Crazy leads to AWESOME! – 4 min. read

counterintuitive image

Four crazy ideas follow….

Improve Strengths, NOT Weaknesses  (Crazy, right?)

People are NOT your greatest asset, your people’s strengths are.

Let me explain – What I mean by strength is not something that they are good at but something that gives them energy and yes makes them feel strong (they are likely quite good at it but not always). More energy means higher productivity and happiness.  Who doesn’t want a happy team!

If you buy into this counterintuitive approach, here is what you do.   First find out the strengths of each member of your team.  Second, design the work around their strengths.  (This assumes that you primarily have A and/or B players to work with)

This approach will increase productivity and results many fold.

Remember Shackleton’s ad for the Endurance journey.

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it.

You will find that what one person on your team finds draining, another finds energizing.  Take advantage of that!  They will love you for it and you will reap the rewards as their manager.

Here is a personal example.  When I became a GM, I knew that I did not enjoy energizing the team.  I could do it if I needed to but it drained me and I dreaded it starting days beforehand.  I preferred to be more of the teacher, showing how we get from where we were to where we wanted to be.  Sharing this and then showing everyone what it meant to them and how they could help.

When people became engaged in the process and asked insightful questions, I felt great.  This happened often as the team could sense how enthusiastic and energized I was.  It was infectious!

However, I knew that injecting more fun and positive, upbeat energy was important.  So, I asked my VP, Sales to do what he likes to do which is to stand on tables, enthusiastically throw out candy for the right answer, tell jokes, sing songs, etc. to get people pumped up, happy and loose. It worked very well for both of us and the team got the best of both worlds.

The results were phenomenal.  We doubled revenue in 18 months and increased the customer base by 50% in the same time period.  We did this with little increase in staff and customer satisfaction scores went up by 50%!

When you approach your teams in this fashion, you will find them to be the highest performing teams you have ever worked with.  It may take some time so be patient.

Read the following book for more on this topic.

More meetings

What!  You want me to go to more meetings?!?!  I am always trying to get out of meetings whenever possible.  Now I know you are crazy!

(If you are still with me) I know, I get it (I hate meetings too!) but hear me out.

It is not usually the number of meetings that is the issue, it is how the meeting is run that most people do not like.  Most are dominated by a few individuals and sometimes devolve into topics that are only interesting to one or two people. ( I have sat through my share of these! tick, tock, tick…..)

Here is one way to fix it.  I recommend having the following meeting schedule and topics:

  • Annual meeting – This is where your leader(s) shares the direction of the company, reminds everyone of the company’s purpose, the annual priorities and shares good news and accolades with the team.
  • Quarterly meeting – This is where middle and upper management settle on the 1 or 2 important initiatives they want to accomplish and break the tasks down by group, assign accountability, metrics and timelines.
  • Monthly meeting – This is where upper, middle and frontline management discuss 1 or 2 big issues that need addressing to meet quarterly and annual goals and transfer company DNA (knowledge, values, approach) from upper to middle and frontline management.
  • Weekly meeting – This meeting focuses on updates of the quarterly priority. The team will also discuss, debate and address 1-2 main topics.  Any market intelligence collected during 1 on 1 customer and employee feedback meetings are shared here as well.
  • The Daily Huddle – 5-15 minute meeting (1 minute per participant) to discuss tactical issues and provide brief updates from everyone on the team. See previous blog post for more specifics.

Companies that follow this rhythm find that they save time. Other meetings are still necessary (as are the planning meetings to come up with the content for most of these meetings) but fewer are necessary when the meetings mentioned above are run well and consistently.

More people in fewer meetings

Whenever possible, have more people in one meeting rather than lots of meetings with fewer people.  Sharing a topic with more people provides more brains on an issue which can result in innovation, collaboration and a more cohesive culture. It also saves middle and upper management from having to go to repeated meetings with different groups on the same or similar topics. This applies well to daily huddles mentioned above and for senior managers in general.

The most productive and forward thinking senior teams spend one maybe two days in the office with meetings and the rest of the time out with customers, employees and partners. This practice helps senior teams to keep a pulse on the business and where the next threat or growth opportunity is coming from.

They can do this since, among other reasons, they have already laid out the priorities for the quarter, the year and possibly beyond.  They are now less necessary for the day to day running of the company.

Focus inward as a new business

Often, new companies spend most of their time focusing outward to capture new customers, learn market intelligence and improve your product offering.  (I have worked for or advised 16 different startups.  This is not uncommon.)  This outward focus is important and necessary in order to get the company off the ground but what is often missed is focusing on the core of the business while you are still small.

While there is still a small team (10 or less), it is the best time to make sure you codify and share core values, purpose, competencies, etc.  Instilling this into the DNA of the initial team is crucial.

Here is a sad story that I have seen play out more than once.  Unfortunately, when you notice it, it may be too late.

You have gotten through the eye of the needle and are having some success, you absolutely need to focus outward as you have drawn the attention of the marketplace.  Competition will be gunning for you, the employee base will look for you to predict the future, and remind them of why this is such a great place to work.

However, with an increased customer and employee base, you will fight fires that only you can handle since you have yet to teach the rest of the organization the fundamental tenets of the business that will guide them on how to manage exceptions and yet-to-be faced issues.

Unfortunately, you are sucked back in over and over to the daily running of the business at exactly the time when you need to be out of the office working on the business instead of in the business.

To avoid this happening to you, focus inward early.  It pays off in the long run.

I know that these items may seem crazy at first (I hope you give them consideration and maybe even try one or two) but they are based upon my personal experience and research from folks like Jim Collins, Amy Wilkinson, Verne Harnish, Ryan Levesque, Margaret Heffernan, Clayton Christensen, Simon Sinek and lots of other folks whose books I have read over the years.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. —Apple

Since very few of us were taught how to run a successful business in a holistic and practical way, the aforementioned researchers, crazy ones and authors are now our teachers and coaches.   Most of us have a lot of homework to do!

Please provide comments to let me know if this is helpful and what else I can do to improve these posts. Thanks!

Be Exceptional!

Published by Bill Flynn

Gazelles Member Advisor and early stage startup specialist with a proven track record with 16 Boston-based startups (9 to date with 5 successful outcomes, advisor to 7 others); SMB to Fortune 500 companies. 20+ years of Senior Sales, Marketing and GM experience in industries including mobile advertising, security, digital advertising, e-commerce and IT. Core Competencies: Player/Coach, Metrics-driven, Execution-based philosophy, Life-long learner

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