The Modern Day Entrepreneurial Leader

Are you an entrepreneurial leader? Leadership is such a broad topic that there are scores of books and blogs that focus on nothing else. Let’s scratch the surface by focusing on what leadership means in an entrepreneurial environment.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader is humble. He or she happily gives credit to others for successes realized by the enterprise. By being comfortable in his/her own skin, this entrepreneur delights in shining the spotlight on members of the team who achieve and excel. He or she is also quick to take the blame if something goes wrong. And there’s no pointing of fingers at team members who failed when this happens. This entrepreneur realizes that leadership is all about building other people up – not tearing them down.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader is always aware of others with whom he or she is interacting. This entrepreneur acknowledges them and shows genuine interest in their wellbeing. Expressing gratitude and appreciation is first nature for this person. Regardless of another individual’s station in life, the modern day entrepreneurial leader treats everyone in the same positive and uplifting manner. A smile, eye contact and a heartfelt “thank you” are equally extended to the barista in the coffee shop, the checker in the grocery store and the Fortune 500 CEO.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader always eats last. This may occur literally at the company’s annual picnic, or metaphorically on payday. If a venture is struggling to gain traction and is short on cash, this entrepreneur will make sure everyone else on the team gets paid first. In some instances this leader will even max out a credit card to bridge the gap until revenues from the enterprise provide the necessary cash to keep going.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader is strategic. He or she understands the difference between strategy and tactics and works tirelessly to refine a winning strategy. This strategy is then communicated effectively to each team member who understands exactly how they fit in the organization and what their roles and accountabilities are. The entrepreneur spends more time working “on” his/her business than working “in” it.

While being strategic, the modern day entrepreneurial leader isn’t afraid to get his/her hands dirty either. If there’s a job to be done and no one to do it, this leader jumps in to fill the gap. This could mean anything from answering a phone on the switchboard, making a sales call, spending an hour on the production line (because the individual normally assigned suddenly became ill), to cleaning snow off the front entry stoop. The entrepreneur never believes that any of these tasks are “beneath” him or her.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader is a visionary. He or she can clearly articulate the organization’s vision in a way that is understandable to all involved. And this leader is constantly looking at the industry, the enterprise and the customer to find new ways to innovate. The result may be the creation or refinement of products and services as well as ideas for streamlining the way those products and services are delivered.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader understands the value proposition and can differentiate his or her products/services. This can be a major problem for businesses at all stages of the lifecycle. A muddled approach to the value proposition can lead to confusion and apathy in the marketplace. This leader makes certain that the benefit of his/her products or services is very clear to the customer, and it’s easy to see that such benefits are significantly greater than with competing products or services.

Finally, the modern day entrepreneurial leader is the leading advocate of core values for the enterprise. He or she is always modeling them and high-fiving team members who do the same. These core values aren’t window dressing, but instead are foundational elements for the daily operation of the organization. This leader is also laser-focused on building a strong and positive culture. There is a realization that having the right team members on the bus is paramount and the entrepreneur works tirelessly to ensure that individuals who are not a cultural fit are excused from the enterprise. Further, each team member always knows where he or she stands from a performance perspective. This leader does not use blunt honesty that could harm morale. Instead he or she practices the approach of warm candor where a team member understands where improvement is needed without being destroyed in the process.

The modern day entrepreneurial leader is the complete package. He or she is humble; easily expresses gratitude; puts his/her needs secondary to other team members; is strategic; isn’t afraid to get dirty hands; is a visionary; understands the value proposition, and is the leading advocate for core values and culture.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 105 – The Case of the Frozen Hostage.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Overflowing

We entrepreneurs have much for which to be grateful. As I write this at the beginning of 2018, what better way to start a new year than to express gratitude? We have been blessed with so much and it’s helpful and healthy to reflect on these blessings.

I am grateful for my wife of more than 44 years and all of her love and support through the peaks and valleys of our lives. I am grateful for our daughters and how they have become great mothers to our three beautiful grandchildren. I am grateful to my son-in-law for the way he has become a terrific father. I am grateful to my parents who chose me through an adoption process and gave me an amazing childhood. I am grateful to my sister for so many things, but especially the way she cared for our mother before she died. I am grateful to our many friends who have joined us over the decades in countless moments of laughter and joy.

I am grateful that I learned to play the piano when I was young for it paved the way for me to type and be very efficient on the computer keyboard today. I am grateful that my parents helped me become a disciplined young man through many hours of piano and clarinet practice, as well as assigning me family responsibilities and holding me accountable accordingly. I am grateful that I was able to play basketball as a youngster and for the various summer jobs that taught me how to work hard and save money. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a Boy Scout and all of the experiences that led to my Eagle award. I am grateful for having grown up in a small college town that was safe and offered a myriad of productive activities for a young person in the 1950s and 1960s.

I am grateful to my partner who gave me the opportunity nearly 43 years ago to become a part of a quality organization, and then let me spread my wings and soar. I am grateful to my other partner of nearly 22 years who has taught me empathy and understanding. I am grateful to the other senior leaders of our various companies who are helping to build a strong and sustainable culture. I am grateful to the hundreds of team members who advance our cause every hour of every day. I am grateful for the opportunity to use our platform to create and innovate. And I am grateful that our entrepreneurial endeavor has allowed me to live my “Why” which is to make sense of complexity.

I am also grateful for my physical health and the fact that I have few maladies for a person my age. I am especially grateful to each of my health care providers who have supported me in achieving great health. I am grateful that I have all of my mental faculties which enable me to read, write and think about the wonderful world in which we live.

I am grateful for having the honor of helping a number of mentees grow their businesses over the years. I am grateful for being invited to serve on different boards and various search committees. I am grateful for the young people who have participated in a university teacher’s scholarship program that my wife and I started in 1999. Many of them have now gone on to touch the lives of so many others as teachers.

I am grateful for having been able to earn an income that has provided a comfortable lifestyle. I am grateful to be able to travel throughout the country and abroad. I am grateful for my various hobbies including publishing this blog and recording a podcast – and of course I’m grateful to each of you who reads and listens.

I am grateful for my positive and optimistic outlook on life. I am grateful for my resilience and perseverance. I am grateful to be able to say that I have no real regrets, nor have I ever done anything to intentionally hurt someone else. I am grateful that I have a strong moral compass and that I can continue to explore my spirituality. I am grateful to all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for my freedom and for all of the first responders that stand ready to assist when needed.

My list could go on and on, so please don’t take offense if I didn’t make reference to you. It’s exhilarating to become immersed in gratitude and realize that our lives have been shaped by so many other people. I’m betting that you could also identify much for which you are grateful. To that end, let’s all be grateful for a Happy New Year!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 78 – Oatmeal on the Floor.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Walking Shoes

We’ve all known hard-charging Type A entrepreneurs who have a “take no prisoners” attitude. These people are the doers. They are decisive and they know how to execute. But sometimes there is a downside to this sort of personality. Yes, sometimes those of us who are very driven may have a tendency to be insensitive. This usually isn’t intentional but nonetheless it can have a detrimental effect on our team members and the culture we are trying to build.

There are a number of ways that insensitivity can manifest. It can be as direct as making derogatory or belittling comments to as subtle as failing to acknowledge someone with a friendly greeting in the morning. Think about an exchange like this. Team member – “I’d like to volunteer to work with Jim on the Norton project.” Entrepreneur – “No, you just need to stay focused on what you are doing.” While it may be absolutely true that the team member needs to keep doing what she’s doing, the way the entrepreneur delivered the message could be construed as insensitive. A different selection of words would make all the difference. How about this instead? “Jan – thanks for the offer. Your project is critically important and I’m counting on you to get it wrapped up. But I will take a rain check on having you help with the next one.” This statement acknowledges the team member with an expression of appreciation and also affirms her value. And it gives her hope that she’ll be given another opportunity in the future.

So, how do we develop the appropriate level of sensitivity without going so far as to sing Kumbaya all the time? There’s a very simple method that I’ve learned over the years. I will admit to once-upon-a-time being the insensitive Type A hard-charger that was described in the opening paragraph. I justified my behavior by believing that I was simply being expedient in my dealings with others. After all, I was moving at 100 miles an hour and the quicker I could get through with one meeting the sooner I could move on to the next. But I gradually became aware that my people skills were suffering. I wasn’t doing anything to cultivate relationships or goodwill. Eventually I developed a new awareness by just putting myself in the other person’s shoes. How would I feel if someone spoke to me a certain way; said something in a certain manner, or failed to somehow acknowledge me?

The key is to practice, practice and constantly practice. I try to pay attention to how everyone around me is feeling. In a restaurant, I want to make sure that the wait staff is properly appreciated. At the office I try to make eye contact with members of our team as I walk by and greet each and every one of them. I pay attention to the language that I use, going the extra mile to avoid careless statements that could be misconstrued. Again, I’m always testing what I say or do against the basic premise of how I would want to be treated if I were the other person. After a while it becomes very intuitive.

The mark of a good leader is the manner in which he or she treats others. Running roughshod or being humble and sensitive? The choice is easy when walking a mile in another’s shoes.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

dirty shoes

Celebritude!

As I write this it’s just days before the end of the year. It’s a time of rest and reflection. It’s a time of excitement for the New Year ahead. And it’s a time for celebration and gratitude – Celebritude! What is Celebritude?

Celebritude is a celebration of gratitude. Think about all for which we can be grateful. It’s not very hard, is it? Hopefully we’ve been acknowledging our gratitude throughout the year. After all, we know that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is part of the giving and receiving equation that enriches our lives. But we can do more in the gratitude department by creating “Celebritude.”

Celebritude is a time to think about those who have been particularly instrumental in supporting us and helping to make our lives better. Was there a teacher who inspired us during our early years? Perhaps there was a mentor somewhere along the way. How about a friend who lent a sympathetic ear during tough times? Maybe a colleague encouraged us to step up and do something we never thought we could do. And of course there may be a spouse or significant other who always believed in us.

To create Celebritude we must intentionally inventory those seminal figures that have helped shape our lives in positive ways. Then we take the opportunity to celebrate them and all that they have meant to us. There are many ways to do this. For example we could write a heartfelt letter to that teacher expressing our appreciation for his or her inspiration so many years ago. We might make a charitable contribution in the name of the mentor we appreciate so much. Dinner at a nice restaurant for that fabulous friend who has been so encouraging could be a perfect expression of gratitude. A nice gift might be appropriate for that colleague who challenged us to stretch ourselves and be better. And maybe we could take a special trip to say thank you to the spouse or significant other who has stood by our side through thick and thin.

When we create Celebritude we amp-up the gratitude process. It grounds us in the knowing that others have lifted us up and helped to propel us forward throughout our lives. By celebrating our gratitude for these wonderful souls we open a major channel of positive energy that benefits others as well as ourselves. And we can continue to live in Celebritude by paying it forward. Now, we can become that significant benefactor in someone else’s life by providing inspiration, support, mentorship, challenges and love.

The creation of Celebritude can be life changing for us and for others. Truly celebrating our gratitude brings a new level of momentum to the positive energy in which we thrive.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Celebration

Armor Plated

Question: I have worked for years with a particular client and he never shows me one single sign of appreciation. The results I have produced for this client have been terrific by any standard. Why won’t he recognize my efforts?

Answer: I’ve certainly experienced the same thing over the course of my career. And I’ve learned several things that may be helpful in understanding this sort of situation. First, some people are just not wired to show appreciation to others. Second, there may be the belief that we are being paid for the services we provide and that is enough of a demonstration of appreciation. Third, if the business arrangement is recurring and requires the renewal of a contract the client may feel that the continuation of the relationship is sufficient proof of appreciation. Fourth, some people may believe that showing appreciation is reserved for personal relationships and not business situations. And finally, it’s possible that a client doesn’t express appreciation because he isn’t satisfied with the product or service being provided.

I’ve come to realize that none of these reasons is necessarily right or wrong. What’s more important is how we feel and react. We have no control over how others act but we do make a choice as to how we respond. Do we allow ourselves to feel hurt and victimized? Do we choose to become resentful and irritated?

Feeling unappreciated can actually be turned into a positive experience. We can make the choice not to allow how we are treated by others to affect the way we see ourselves. This is akin to developing a suit of armor that enables us not to even give a second thought to what may be perceived or real sleights on the part of others. But the bigger win is to observe what we consider to be the less desirable traits and tendencies of others and do just the opposite. If someone is not showing appreciation, rather than allowing this to upset us we can make an extra effort to show appreciation to others.

Life is full of opportunity. Almost every situation that we might consider negative has a positive side. The choices we make will determine whether or not we live a happy and vibrant life. How others act toward us need not have any bearing on this truth.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.