case talk is your most valuable asset.)
The problem is that talking about your goals makes you feel as if you are making progress towards your goals. And the more you talk about them with others, the more you feel like they are real and true. Even though there has been no real progress. It is that false sense of progress that undermines many a good, worthy goal.
Goal sharing can also cause you to lose confidence in your ability to achieve those goals. If you want to lose a lot of weight, earn a lot of money or find a really hot spouse, and you tell someone this, you are likely to get negativity, doubt or laughter in return. You don’t need that. You need to believe you can do what you set out to do. Like Gwen Stefani, you need to have no doubt. And big goals produce doubt in others.
To avoid that false sense of progress, and to avoid the doubters, I like to keep my goals to myself. I have many goals, hopes and dreams that never get shared. Because I tell myself that my talk does not achieve anything. I find great motivation in showing people what I have done, rather than talking about whatI will do.
Goals are personal. And we are all motivated in different ways.You need to find out which approach works better for you. So if keeping your goals a secret isn’t working, try sharing. And if talking about your goals isn’t helping, shut up and get moving.
Despite our differences, we both want to hear what you think. Leave a comment and tell us if you think it’s better to shout your goals to the world like a Mexican soccer announcer, or keep them quiet, like Marcel Marceau.
Last night the New England Patriots did it again. They won the Super Bowl, and were crowned as the best football team on the planet. It was Tom Brady’s 6th Championship in 18 years. Which means that every 3 years he lifts a Lombardi Trophy. And many Non-Patriotics hate him for it.
Why is the win still important?
In the middle of the Cray Cray Camera Crush at center field following the game, Tracy Wolfson of CBS asked Tom Brady why the win was so important to him.
He responded immediately with a 6-word answer:
We’ve been this far and lost. -Tom Brady
With those 6 words, we can all relate to one of the greatest champions in the history of sports. Because despite the six Super Bowl wins, he has also known loss on the biggest stage. Three times, in fact. Twice to the New York Giants, and just last year to the Philadelphia Eagles. He has lost a Super Bowl in a season when the Patriots went undefeated until the championship game. Ouch. #DavidTyree
This is a great reminder that there is tremendous value in our losses. They drive up the value of each subsequent win.
The loss of a game makes you value a win.
The loss of a job makes you value your employment.
The loss of a new business pitch makes you value winning a new client.
The loss of a loved one makes you value your loved ones.
The loss of time makes you value the time you still have.
The loss of revenue makes you value revenue.
The loss of a friend makes you value new friendships.
The loss of oxygen makes you value oxygen.
The loss of 50 degrees makes you value finding 50 degrees. #PolarVortex
The loss of Breaking Bad makes you value Game of Thrones.
The loss of your swimsuit makes you value your swimsuit.
Creative thinking requires you to fill your head with interesting stimuli. This takes effort. Because life’s most interesting elements don’t just show up on your doorstep like Ed McMahon, with a giant check, balloons and a camera crew. That’s why I make a regular point of visiting museums.
Long before social media and hipster shopping sites made curation seem like a cool new idea, museums around the world began curating facts, images, stories, ideas and experiences. Museum-style binge-learning helps you stretch your mind in unexpected directions. This is good for everyone. But essential for professional creative thinkers, like me.
I visit the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry at least once a year. But there is so much to see that I always find new things to tickle my brain. Here are a smattering of things that caught my attention this weekend.
9 Things That Stretched My Brain
1. Sea Dragons
2. The Helicoprion
3. Vertical Farms
4. Our Proximity to Space
5. Zheng He’s Treasure Ship
6. The Rate of Extinction
7. The Tiger River Stingray
8. How Sue Got Its name
9. How They Got The Boeing 727 to The Museum
If you want to think in new and more interesting ways, you have to continue to feed your brain new and more interesting food. There is no better way to expand your thinking than exploring a museum. I encourage you to find one near you with a reciprocal membership that offers access to museums in other cities. That way you can see great museums whenever you travel. Or better yet, you’ll have great new reasons to travel.
Bonus Points: Can anyone name the art museum in the featured image at the top of this post? Leave your guesses in the comment section!