Whenever there is a weather event, or a disaster, the best comes out in us.
Recently, our area endured a winter nor’easter, a term the weather people love. Despite the power outages, snow-blocked streets, closed businesses, folks were cooperative and friendly. They shoveled people out, helped to move stuck cars, and brought chicken soup to the news reporters.
Why were people so calm and helpful?
I’m thinking that it was because we knew the weather patterns couldn’t be changed. Thus, we relaxed, knowing we would be okay, and that we were in this together. It’s that notion of being “relaxed” that we are “in this together,” is a notion I’d like to explore here.
Being a business owner, one feels that “stress, panic, and hard to reach goals and expectations” are the norm. It has to come with the job, we think. I argue that we should consider doing our best and not get overly obsessed over the consequences. I like the illustration of riding a horse. Holding the reins too tightly gives the horse the idea that the rider is nervous, inexperienced, and that signals the horse to be unsteady and unpredictable.
There’s a great line from a pop tune that was popular a few years ago, but it’s message is still very relevant: “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” I’d like to advise that mindset to all the small business owners out there. However, that still means being vigilant, just as you would be if you were riding a horse – knowing where your business is headed, and leading it with confidence.
Here are my top ten tips to balancing leadership with the “don’t worry be happy” mindset:
- Set realistic and achievable goals, and adapt when missed, met or exceeded.
- Understand when setbacks occur, and learn from them. Remember, even Steve Jobs got fired.
- Success takes time and experience. Give yourself time. In his bestseller, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell sites the Beatles as mastering the music business, but not after playing over 10,000 hours in small European clubs.
- Ask yourself how relevant your product is to your customers’ needs and interests. Don’t confuse your pitch with superfluous information. Keep it simple since the only thing your audience cares about is whether or not their needs are met.
- Anticipate technical Issues. In your next power point presentation, be prepared to have something not work, and have a plan B. For instance, if your power point slides don’t slide, have paper copies to hand out. You will be even more relaxed at the event, and your audience will be impressed with your calm response to what would have been an embarrassing moment.
- Don’t sabotage yourself. Poor etiquette, boring sales presentations, not knowing your audience, or making improper political comments can destroy your best efforts. Balance the need to do things right but don’t get carried away with trying to make things perfect.
- Keep plugging your business. Once you’ve created a loyal customer, you can still lose them. Continue to “sell” by reminding them about their confidence in the product, your own business experience, the product’s guarantee, and your customer service.
- Create a positive culture that supports those around you. Praise others, express your thanks, reward employees, and keep your employees and customers informed about company goals. It goes a long way to building a winning and creative environment, and reduces employee turn-over.
- When a problem arises, encourage open communication and realistic solutions. The line from the great movie about the Apollo 13 flight mission comes to mind. When NASA realizes they have a problem, they shift into the “work the problem” mode rather than panic and throw blame. Share concerns with everyone, problem solve, and from that a loyal bond is formed and a solution just may come from an unexpected source.
- Develop your business one step at a time. Holding the reins of your business with a relaxed grip allows you to move and shift as the terrain demands.
In summary, we need to give ourselves a break, relax our grip on our business, and see problems more as challenges to work through with our colleagues. If you are a sole proprietor, join a networking group to share business concerns, and get ideas from more experienced owners. Just like the nor’easter that hit recently, we are all in this together. Focus on the positive, and oh, one more thing, if you’re around horses, watch where you step.