At the young age of 33, I had a stroke. Shocking, I know!
It came completely out of the blue and utterly rocked my world. I wasn’t overly stressed or overweight. I played college football and considered myself to be a healthy person. The doctors discovered that I was born with a defective heart valve which lead to a large aneurysm in my aorta. Ultimately, I needed open heart surgery to replace my valve and aorta.
That’s when I realized two things: I’m not invincible, and my life would never be same. While it was an absolutely horrifying event for me and my family, it came with a silver lining: I realized I was doing business all wrong.
Growing up in a family of hard-working contractors, I was raised on the job-site with everybody digging ditches and swinging hammers. My family owned a small company, and everybody worked with a first-in, last-out mentality. When I started Global Disposal Reduction Services, Inc. a decade ago with my business partners, I took the same approach. This led to a problem…the company centered around me. This is a common problem many business owners face.
In 2012, I bought out my partners, and the company was definitely spinning on my axis. All of that changed in the fall of 2013. While driving to a sales appointment, I had a stroke. Not only did this moment change my life, but it revolutionized how I was running my business.
I’d spent the past five years pouring my everything into this business. When I wasn’t physically at work, my mental energy was spent planning and strategizing. In this defining moment of extreme vulnerability, I had an epiphany: I hadn’t planned for something like this. Nowhere in my projections, goals and company outlines had I accommodated for having a stroke and open heart surgery. This wasn’t even on my radar, and why would it be? After all, I was a perfectly healthy 33 year old (or so I thought).
As I was lying in the hospital bed, unsure of the future, my focus shifted. I began asking myself very tough questions. “What happens to the company if I’m gone?” “How can I protect my family and my employees?” I immediately implemented changes across the board, so the company could grow into a business capable of sustaining itself whether I was there to run it or not.
The three biggest changes I made:
I got help improving operations.
I hired somebody to organize and systematize the company and define every position’s job description, especially mine. I had her work through all my core positions in the company so that she had a clear understanding of how everything functioned together. This helped create a step-by-step manual on how to complete each job in that division. Once she became familiar with each position, she was able to attack issues head-on with complete understanding of how a particular decision at one end of the business could affect matters at the other end.
I shifted focus onto employee success.
I started focusing my energy on making sure the employees had everything they needed to succeed. I realized there were unnecessary redundancies hindering job performance. I discovered my company had duplicative processes that created nothing but added confusion and frustration. From this, I simplified tasks and cut down on the number of people involved in a particular issue.
I let my team do more and they like it.
I gave up control and quickly found many of the people I was working with had talents that far surpassed mine and were eager to take on new challenges. Looking back, I now see that the stop-gaps and issues with performance were directly related to the inefficiency in my company. So many times I thought I was the only person qualified to speak with a client. What I was doing was cutting out my employees from the process and keeping them in dark.
The outcome of these changes had an astronomical effect on my business and left me with three important takeaways on how I view my company and employees.
Don’t wait for an emergency.
Don’t wait for an extreme circumstance to start your company on the path toward self-sufficiency. You can take steps now to ensure you are building something that is capable of operating with or without you or anybody else in your company. Everybody should think about what they are doing as if somebody else was going to have to do it tomorrow.
Set your goals and make a plan.
Set clear goals for both the company and each employee and identify how you will achieve those goals. Many companies set arbitrary goals but fail to effectively chart a path toward success for each and every employee. Owners must let go of the fear that they are the only ones who can achieve these goals for their companies. If one of your employees is consistently overachieving, then continue to increase his/her responsibilities and challenge him/her with new projects. You will never really know what your employees are capable of until you let go of the reins.
Stop underestimating your team.
Look for talent within your company, and empower your people to succeed. Make sure the company is focused on the customer, and you are focused on the company. A really cool tool I started to implement is the CliftonStrengths talent assessment. This is an awesome opportunity to identify what your employees do best and build upon their talents. The online test takes about 45 minutes and is a way to put your employees in the best position possible to succeed.
My life and business today are much different than they were four years ago. I have more time to spend enjoying life and my family. My business doesn’t depend on my every waking second because I’ve structured it that way. My employees are happier and feel more ownership of their jobs as they now have a clear sense of direction and can see how their contributions directly impact the overall health of the company. Their renewed sense of vigor fuels me as I strive to fulfill my role in growing and expanding the company to new heights.
I’m at peace knowing that if circumstances pull me away from my business for an extended period of time or even permanently, my business will continue to flourish. My employees will continue to have a secure job, and my family will continue to benefit from the years of blood, sweat and tears I poured into this business because it now thrives with or without me.
Steve Jobs Shares the Secrets to Successful Team Leadership in This Throwback Video
Though Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died six years ago, his outsized influence is certainly still felt. A recently surfaced video interview with the late CEO — which based on his haircut seems to place him in the mid-1980s — shows him sharing his views about best practices for hiring and what makes a great manager.
Up front, he says that the greatest employees are the ones who have the ability to manage themselves. But they can only do that if the leadership at the top is clear about what they want. “What leadership [is] having a vision, being able to articulate that so the people around you can understand it and getting a consensus on a common vision,” Jobs says.
Jobs goes on to explain that one of the most important jobs of someone in his position is recruiting new employees. He notes that he isn’t necessarily looking for someone who is an industry veteran, but rather someone who understands where technology is and where it could go in the future. He also recalls a moment when as the company was growing, that he and others executives thought they needed “professional managers,” but that ultimately turned out to not be the case.
“We went out and hired a bunch of professional management [and] it didn’t work at all. Most of them were bozos,” Jobs says with his characteristic brutal candor. “They knew how to manage, but they didn’t know how to do anything. If you’re a great person, why do you want to work for somebody that you can’t learn anything from?”
Ultimately, he notes that the best team leaders are the ones that aren’t angling for power for power’s sake. “They are the great individual contributors who never, ever want to be a manager,” Jobs says. “But decide they have to be a manager because no one else is going to be able to do as good a job as them.”
Do you agree with Jobs’s assessment? Let us know in the comments and check out the full video below.
How to Keep Introverted Employees From Quietly Leaving Your Company — in Droves
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been around for decades. Employers use it to uncover job candidates’ personality strengths and place them in the right role. MBTI results also help identify natural leaders and great communicators.
Yet, there’s little talk about how people’s results impact their satisfaction once they’re in a job. When leaders ignore employees’ happiness, it’s hard to keep productive talent around.
Interestingly, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based publisher of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, CCP, Inc., conducted new research that dove into how personality impacts workplace well-being. It looked at five aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.
After surveying 3,113 participants, the company, in a September report, revealed that introverts have lower well-being in all of these areas. This isn’t all that surprising: An introvert is less likely to speak up about what’s negatively impacting him or her.
It is shocking, however, that employers aren’t being more proactive. If leaders don’t find a way to improve the workplace happiness of introverts, those people will leave and take all their unique skills with them.
Want to avoid that happening to you? Here are some ideas to help connect with the introverts in your office and better understand their wellness-related needs in the workplace:
Be a chameleon.
Many leaders make the mistake of managing everyone the same way and assuming the results will equate across the board. But there’s a huge flaw in that logic: Every person, in fact, perceives and processes guidance differently. Some need more help in certain situations; some need less. So, it’s up to leaders to customize their approach.
Leaders ignoring the needs of their introverts can hurt their overall workplace well-being. The reason: Introverted employees will feel less engaged and have a harder time reaching their goals. This may then lead to feelings of isolation and disappointment, negatively impacting these workers’ mental health.
When managers recognize introverts’ differences, on the other hand, they can help those employees succeed, and feel more accomplished. For example, as New York-based co-founder of the digital agency Ready Set Rocket, Aaron Harvey, pointed out, introverts have trouble speaking in front of people. “If someone struggles in brainstorming sessions, simply stop by their desk in advance and ask them to be prepared with a few ideas around a specific topic,” Harvey advised in an email. “This can help them feel confident, joining a conversation that organically leads to real-time ideation.”
Consider other situations when introverts might feel that they are out of their element. For instance, consider ways in which shy employees might meet new people.
Talking with new clients, after all, probably makes them nervous. So, reduce their stress by having an extrovert they’re comfortable with tag along. Having a familiar face present will help get them through the situation.
Scrimmage employees’ skill sets.
Extroverts’ strengths are obvious. They’re good communicators, enjoy building relationships and freely share their ideas — all skills that contribute to their well-being. These traits make it easier for them to create a support system at work and to speak up about what skills they have to offer.
Introverts’ skills are more hidden, so leaders don’t always see what they bring to the table. Since introverts are less likely to communicate what responsibilities they’d like to take on, they’re left feeling unfulfilled.
Skills-assessment tools, like the MBTI, are a great solution. They reveal natural strengths and help managers assign introverts more meaningful work.
After realizing your introverts’ skills, give them more opportunities to use them. Assign tasks and projects that allow them to maximize their strengths. Fully and effectively contributing to the team will improve their feelings of meaning and accomplishment.
Arlington, Va.-based Greg Wester, senior vice president of marketing and business development at the mobile content discovery platform Mobile Posse, likes to mix it up with his employees. To help everyone on the team develop his or her skills, Wester told me, the company poses team challenges that mix introverts and extroverts.
“We’ve found that people are super competitive about winning,” he said by email. “The different types of exercises give people a variety of ways to participate, get involved and hopefully boost their well-being.”
Currently, Mobile Posses’ employees are working as teams to create themed videos. Each team has eight cross-functional, cross-personality employees. They’re all challenged to use their individual skills to create a video representing their perspective on a company core value or vision.
This approach to skill-building, Wester said, helps introverts connect with the entire team and gives them more confidence about their value in the organization.
Keep kindred spirits together.
While it’s good to have both types of personalities working together, introverts may become stressed if they’re paired only with extroverts.
For instance, imagine walking into a room where everyone is talking loudly and the words don’t make sense. The situation is overwhelming. This is how introverts feel when they’re surrounded by extroverts. It’s as though no one is speaking their language, and they feel isolated as a result.
What’s more, iIntroverts and extroverts communicate differently. To maintain well-being, introverts need to find like-minded people they can connect with and recharge their energy with.
Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at the Kingwood, Tex.-based HR services company Insperity, pointed out that following personality assessments, introverts can find people who are like them and make healthy connections. “The process itself can help improve communication, build teams, and expand office friendships,” Gibbs said in an email. “More introverted employees will be able to identify others with similar communications styles.”
So think about conducting personality testing at your workplace. Then, hold a meeting where everyone can discuss his or her results. This will show introverts that they are not alone. They’ll be able to communicate better and deepen their relationships — and with them their personal well-being — at work.
Hard Work? It's Not All It's Cracked up to Be. It May Even Be Irrelevant. Here's Why.
From a young age, we’re raised to believe that we can accomplish pretty much anything so long as we work hard enough to achieve it. And, for the most part, that makes sense, at least intuitively. If you study for three hours while your roommate studies for one, you’ll probably do better on the test. If you spend 50 hours at work every week while your peer spends 30, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a raise or a promotion.
This idea follows us at every stage of our lives, and it echoes a cornerstone belief of Western culture: As long as you work hard, you’re going to be successful. But there’s a problem with this philosophy: Hard work isn’t always enough.
The Netflix approach
This idea is hard to accept at first, if you’re a hard worker who invests major time and effort to get what you want in life. Perhaps then, it’s best to introduce the alternative notion, using a corporate example.
Netflix (yes, the company responsible for those late-night television binges) has found success in part because it abolished the idea of hard work being the sole determining factor in an employee’s progression within the company.
Netflix formally introduced this idea in a 2009 slide deck explaining the company’s culture, but the idea dates back to 2001. Since her departure from Netflix, the company’s former chief talent officer, Patty McCord, has been on podcasts and spoken in interviews about the rather different work ethic Neflix evolved.
After experiencing financial trouble in 2001, the company made a bold move to lay off a third of its employees — not based on how long they’d worked there or how hard they’d worked, but solely on what they contribute, and how they impact the company’s bottom line. This infuriated some long-time, hard-working employees, but those who remained ended up getting more done because they didn’t have to correct others’ mistakes, or work around unnecessary teammates.
Even after that initial layoff, Netflix paid almost no attention to employees’ hard work. It allowed unlimited vacation time and flexible hours, focusing on results and innovation instead of the number of hours worked or the effort spent. This system resulted in the letting go of many employees who’d worked hard and performed well. But it also resulted in the better performance of the company (and, in many ways, in less stress for the remaining employees).
The problems with hard work
The Netflix example may seem harsh, especially if you’ve based your career around working hard. What if you too were fired after a decade of putting in long hours and genuinely trying your best?
Still, there are three main problems with hard work that an alternative culture or approach could correct:
“Hard work” doesn’t equal “results.” First off, hard work doesn’t necessarily correlate with results. For example, it doesn’t matter if you put 100 hours in to the design of your landing page; if your site doesn’t convert,you may as well have spent one hour.
Hard work isn’t efficient work. Next, consider that hard work isn’t necessarily efficient work. If it takes the person next to you three hours to complete a task that you could have completed in an hour, that extra hard work may have actually cost the company unnecessary time and money.
Hard work doesn’t encourage innovation. Finally, focusing on hard work doesn’t encourage innovation or novelty. Instead, it encourages repetition and persistence. Those factors can be good, but you also need some drive to try new tactics, incorporate new ideas and learn new things in your life.
What to focus on Instead
None of this is meant to imply that hard work isn’t valuable — only that your hard work should be reserved for when it counts the most. So, as an individual (whether you’re a professional or an entrepreneur), what should you be focusing on instead?
Efficiency. Focus on your efficiency. Instead of spending more hours, emphasize doing more with the hours you already have. For example, you could automate certain processes, delegate work beneath your paygrade or find new strategies to accomplish more within a set time frame. You can also work on eliminating redundancies in your workflow, or on abandoning tasks, meetings, and projects that eat up your time unnecessarily.
Results. Focus on results, prioritizing the work that seems to yield the highest return on your time investment. What’s really going to help you succeed? Reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t fall in line with that vision, and don’t be afraid to make cuts.
Improvement. Focus on improving yourself and your surroundings. Instead of working hard on level one, spend some effort trying to get to level two. Invest in yourself, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, and invest in your environment by training your employees and making sure you have the best tools available for the job.
Hard work is incredibly valuable, but we shouldn’t keep thinking of it as the most important factor for success. Instead, we should see it as one of many factors that can help us, but won’t, in itself, necessarily save our businesses.
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