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Sunday, 8 March 2015

Working On the Business or In the Business? Remember That Less is More!

One of the more consistent complaints that I hear is that "I never have time to do useful stuff because I am always too busy".

In the early days of Vistage at a workshop for potential members we always asked the same question:

"Are you working on the business or are you working IN the business?"

and then watched for the heads nodding. In fact many of the CEOs there were not hands on or worse, hands in, they were fingers in and knew it.

There is no doubt that many leaders, especially those who founded the business and has overseen its growth, still find difficulty in accepting that other people can do the job as well as they can.

It isn't conceit or arrogance; it is simply a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that "if I do it, then I know that it will be right"..

Of course that is not always the case but if leaders screw up then there is usually nobody to hold them accountable.  It is yet another case where the isolation of the leader can militate against success in the business.

The higher we go through an organisation, the fewer people there are to give us the reassurance that we are doing a good job and that demeans emotional stamina.

Not in every case, of course, but if the leader has the self- confidence, indeed self-belief, then perhaps we can understand a modicum of arrogance.

Most leaders have to accept the feeling of isolation. Virtually everyone within the purview of the leader has a hidden agenda and those that don't are seldom a good sounding board anyway.

Take all this into account so what on earth persuades talented people to go into business rather than be in thrall to others?

Most of the members of my Vistage CEO peer groups would claim, with some pride (and accuracy), that they are virtually unemployable.

Very few of them would be able to work for someone else and that often shows up when the leader sells the business and is expected to stay on for an earn-out over a period of time.

Again, the question must be asked, what is it that drives a talented individual to go it alone?

My favourite psychologist, Frederick Herzberg has the answer. He suggested that motivational facets of working life are either positive or negative; the positive factors include, for example, achievement, growth, the work itself, advancement and recognition.

The fact is that irrespective of our position in the organisation those are the factors that motivate us and in the case of the leader are not always appropriate.

Typically advancement and recognition are more in the gift of the leader rather than the likelihood of their applying to him/her. Indeed these are factors that the leader has to give rather than receive to help the team grow.

The leader has to learn to live with the isolation of the position and without some of the major motivational factors.

The two biggest motivators for the leader are, unquestionably, growth and achievement that taken together can be described as the drive to succeed.

Most great leaders are avid learners if not always readers and they are most certainly motivated by achievement. At the same time they can help their people motivate themselves by ensuring that the positive motivators are well to the forefront of the business culture.

For the leader in the main the motivators are primarily self-imposed if there is nobody to help him/her to a little introspection.

An excellent way to escape or at least ease the isolation is to hire a personal mentor. We have personal trainers to help us care for our bodies so why not the same for our minds?

Even better join a peer group like Vistage, cut down on the isolation and gain both a mentor and accountability to the group.

Commercial break over.


The real reason that entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week is to escape the tyranny of having to work 40 hours a week for someone else.

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