High Achievers have great strengths. They also have correspondingly great weaknesses. The very leadership style that worked so wonderfully in one situation may be self-defeating in another. This occurs most often when a gifted entrepreneur starts a business that grows quickly–perhaps too quickly. Let me give you an example.
Jim’s once high profit margins were declining in spite of revenue well over three million. He owns an information technology consulting and networking integration firm. Three years ago he started small, with three employees.
A high achiever, Jim was highly motivated and during their daily contacts his enthusiasm and motivation rubbed off on his workers. Having good intuition about the needs of his business, Jim made all the decisions in the small company. His business grew fast as he built a reputation for producing electronic solutions for his clients. He grew to 25 workers and then his troubles began.
Jim became hard to get hold of. He spent most of his time responding to the urgent needs of his clients or putting out fires. He intended to make business plans but never got around to it.
Workers complained they no longer got enough direction to handle the increased amount of work. Employees needed a structure and a system to help them make decisions. Without any systems for processing the higher volume, they simply had to work harder and longer. They no longer felt valued by Jim. In the early years, the company attracted and kept excellent workers, then they stared having high turnover.
Jim lost some key clients due to mistakes having been made on some projects. They no longer trusted they will receive the reliable service they had enjoyed in the early days.
In spite of higher sales, as a result of the lost business, mistakes, and employee turnover, profit margins headed down fast.
What happened to this once successful company? The owner was using methods that worked successfully for him in the past, when the company was small, but became outmoded by the rapid growth of his company.
The company grew beyond Jim’s wingspan–the area where he could make the right decision based on his instincts. When the company grew beyond this wingspan, Jim was in unfamiliar territory and his instincts lead him into making decisions that worked in the former situation but in the new circumstances were wrong decisions.
His impressive strengths that made him a high achiever and launched a successful electronics company no longer worked in his bigger company. To avoid disaster, Jim decided to change his leadership style. Jim hated the idea of down sizing his company, or hiring managers to manage for him. He chose to change his leadership style with the help of a coach.
Here are the specific shifts Jim made in his leadership style.
Jim became a good communicator. He had been a poor communicator. He tended to forget that people can’t read his mind. He also tended to think faster than the average person.
So Jim learned to communicate with his workers like he does with customers–listen carefully, ask for constant feedback, and to slow down for ‘detail thinkers.’Jim used special assessments to tell him how to best communicate with his workers.
Jim knows his purpose and role and hence does not need anybody’s help in setting his goals; but most employees do need help in clarifying goals and objectives.
So Jim devoted time to help his people clarify their goals and objectives He created an atmosphere of trust where it is safe for everybody to admit their needs.
Being highly motivated, Jim does not need supervision but most employees do. So Jim started providing supervision and support for his people to meet their goals and objectives. He also provided a structure and a system to help his workers make decisions.
This took time, so Jim decided to give up his role of hand holding his clients. Realizing that this customer service contributed to his success, he hired specialists to take over this role.
This allowed Jim to cut down his excessive hours. He was encouraged to take care of himself first. After all, he was the foundation of his business. If he burned out, the business is sure to suffer.
In essence, Jim shifted from working in his business to working on his business–from personally providing customer service, to leading and managing his people. Now he has personal time for family and friends. These changes eliminated the chaos in his business and his profit margins are heading up.