Each month, Americans start approximately 543,000 businesses (almost as many close). Unfortunately, by the 10 year mark, only one-third of those new businesses will still be operating. But armed with specific knowledge, you can become a better leader for your business and avoid the pitfalls that cause many of those business owners to fail.
One of the things I do for business leaders is to work with them on how to change the way they think, and increase the odds that their company will thrive instead of just treading water or sinking. There are some key elements to becoming a better leader for your business.
Every company needs a go-to person to call the shots and keep things on track. Just as an airplane has a pilot at the controls, so too must your business have a strong leader who knows how all the controls and gauges work. You must set some personal goals as a leader and decide how you will set the tone of your entire business.
In Chapter Five of my book Pushing the Envelope: How to Think Like a Fighter Pilot in Life and Business, I share this: “The most important thing you need to understand is that if you are not held accountable, your goals will not happen. You will not get the things done you have committed to without accountability.”
Truly great leaders often have role models and mentors, either in person or virtual, who keep them accountable and serve as a standard of how to lead with precision, power and purpose.
For any company to be truly successful, the leader must have a strong vision of where the future will take it. One of the most important questions you can ask is:
“Where are we going?”
A fighter pilot has to know his destination before he even gets in the cockpit. He needs to know what his mission is and where he’s going.
In my book Pushing the Envelope I mention that “You have your list of goals, you have them categorized and prioritized, and you have begun to develop your flight plan. But, you haven’t reached the destination yet. You’ve taken the first steps, but you haven’t accomplished them. This is where the thrills begin, because it’s time to throttle up.”
In Chapter Four of Pushing the Envelope: How to Think Like a Fighter Pilot in Life and Business, I describe how important it is for leaders to have a flight plan. There are three types of people. There are people who make things happen. There are people who watch things happen. Then, there are those who wonder what happened. What category do you want to fit into? How do you want clients and employees to describe you?
You’ve already decided on where you’re going; now you need to map out how you’re going to get there. What specific steps do you need to take to achieve your goals as a business owner? If you don’t have a defined strategy, then your business will flounder.
Start by choosing four or five key high level elements of your strategy. You can then further define those directives into sub categories. For example, if your goal is to be the best car wash in the state, then all the sub categories must fall under directives that achieve that primary goal. So, you might have directives, such as having the best suds of any car wash in the state, or making sure your dryers are three times more efficient than any other car wash’s.
Once you have the strategy nailed down, now it’s time to ask yourself how you will accomplish that strategy. What specific actions need to be taken? These actions are what fighter pilots call tactics are the detailed actions that fighter pilots use to effectively execute an element of the strategy. They are the steps that will support and fulfill the strategy. Think of actions as the tactics used as execution steps of the strategy.
Alignment simply means that everything is in balance and self-supporting. The actions steps employed to execute the strategy must be in sync and support each other. They cannot conflict.
And that includes your life. If you’re putting in 16 hours a day at your business, then your personal and family life will likely suffer. If your marriage breaks up, you may have a hard time focusing on your goals and dreams. If you neglect your health, because you don’t take the time to work out and eat properly, then you may become ill and be unable to complete tasks to grow your business.
I’ve known a lot of people who have become very successful business people, but their family life is a shambles as a result. Their lives are not in balance.
On the business side of things, everything aligns when you start with a strategic plan in place. All of your staff should be familiar with your goals and the strategies you plan to use to arrive at your destination.
To be truly successful, you must create some balance in your work and in your life.
If you want your business to succeed, then you must ensure that everyone in the organization is accountable for completing the tasks they need to complete. And this includes yourself as the organizational leader.
After the destination, flight path and tactics are prepared and understood, now it’s time to set the standards and expectations as to what everyone needs to do in order to implement those actions. This includes how and when they will accomplish those items as specified and agreed upon. And will also be clear as to what will happen if they don’t accomplish those actions. Accountability is key to a successful execution of the tactics that fulfill the strategy. If a segment of the actions plan falls short, then you need to regroup and adjust that action, keeping in mind that the strategy didn’t change, only the tactics of attaining the strategy have changed.
I would even add that you yourself should have an accountability partner. This might be a mentor, a business partner, or a close friend. There should be a person who checks in with you once a week or so to make sure you are sticking to your plan and that you are accomplishing the tasks set before you.
You can meet your goals and not really feel as though you’ve been successful. Success is tied up with spiritual, emotional and even financial or business goals. To ensure that you keep your eye on the prize and enjoy each bit of success along the way, you should focus on:
- Tracking Your Progress – Keep a journal of tasks and check them off as you complete them.
- Rewarding Small Successes – If you are running that car wash mentioned above, did you find the sudsiest soap on the planet? Reward yourself with a new monthly planner or portfolio you’ve had your eye on for a while.
- Staying the Course – Breaking down your successes into smaller goals that are easier to meet can help you stay on track with your overall objective.
In my book Pinnacle Leadership: How to Navigate Change, Move Forward and Reach Your Peak, I end by encouraging readers to strive to be just 1% better each day than they were the day before. Over time, all those small achievements turn into a series of larger ones. Success is a marathon and not a sprint to the finish line. Run your race accordingly.