Identity, honesty and adaptability are key to growing as a professional as well as an organization.
Having a clear sense of identity is important for leaders and organizations. In the play Hamlet, William Shakespeare speaking through Polonius provides this fatherly advice, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” A clear identity enables leaders and teams to be honest with each other as they seek to compete in business. Honesty among individuals as well as within teams facilitates real time adaptability to changes in the market that are critical to sustained success.
Let’s break down the quote from Polonius to peel through the layers that will enhance our growth mindset:
1. “This above all else…”
You must prioritize. There’s isn’t enough time, money or resources to do everything. There are limits and they can demotivate you or force you to take the smartest risks you can imagine. To activate your growth mindset you cannot lose touch with reality, you must learn the ever evolving terrain, rules, resources and limitations. Again, reality is not the enemy, it is essential to growth.
Author of Organizational Physics, Lex Sisney, has composed Three Covenants of operating agreements to help teams maximize input and buy in. Covenant 3 states, “The goal is frank and honest discussion of the facts before a decision is made, followed by total commitment to implementing the solution after the decision is made.” Those in a position of leadership do well to understand that they need as broad a net of inputs as possible from within as well as without their team.
Failure to listen to those who are in the field distributing your products or services, those frontline employees, is cutting your organization off from valuable perspectives. Leaders also must understand that conflict does not have to be negative. Creating an open forum where ideas flow without filters requires the allowance of dissension. The team can create healthy boundaries for discussion to remain civil while making clear the timeline for disagreement and the expectation of buy in once the decision is made. As Sisney put it, “Put another way, it’s OK to question a decision up front but it’s not OK to fight it or ignore it during implementation.”
2. “To thine own self…”
Organizations that struggle with their identify will struggle to clarify their value proposition in the market place. Organizational culture and identity sound like such lofty concepts but they are merely reflections of the teams day to day actions and the identity of the leadership. Your company culture is what you do. Your organizational identity often mirrors that of your leadership. We make culture and identity abstract when we try to create them rather than recognize what they are and then optimize them.
In The Real Life MBA, Jack and Suzy Welch write, “The only reason to talk about behaviors at work is that leaders need be very public, very clear, and very consistent about what kind of behaviors are needed in order to achieve the company’s mission.” Leaders must lead by example, it should be the working definition of leadership but often it falls short of action. When those in a position of leadership understand themselves they free up capacity to find and build other leaders who will round out the team needs so that the mission can move forward. When leaders don’t understand themselves they often lead by fear and hold the team back from reaching its potential.
Clarity comes from truth. Collaboration comes from a willingness to receive input. By combining clarity with collaboration, leaders, teams and organizations will unlock the capacity to compete.
3. “Be true…”
There is an emphasis on authenticity which is important for individuals as well as organizations. Yet, if you are failing or heading towards decline, it takes a strong person to admit they need assistance. In the rapidly evolving market everyone must be acutely aware that what worked last month may not net the same result this month. The need to adapt and adjust to the market is constant. Failure to recognize this reality is a recipe for certain failure.
Our values should be set in stone, in so far as they reflect our ethics and core culture, but our approach to the needs of our clients must be fluid. Lex Sisney shares more on how we remain true to ourselves and yet flexible, “If you want to scale your business successfully — without sacrificing innovation, core values, or execution speed as things get more complex — you’ll need to design on principles, not policies.” Good leadership recognizes the survival of the fittest, which isn’t so much that the strongest and richest survive but those who most adaptable to their surroundings. Recent history has shown how industry giants have been toppled by rigidity and replaced by entities that were willing to change their approach with the fluctuations of the market.
Being yourself and building an authentic company are not unreachable philosophical dreams. A leader who is listening will reap the benefits of real time feedback so that their team can adjust course expediently. Jack and Suzy Welch address innovation in this way, “It can and should be a continual, ongoing, normal thing. It can be and should be a mindset that has every employee at every level of the organization thinking as they walk in the door every morning, “I’m going to find a better way to do my job today.” Leaders who understand themselves can create teams and cultures that thrive. Competing in the market requires a strong identity with adaptability. My father in law wisely calls this rigid flexibility. Stay true to your core and nimble enough to adjust to the tides. Have a vision, work tirelessly to execute on your mission but don’t get so transfixed that you are unable to adapt.
Maintain rigid flexibility as you clarify your identify, build an authentic culture and adapt through collaboration.
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To be productive one has to first produce and secondly to produce productively.
Productivity is rather simple and in the pursuit of enhancing productivity perhaps therein lies the key to success – keeping things simple. What are we producing and are we producing it efficiently?
It may not be that surprising to discover than many companies are not that clear on what their core offering is. In the business world there are goods and there are services and there are companies that do both, but those two components are the primary mode of value for any entity in the marketplace. Those organizations that know what their value offering is and how to position that value are the companies that have the best opportunity (nothing is guaranteed) to operate as a viable business.
The primary obstacle for any individual who seeks to start a business is to make the decision to go for it. Put another way, the primary step in starting is simply starting. When a person has identified a good or service that they can bring to the marketplace with value, they must first overcome their own fear of failure (atychiphobia). This applies to starting anything, whether it’s a new business, a new direction or a new discipline within an existing organization.
Productivity requires vision.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy, former U.S. President
Everything has a consequence, those who are looking to start something or make a change need to find the confidence to move forward with what their vision and values are telling them to do. Having vision is of great value, when an individual sees a need for change the next step is to put some thought, action and endurance into motion to see that thing through.
Productivity requires movement.
Efficiency is a measure the ability to produce something in relationship to the output of resources utilized. Resources include raw materials, capital and labor. For so many that make the leap to start their own business, they think, “If I was making $20 per hour and now I am making $30 per hour as a business owner, I am really making it.” What they don’t take into account is that they are self-employed and paying themselves $30 an hour but if that is also all they are charging then they are setting nothing aside for overhead costs such as vehicle maintenance, office supplies, utilities, taxes and etc.
Productivity requires data.
“If your business depends on you, you don't own a business-you have a job. And it's the worst job in the world because you're working for a lunatic...You can't close it when you want to, because if it's closed you don't get paid. You can't leave it when you want to, because if you leave there's nobody there to do the work. You can't sell it when you want to, because who wants to buy a job?” —Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth
Productivity has to do with being efficient with your resources while providing your product or service. Being able to measure productivity involves knowing your production costs, the adage that the numbers don’t lie is true as long as you track your numbers accurately and allow them to speak for themselves without manipulation. If you seek to be productive the first steps involve finding a means to track your costs such as labor, materials, overhead costs and profitability goals.
Productivity requires listening. (Video on listening HERE)
While the point of this article is not to be a deep expose into the intricacies of cost analysis in relationship to productivity goals, it is important to note that they only way to track productivity is first to be tracking something. A simple excel spreadsheet can assist to track time and materials applied to a project. Start by tracking expenditures and revenue daily and where there are spikes in either dig into where those inconsistencies are coming from. Allow the numbers to show you what is and what isn’t working, or to at least understand the expenditure of resources going into pursuing your vision.
Productivity requires tracking.
“I never lie because I don’t fear anyone. You only lie when you’re afraid.” – John Gotti, crime boss
Failure to launch is rooted in the fear of failure. We stop ourselves short of putting our vision into motion because we undervalue our ability to create value, rise above obstacles and adapt as we receive new information along the way. Failure to improve is rooted in the same fear of failure (more HERE). Often we deceive ourselves into thinking things are working because of tradition, ie this is how things have always been done and so it’s safe to continue swimming with the stream, or because of blind commitment to a system of productivity that has handed down to us, where there is less resistance by simply keeping with the plan rather than challenging the machine.
Productivity requires honesty.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results, yet the status quo is doing the same thing expecting the same results. The market is constantly changing and the pace of change is running at a rate that is leaving those who are not adapting in the dust. When we don’t ask the hard questions, such as is this working, is this sustainable and is there a better way, then we cut ourselves short of unlocking productivity improvements.
Productivity requires adaptation.
Productivity can seem complex, but at the core it is rather simple. Stay clear about what it is that you are producing, a good or service, and whether you are doing so efficiently. Keeping things simple is a key to being productive. Having a clear vision is the foundation, operating on your values is essential to keeping your identity intact, challenging your fears is a daily test and tracking your numbers is a key discipline. The numbers are simple, they don’t lie but they can be silenced.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - Creative business solutions. We help you connect, collaborate & conquer. #MTWSL
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