I recently attended the 2019 Gathering of the Games in Dallas, Texas. As a newly certified Great Game of Business Coach, it was my first trip to the Gathering. At the Gathering, I had the pleasure of seeing several business owners who had transformed their businesses by engaging the talent around them. They all told a similar story.
They were all very plugged in to their businesses having their hands in multiple departments and multiple areas. Most of them still played a critical role within the business. They all talked about making decisions every day that impacted the future of the company and how much stress it put onto them. On the outside, they were successful and had everything they could want. On the inside, they said they felt stuck and lonely. Many of them talked about thinking about selling their business and finding something else to do.
Then something happened that caused them to realize that there was another way. They started to realize that they had been focusing on managing the business instead of managing and creating a culture of empowerment for the people around them. They began to realize that they needed more help than they were getting from their people. They realized that they could trust other people to make good decisions if they were the right people and if they understood the business.
All of them started this transformation by focusing on themselves first. Good leaders are healthy leaders. They worked on the things that were holding themselves back searching for a better integration between their work and home life. They started taking time for themselves and put significant energy into their own wellbeing, not as a selfish endeavor, but more as a humble journey of self-discovery.
The next thing these leaders did was to engage their inner circle of trusted associates. They went to people who had key responsibilities within the business and they offered them two things. First, they told them that they would be giving them more autonomy and more decision making power to lead their respective areas. Second, they would work with them to teach them (or help them to discover) what they needed to know about the business to make great decisions. They opened the books and shared what they knew.
This transformed these leaders. The leaders who used to spend their time mired in day to day activities and focusing on how to drive the business, started to focus their time on mentoring and developing other people within the organization. All of these leaders reported that this was much more satisfying than running driving the business itself. Furthermore, all of the leaders reported that their businesses really took off once this transformation was completed. One business went from $10MM per year to $100MM in 10 years. All reported that having more people understanding the business simply put more brains on driving success. There is great comfort in knowing that all the decisions are just up to you and there is even greater satisfaction in watching someone learn and develop their own leadership style.
As I listened to their stories, I started off nodding my head and agreeing with everything they were talking about. Of course leaders should delegate and develop their people. We would call this a People Centric Leader. Our team works with businesses every single day to help leaders understand this. Then I started thinking about my own role in my own business. Was I practicing this?
The answer was that I needed to get a lot better.
I work long hours and travel quite a bit like many people on our team. I wasn’t making enough time for my family or my friends. I was holding onto information about our company trying to protect our team from having to make the harder decisions. I had my hand in about everything we do as a company.
So I’ve decided to get better. I engaged a counselor to help me to focus on my own health. We are implementing the Great Game of Business into our company. Every week, I am showing our team more and more about how the business works and I am already seeing a shift in everyone’s perspective as they realize how their day to day decisions impact the company. Furthermore, as we enter into our strategic planning for next year, I find myself willing to take more risks because I know we will be taking on any risks as a team.
I’m confessing all of this to you because I want to challenge you to become a better People Centric Leader. It’s not something you become; it is something you constantly strive towards. It’s a worthy effort because it leads to a richer life for both you and for the people you work with on a day to day basis.
But it starts with the humble admission that you can do better and then gains traction by making a commitment to becoming better. This commitment starts with engaging your inner circle and confessing your challenges and gaining their insights.
I’m working to get better and I hope you join me.