The Macho Entrepreneur

Just about everyone has heard the 1978 song called “Macho Man” by the Village People. The first verse goes like this:

“Every man wants to be macho macho man. To have the kind of body, always in demand. Jogging in the mornings, go man go. Work outs in the health spa, muscles glow. You can best believe that, he’s a macho man. Ready to get down with, anyone he can.” Ugghh. I never did like that song. Usually this term refers to the male species and generally speaks to “showing aggressive pride in one’s masculinity,” according to one dictionary. The word is often associated with “machismo” which introduces the concept of self-reliance. I’m going to take some liberties here and loosely use the term as it relates to entrepreneurs – male and female.

Allow me to paint a picture of the Macho Entrepreneur. This individual is scrappy and passionate about his or her endeavors. The Macho Entrepreneur is driven to excel – a real Type A personality. Hard-charging and brimming over with ideas, this person sometimes has a mindset of “if you want it done right, you must do it yourself!” The Macho Entrepreneur is not going to let anything stand in his or her way to achieving success and will always “die trying.” Do you know anyone who displays these traits and tendencies? This used to be my self-portrait though I think I’m in more of a “recovery” mode at present.

The Macho Entrepreneur means no harm and thinks he or she is being noble by modeling strong-willed behavior and commitment. But there are inherent pitfalls in this approach that don’t promote the notion of building a team and ultimately a sustainable organization. When I was much more inclined in the macho mode, I received feedback that some people felt it was my way or the highway. In reality, I have a high level of ego-drive which when translated, means that I want to persuade anyone and everyone to see things my way. And my enthusiasm could sometimes come across to others like a steamroller. I was somewhat of a perfectionist – even when it made no sense to be so – which is a result of some obsessive-compulsive tendencies on my part. Finally, I’ve always been inclined to keep calm and “never let ‘em see you sweat.”

Here’s what I’ve learned. Being a Macho Entrepreneur is a dead-end. Well, maybe it’s more of a cul-de-sac because one can turn around and exit the behavior and take a new path. Regardless, the macho traits really don’t lead to building a successful organization. Trust me on this because I’ve lived through it all from start to finish. So, what’s the alternative?

I’ve said it many times – we must have the right people on the bus. These are people who share our values and have passion for what they do. This is critical because they will be motivated only if they understand our vision of the future and how they fit into the process of getting there. When we know we are surrounded by the right people we are more inclined to delegate. We don’t have to do it all ourselves. And we understand that while others may do some things differently than we might have, empowering them is even more important. As long as the ultimate objective is achieved in an efficient manner with integrity, we agree that allowing some latitude is a healthy thing. This gets us to the point of allowing others to make decisions. I once heard an entrepreneur say that he only wanted to make four decisions a year – four major decisions! This forced him to delegate decision-making and truly trust his team.

Discarding the Macho Entrepreneur label also means collaborating with others. This sends the signal that their opinions are valued and desired. And believe it or not, many members of our respective teams actually have some pretty good ideas! What comes next? We get to celebrate the success of others which reinforces the notion that they are capable of making decisions and moving the organization forward. Finally, we learn how to be a coach rather than command. No longer is coercion a necessity or an option (it probably never was). We help our team members look at the different possibilities and work through a process of determining the right approach to achieve the desired outcome.

Our lives and our organizations will be richer and more rewarding when we figure out how to transform away from being the Macho Entrepreneur. We accomplish this by surrounding ourselves with the right people who understand and share our vision; to whom we can delegate decision making and promote collaboration, and who we can coach and ultimately celebrate their victories.

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 99 – Narrow Guardrails.

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.

Stylin’

Question: I am fascinated by different leadership styles. Which style seems to work the best?

Answer: Of course there is no one particular style that works for all situations. So let’s focus on a few common approaches.

In the “olden days” the leader led by dictate. The process was autocratic. Organizational hierarchy was respected at all costs. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” was an ingrained belief system. All eyes were on the man (seldom a woman) in the corner office. The leader rarely sought input from the management team. It’s possible that he had a “consigliore” or confidant. He made the decisions and issued orders to his troops. Often he valued fear and intimidation as techniques for maintaining order in the ranks. Imagine how today’s millennials would respond in this environment. There would be a mass exodus of biblical proportion! Thankfully the autocratic era has passed.

Some leaders use a consensus approach. Perhaps they have a senior leadership team or an executive committee where ideas are presented and discussed by everyone sitting at the table. Participants are able to express their thoughts with impunity and feel as though their opinions count. The real test of this style comes in how decisions are made. Does the leader ask for a vote of his/her team on the issue at hand and then carry forward with the results of that vote? There may be certain situations where following the majority-rule is appropriate. But in many cases this is simply management by committee and an abdication of leadership.

The style that I believe shows strong leadership involves the leader soliciting input from the various stakeholders. She/he listens to and weighs the opinions and the evidence . . . and then makes the decision. Sometimes the decision may be contrary to what the senior team or executive committee wants. The leader must be willing to fully explain his/her decision and have a valid reason for not following the advice of the group. Perhaps the leader has more information and a broader perspective. Or there could be a legitimate philosophical difference. But the leader makes the ultimate decision and will be held accountable accordingly.

Leadership is about a clear vision and purpose. It involves effective communications. A strong and effective leader shows sensitivity for others and values their input. A good leader considers the facts and overlays his/her moral compass on the situation at hand. And finally, a true leader makes the decision when it’s appropriate and doesn’t abdicate it to others.

Sound leadership principles empower us to make decisions even when it’s tough to do so. As leaders we should model the opportunity to make tough decisions which in turn will help others learn how to become strong leaders.

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.

Ducks

What to Do?

Question: Lately I’ve been faced with some tough decisions. I struggle in this department. How can I make this easier?

Answer: Entrepreneurs by definition have to make a lot of hard decisions. Do we add a new product line or not? Should we raise our prices? Should we fire a client? Can we afford to buy a new piece of expensive equipment? All of these decisions are weighty for a reason. They could have adverse consequences if we’re wrong about what we decide.

Life is full of tough calls. Whether in our business or personal lives one factor that makes decisions hard is a little thing called emotion. The more we can eliminate emotion from our decision making process, the more likely we will be to turn the tough call into the right call. Without emotion we can then turn to a factual approach in this process.

Something that has worked for me over the years has been the use of a decision tree. When I have to make a complex or difficult decision I draw one or more lines down the page. At the top of each column I write a decision that I could make to address a particular situation. There might be two or three possibilities – maybe even more. From each decision I draw lines with boxes underneath. We all know that when decisions are made there are consequences. These boxes contain the consequences. By laying out all of the decisions and the various potential consequences I am able to assess the probability of outcomes and determine which yield the best result with the lowest risk. Doing this insures that emotion remains on the sideline.

Some people say, “Follow your gut instincts.” So you may ask, isn’t gut instinct an emotion? Actually gut instinct is the result of experience. There’s no such thing as pure gut instinct that isn’t based on some level of experience. And this experience can be developed by making decisions over and over utilizing facts and decision trees. Eventually you just know what to decide because you’ve done it so many times. But a strong factual foundation was laid early on.

We can all make the tough decisions with ease when we take the emotion out of the equation. By turning to an examination of the facts we are able to logically figure out what steps to take. And after we do this long and often enough, we develop strong instincts that enable us to act quickly and decisively.

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.

decisions