Building a business is a challenging thing to do. Like building anything – a house, a boat, a piece of furniture – it is a mysterious process of creating something valuable out of bits and pieces. Take one good idea, add heaps of energy and hard work, gradually mix in well-thought out systems and strategies, and pour out through a set of highly effective people.
I've been part of the building of at least four dynamic, successful businesses; both as an employee back in my corporate days, and more recently as an entrepreneur and business owner. We're in a tremendous stage of growth and development in one business right now, and I'm conscious of some of the most important principles for progress I've learned over the years.
- People will always perform for their reasons, not yours.
If I want my team to go with me and grow with me, I need to continually find out what turns them on. What are their personal drivers and inhibitors? What are their psychological needs around their work environment? What are their fears and concerns, and how can I help the employees manage them? What are their values and goals, and how can I ensure they are in alignment with mine? All your strategic planning, your goals and objectives will be useless if you need someone else to help you make them happen and they don't have the same level of commitment to them as you do. And that can be fixed, if you can show them how they'll get what they want if they help you get what you want.
- People can only perform up to the level of belief they have in themselves.
This was a very valuable discovery for me. I also discovered during my early years in management the tremendous power of the Pygmalion Effect – that people also largely live up to my expectation of them! So I've learned that if I want to build my business through my people, I have to build their own belief in their capacity to achieve. Not to the point of any delusion about current performance, but with a real conviction about potential. Not with gooey false praise, but with genuine positive feedback. If I want to lift their achievement, I have to first help them lift their belief that they can.
- People want floors, flexible walls and no ceilings.
While we are growing, we usually want a level of security beneath us, a floor or a foundation. Keep your team informed of your plans and your activities so they know where they stand. In the absence of information, they will make up their own, and it will almost always be worse than the truth. Allow them flexibility of operation, within specified measurable frameworks. And let them know the sky's the limit, for achievement, for recognition and for reward. You may not be able to promote them or increase their salary, but you can help them increase their capability and help them enrich their lives.
- People treasure recognition and need to own responsibility for creating it.
Everywhere I present and consult, people tell me they don't get enough recognition. Sad, isn't it? I usually ask them how much recognition they give. They look at me as if I'm nuts. But a good culture of recognition is carefully and deliberately developed, with praise and appreciation shown both up and down, and sideways. Find fun ways to encourage everyone in your team to recognise achievement in others, but be careful to keep it genuine, spontaneous and both individual and team-based. Teach your people to ask for feedback if they're not getting recognition the way they want it. It works!
- All people are creative.
Every one of us has truly created our lives by our choices and our responses to the situations we have encountered. But some of us have been told we're creative (see Pygmalion Effect) so we actually use our creativity courageously. Others who haven't, think they're not. Encourage and ‘incentivate' involvement and innovation. Be prepared for change, and don't allow anyone's ego (including yours) to be defensive or resistant. Creativity needs to be nurtured and encouraged, or it will be stifled and suppressed.
Building a business is hugely rewarding; building your people is much more so. Seeing gardens grow is nothing compared to the reward of seeing people develop – and knowing you played a part in it.
Have you discovered some important principles for building a business? Share these with SAbona readers below.
Catherine Palin-Brinkworth is a business consultant and a certified professional speaker who builds high performing teams and leaders at all levels.