Lead? Yes. With Laughter? Absolutely! Here is one way . .

Superman
Image by Fonzie's cousin via Flickr

A friend of mine works in a startup focused on education.  Lots to do.  Lots of stress.  One of those jobs where it would be easy to never go home and never be done.

Then along came the movie Waiting for Superman.  The team went to see it, and as part of the event he challenged them to wear Superman capes around work all day for $20.  Their response?  Absolutely.  All day, out to lunch, AND to the movie.  They even made a cape for their leader.  There was lots of work and lots of laughter that day, and in the days following.

When is your Waiting for Superman moment? 

  • Is there a festival going on outside your office?  Go.
  • Have a yo-yo expert on your team?  How about a group lesson?
  • Is there a park nearby?  How about some frisbee golf for 45 minutes.

Its Friday – do something different.  Are you leading? Maybe.  Is there any laughter?  If you are really leading there should be.

Oh, and a point of clarification.  Just the cape, not the super shirt and super tights.  That would not be funny. 🙂

Do your clients really love you? Here is one measure

Yesterday I had a discussion with a partner that has done an amazing job helping me promote my business during my first year of operation.  The discussion was difficult because I need to alter my relationship with them from a monthly basis to an as needed basis.  They were valuable and I need them on my virtual team, but I have to do things a little differently in year 2.  It was a great discussion and I left feeling upbeat, as I always do.  As I sat down this morning I realized I had to add another sales goal to my list – Find Clark Communications another client to replace my business. I like them so much I want to sell for them, and they did not ask me to do this. I know that is a strange reaction, but that is how good they have been to me.  I owe them another client.  

So what do they do that makes them so special?

  • They get as excited about my business as I do:  When someone really believes in you it is obvious – they always have energy for what you are doing and it always feels like you should be paying them more.  Imagine that last thought?
  • They really care about how I am doing:  The first question from them is always about me – then about my business. Startup is not easy.  They understand that and tend to the entrepreneur first, then the business.
  • Their service feels like a friendship:  Friendship is not about connecting on LinkedIn or Facebook, it is about doing the little things just because.  When you sit next to someone you hear their conversations and do lots of ‘little’ things that are just part of working with someone.  It is part of being a friend – – you do things just because.

American Express made the priceless concept into a commercial that always made me smile.  One question we should be asking ourselves every day is What can I do to become priceless to my clients?  Hmmmmmm . . . . . . . .

Thanks Clark Communications.  More specifically, thanks Craig and Jen. 🙂 Now I need to go find that new client . . . .

Listening at growth companies . . . avoiding TrustBUSTER™ #5

Here is another perspective on TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little – for the growth oriented companies. (read the previous post on this topic to get the whole picture on the TrustBUSTER™ list

While I am not a fan of using employee surveys as replacement tool for solid management of people, I do believe in them.  For the company that has lots to do because of their growing business, growth company guru Verne Harnish offers and interesting perpsective in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.  His perspective is covered in a chapter, and the subtitle to it is De-Hassle Your Organization

The basic message is that the #1 demotivator for people is problems/hassles not getting resolved.  His solution for listening, asking three questions to start:

  1. What should we start doing?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What should we continue doing?

The follow-up is key in any gathering feedback effort, and he covers it masterfully in his book so I will not recite it here.  Harnish markets to growing companies, but any organization could leverage his wisdom.  I love these questions. 

Any questions you would like to add to the list?

Startup – 4 Critical Things You Need From The Team You Build

Starting up a business is a crazy time, and a key part of this time is bringing people around you that will help you hit your goals.  Officially your goal might be a revenue number, but unofficially startup is also about getting lots of things done without hurting yourself or those around you.  It is hard, which is why so many new businesses fail to survive.  One researcher concluded that after three years 46% of startups are gone. (see numbers)

The good news is there are people around all of us that are willing to get involved.  As you identify your team it is crucial to define what you will need from them as you start your business.  Here are four needs I have found to be critical, and each one should have a name(s) next to them for you.

1. Help managing the fear: Don Rainey, a venture capitalist in Washington DC named getting used to constant fear as the #1 way starting a business will change you (read blog posting).  Find advisers and partners that understand fear and that you trust enough to be open with.  They should also be people who will push you to get unstuck when fear is holding you back from moving forward.  Managing fear is ultimately your job, but ongoing support from others is critical.

2. The knowledge/experience to help win: Every business needs a little bit of luck, but don’t depend on it.  If there is knowledge you need and don’t have –  find it.  If you are a single person company, find the network or get the experience before you start.  If you are going to market with an idea or product you created, get sales and marketing help. If you really understand your own strengths and weaknesses this part is easy because your business plan tells you the work you have to get done, you just have to get the help to fill in the key gaps.  Move your ego over and get help.

3.  Brave problem solvers: I like the word brave because it creates the picture of a hero who overcomes fear to get into action mode and wins.  Looking back at any startup, there are an abundance of stories where bumps were encountered and unforeseen problems had to be solved.  A great question for entrepreneurs is “Share a problem/challenge you encountered and what you did to overcome it?”  When hiring people in the beginning you will need to hire problem solvers – not problem identifiers or problem creators.  Whether it is through their commitment to learning, sheer will to win, or passion to fix things, they need to see problems as an opportunity to do something special.

4.  Someone to celebrate with: There will be victories.  In those victories are opportunities to high-five, eat some good food, or share a smile.  Having people close enough to your business to know the lows and recognize the work that went into the highs is important.  It might be an employee that likes to cook or a friend who likes to throw a party.  Jim Collins called this momentum gained by reaching and recognizing goals the flywheel effect.  Celebrating successes will allow you to feel the momentum.

So what kind of leadership do they need from you?  See the above list and ask yourself “What can I do as a leader to make sure that need is met?” It is probably worth some future blog space to explore this question a little bit more.  If you have any ideas to add to what I have shared feel free to comment.