30 Nov 2021

Continued Business Malaise – Focusing on Leadership & Prioritization

At this point, I hope you are familiar with the concept of the Continued Business Malaise. If not, I encourage you to take a look back at the past couple blogs as they have great information regarding the struggles that many business owners and leaders are facing at the moment, and how to work through it. There are four main focus areas that we started to get into, and now it is time to dig into the last 2: Leadership, not Management and Start Doing, Stop Doing.

Leadership, not Management

This IS the time that leadership is tested. Good times and a great economy make us comfortable. And then we forget why we plan, hoard cash, implement risk management, and do things for the long-term. Then COVID-19 hits us, or the 2008 economic crash or whatever. Then we’re right back in the pit. This is the time for real leadership, not just management.

What does it mean to lead? Well, it’s taking the responsibility to lift up your team at your own expense. It’s time to serve, not demand. It’s time to take time to step back and see the big picture and set a vision, even if short term, for the future. Set the rallying cry. Understand what is going on with your team. Have empathy and genuinely care for your team. Rally around team members who are struggling. And do the absolute best to serve your customers despite all the challenges.

Communicate. In fact, over-communicate. Be real with them. Be honest. There isn’t a business I know of right now that doesn’t have some struggle from CBM. Now I’m not saying to overplay it, but be authentic. Fuel prices up 30%? Raw material up 50%? No normal business can withstand those types of increases for long without raising prices and/or experiencing disaster sooner than later. You must stay viable to stay alive. This makes it even more important to fully understand your value proposition to your customers. If you don’t, how will you ever justify raising prices?

Give yourself and your business some relief and make the strategic decisions necessary to remain viable. Lead. Make the call. It may be wrong. Make the decision anyway. Keep moving forward. Your business, your team need you to be doing this. They really do. Even if it hurts. Not making a decision is making a decision. Again, communicate, A LOT. Until someone tells you “OK Kate, we get it, you don’t need to repeat it”…you’re not over-communicating.

Provide a future vision, even if it’s next quarter. Your business needs a future point to focus on. Share it with everyone. Make it up if you have to! I don’t mean flippantly. But if you don’t know, pick a point and drive towards it. Whatever it is, give it focus and allow your business to focus on that goal.

Start Doing, Stop Doing

Make a quick list of all the things you are currently doing and working on. Everything. It may take you some time to assemble, but you will find it worth the time. All the way down to answering emails. Once you have made your comprehensive list, I recommend putting it into a different format using what is called the Eisenhower Matrix. Two axes – Important and Urgent (see below).

Force yourself to decide that everything is not in the top right hand corner.  I love this method as it forces discrimination of your time/energy/etc. vs. just a top to bottom “to-do” list that most people use.  Red items are things like an angry customer who needs to be communicated with, an IRS injunction for not paying taxes, etc.  Burning platform stuff.  Hopefully, some of those things you think are Red will now move to the Green, Yellow and Blue boxes.

You must discriminate.  Being on your list doesn’t make them Red.  Not Urgent and Important things are typically things like cultivating relationships with a future client (business development), long-term projects, revamping a part of your business, researching a new product line, etc.  And now, the last two, Blue and Yellow.  Yellow is the Urgent but not important thing – answering random emails from total strangers, answering spam calls on your phone, the break room needs a new microwave when there are two there, things like that.  And then, yes, the Blues.  You really know what these are from your list, like the things you waste time on, social media, administrative tasks, etc.

The Yellows and Blues require a delegated or outsourced solution.  You as an owner do not have the time to spend on things like this – your business is too valuable and so is your time.  When we are experiencing CBM, we may find ourselves focused on Yellow and Blue things because they are easier and smaller.  But they are time sucks and take away from the most important things you and your business need.  And your team.  If you’re doing their job for them, what do you need them for? (And they are asking what does he/she need me for if they are just going to do it anyway?!)

All these challenges can be gut-punchers that make you reel. Or, you can reframe them into positive, can-do actions. Remember, it’s not when all is well that businesses prove their worth. It’s in the trenches with bombs falling all around that true worth is ascertained.

Want to get back on a positive path? Let’s talk about it and see where and how to proceed, without you feeling like you’re trying to eat the elephant in one bite.

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With the right changes in mindsets and habits, you can break free from feeling overworked, overwhelmed, frustrated or like a prisoner to your business. It’s time to fully Feed Your Dreams and Starve Your Fears.