As an entrepreneur, you know the value of having the best players on your team. You want people with a variety of talents, and it’s equally important for teammates to know their roles and stay in their lanes. Having too many people with similar skills or who refuse to stick their own roles can end up costing you the game. Think of it this way: Even if you have the best quarterback in the league but your wide receiver can’t catch the ball, the quarterback’s talents are wasted.
I see a similar scenario repeatedly playing out in companies. That’s why it’s so important to get the right people in the right seats to have a complete, robust team. That can be a little tough as a start-up. When you have new, talented people on the team, they’re still trying to “get it just right.” Instead, what you need is a team of professionals who make sure they can’t get it wrong. It’s like the old saying: “An amateur practices until he gets it right; a professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.”
You also need a team with “hell yeah” commitment. Entrepreneurs are guilty of getting so caught up in product sales and customer service that they forget about ensuring everyone on the team is fully committed. The core values must be the standard for everyone or they’ll find themselves working with people who are mediocre at best and uncommitted at worst. But once you have a committed team, hang on tight—it’s going to be fast ride.
Unfortunately, most organizations focus on process, not productivity. That can create problems. For instance, early in my career, I briefly worked for a company that had a typing pool that was responsible for producing paperwork. One afternoon at 4:30 p.m., I asked the head of the typing pool if someone could type an important document for me. “No,” she said. “It’s going to be done tomorrow.” The office was open until 5 p.m. and it wasn’t a long document; nevertheless, she refused to budge. To me, that meant she was there just to do a job and do the minimum possible to get by. In other words, there was no commitment.
I believe in the expression, “What you think about, you bring about.” So when I started my own company, I was committed to bringing about only the very best. I wanted people who were committed to making clients’ lives better. I didn’t want people who were just putting in hours; I wanted people that I could take care of and who would, in return, would take care of clients. The only expectation is for them to do their work on time and do it well. In other words, I wanted self-managing people.
But getting these remarkable people in place is just the beginning. That’s when you have to work to keep them mesmerized by your vision. That vision must not only be inspirational but also aspirational.
Be Inspirational—and Aspirational
By inspirational, I mean that when you talk to people, inspire them so that they’re working toward a higher calling and not simply clocking in to earn a paycheck. They should feel like they’re making a difference in people’s lives or somehow making the world a better place through their efforts.
The most visionary entrepreneurs inspire their employees—and clients. These entrepreneurs make employees appreciate the work they’re involved in while also making clients feel like everyone is working to help them reach a better place in the future. When employees feel like they have a purpose and aren’t just filling space, it’s infinitely easier to have everyone focus relentlessly on pursuing the same goals. And when clients feel inspired, they want to stay with you.
Aspirational is about employees feeling like they can have an even greater role and add even more value to your company in trying to fulfill that role. Aspirational is also talking about not only what you’re doing now but also what’s possible for the future. That way, when competitors say, “It can’t be done,” you and your team transform the client’s experience and create more value than anyone else.
Also Surround Yourself with Leaders
Sometimes leaders realize that the reason they’re working around the clock yet are still failing to reach their goals is because they do not have the right team to support them. Yet they retain the team because it’s easier to stay stagnant or because they believe that it’s too hard to find the right fit for the role. That’s why hiring the right leadership team around you is also a must. You can’t expect your soldiers to perform well if your leaders—who are responsible for heralding the troops—are terrible themselves.
Great leaders create great followers, but also create other great leaders. When I first started out, I made the mistake of focusing almost exclusively on the intellectual property of my business, building up the firm, bringing in the business, etc. Back then, I thought that if I focusing on my abilities alone would be good enough to succeed. But the organization did not take off until I became a coach to my leaders and a coach to my team.
It’s in your best interest to create other great leaders in your organization to elevate the capacity of your company to greatness. Our leadership team meets every Tuesday morning at 8:30 for ninety minutes, no RSVP required. This is a must-go-to meeting, almost like a weekly board of directors meeting. If you don’t show up, we assume you’re dead and we’ll need to plan on closing down the office at the end of the week for your funeral!
We try to keep that meeting strategic and not tactical—focusing on some of the most important decisions for the direction of the company—but we also catch up on the week’s news. The weekly meeting is my opportunity to lead my team of leaders face-to-face. Then our leaders have their own weekly meetings with the people they supervise.
It used to be that the rite of passage in an organization was to work eighty hours a week and maybe even be verbally and emotionally abused. Surviving that meant you could make a lot of money and even earn the authority to abuse the next group of people who came in. But today the workforce is all about being treated well, having work-life balance, and working autonomously and remotely. The challenge for leaders then becomes showing them what a great job looks like and then holding every member of the team accountable to that standard.
That includes remembering that you, the entrepreneur, are also a member of the team. Now, more than ever, it’s important to surround yourself with the right people—self-managing people who have the capabilities and endurance to go the distance.