Archive for May, 2011

The Leader and The Windshield

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I was thinking today about how many of us as leaders get in the way of our followers instead of being transparent to them.  Many people like the attention that being out front brings.  It is usually our name that is in the paper.  We are the ones quoted for some wise saying we devised from our wealth of knowledge.  Many times, very capable people are ignored by those seeking out the person in charge.

But, as I ponder on that thought, I’m thinking about the really successful people I know.  Most of them are available to be out front and actually do have very wise things to say.  But, when their team is on the bus, they are not standing in the front blocking the view.  They are transparent, shielding those who follow from the minor distractions of the road, and allowing capable people to focus on execution. 

The successful leader is providing a clear vision of the road without blocking the view.

The plan has been clearly communicated so that everyone on board is clear about how they are to contribute to the organization’s success, allowing them to focus on results.  Speeding along the highway, changes in scenery that require speedy adjustments to a global marketplace are much easier to make when the team is looking through the windshield instead of at the leader.

The mistake many leaders make is thinking that they must constantly communicate their changing view of the road to those who follow.  By forcing competent people to focus on themselves instead of the road, valuable time and clarity is wasted.  Every movement the leader makes threatens to upset the organization’s momentum and delays an effective response.  Before long, the response time is shortened to the point that there is only enough time for excessive reactions, not measured responses.  Crashes occur that would not have happened if the leader were not blocking the view.

The effective leader communicates a clear vision, shields the team from unnecessary distractions and then allows team members to focus on execution.  Sounds like a windshield to me.

“Is Time Really Money?” – by Rob Burnham

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Even though the term “time is money” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, if he were living today, Ben would probably be proud to see his picture on the $100 bill.  But, I’ll bet he would also be open to reconsidering that statement.  Now, I’ll agree that time does display many of the characteristics of money.  But, to say that time is money, one would have to consider that the owner of a thriving business might be sleeping in his Ford Focus while his faithful janitor parks his Hummer in front of a nice vacation home on the beach.  The fact is that both time and money are something many business owners hold in short supply.

So, does the business owner have any more hours in his day than any of his associates?  If he could, would he buy some of the janitor’s free time to spend with his own family?  Or would he borrow a few days a month and pay it back with interest when he gets the business going?  Sounds good; but it just doesn’t work that way!

If we need money, our first stop is to borrow it from a friend or family member.  Many successful businesses were funded with loans from those close to the new business owner.  They believed in him or her and were anxious to help, many times with little or no interest.  But sooner or later, most businesses require more capital than those close to the owner are willing or able to supply. It may be that they just don’t have the funds; or it may be that they have figured out that the chances of repayment are slim and the time has come when they are not willing to yield more of their precious resources.

When Uncle John cuts them off, the next stop is usually the local bank.  If you have a good plan and the banker has confidence in your ability to repay the loan, chances are that he can work out some sort of financing.  For the best borrowers, he might even make the loan at the prime rate.  But, it seems that the more often we come to the well and the less reliable we are at repaying the loan, the higher the interest rate becomes until the only options are the Tower Loans of the world or the mafia.

Think for a moment about how that relates to your time.  You can’t seem to get everything done.  So at first, you borrow from those closest to you; ten minutes late for dinner or you miss a ballet recital to work on that big deal. Not so bad.  But then it becomes a habit.  The family no  longer looks for you at dinner time and the neighbor automatically picks up your son to take him to the ball games.  Nobody even expects you to show up anymore!  Boy, is the interest rate skyrocketing!

Get the picture?  Before long, the interest rate on time costs a lot more than money.  Maybe the business is successful, maybe not.  But, the fact is that there is no reason left for the business to succeed.  All the things you were working for are gone.  The dreaded 3 D’s (death, divorce, disability) have taken their toll and you are left with nothing to show for your hard work except a few Ben Franklins.

There is a truth here.  Think about it.  Everyone has the same number of days in their week, the same number of hours in their day and the same number of mintues in those hours.  So, how do some people seem to never catch up while others, like Benjamin Franklin, accomplish so much?

I think it has something to do with the way we view our time.  On one extreme, we just waste it away.  We don’t value our time and as a result, we never accomplish very much. You trade too many of your hours each week for too few dollar bills and are happy just getting through the week.  You are working harder than ever.  You just don’t get anywhere.  After 30 years of work, you really don’t have 30 years’ experience.  You have one year 30 times.  Where has the time gone?  Ask Benjamin.  My guess is that his time ran out long before his money did.  Doesn’t that prove that money is not time?  If so, time can’t be money either!

Anyway, the truth of time is that we all are measured out the same amount of it every day (expect our last, of course).

Now that you’ve gotten this far, let me tell you about the point of this article.  I want you to be motivated to improve how you invest your time.  I want you to get more out of life.  This is what I mean by MORE.

M-aximize your time

O-rganize your stuff

R-educe your stress

E-nergize your mind.

If the interest rate you are paying on borrowed time has gotten out of hand, contact me.  I can’t sell you any time; but I can help you find some.  rob@bdsinstitute.com

“Harnessing the Chaos in Your Business” – by Rob Burnham

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
This post was adapted from a powerful post by my productivity coach. Hope you enjoy……..
Chaos is at the heart of every high-growth business. Chaos is a powerful stimulant for business growth.  It’s also the leading cause of business failure.
Unbridled energy for a business owner is like an untamed horse. While It is very powerful and can be helpful in growing your business (and in fact may be a major factor in your early success), if left untamed, it can result in unbridled stress and ultimately lead to business failure.  Even though chaos may have gotten you to this point; and your team may have thrived on the excitement at first, be careful!  Even the most adventurous among us gets weary if chaos is not harnessed.  Consider these tips for dealing with chaos in your business.
4 Pieces of Advice for Harnessing Chaos

Forward this post to your business coach for discussion.  If you don’t have a coach, email me at rob@bdsinstitute.com.

  • 1. Accept it- This may sound odd. But, in a growing enterprise, chaos is a normal thing. It’s there; and it’s not going away.
  • 2. Create boundaries – Consciously establish rooms in which you are allowed to operate. (Focus on Most Valuable Activities).
  • 3. Give Some Space – Explore new product ideas and ways to improve, but within boundaries.
  • 4. Seek Accountability – There are 2 givens in business ownership: 1) it’s lonely at the top 2) it is difficult to self-correct. The bottom line is that you need to seek a business coach who will hold you accountable and help keep you on track.

Principles:

  1. Chaos is untamed energy that wants to run wild in you and your business.
  2. Initially, chaos helps growth; but over time, it can stall growth or eventually destroy the business.
  3. Harnessing chaos means directing it and focusing that energy in a certain direction to help propel the company forward.
  4. Four tips to harnessing chaos include:
    • Accept chaos
    • Create boundaries
    • Give some space
    • Seek accountability
  5. It’s lonely at the top and it’s difficult to self-correct. Accountability through a coach can keep you on track.