Four decades of business consulting and coaching have produced in my mind a few opinions about the root causes of business trials and tribulations that, when left unchecked, kill momentum and invariably lead to stumbling, faltering and failure. I’d like to share this knowledge with you. So here we go.
THERE ARE FIVE CONDITIONS
THAT KILL BUSINESS SUCCESS
The worst is the first of the five. It is COMPLEXITY. You cannot achieve or sustain greatness when you are constantly bumping up against a ceiling of complexity.
Here’s the deal. Every task or project you complete in the course of doing your work creates residual responsibilities and expectations. These residuals may be small, maybe not even noticeable, but they are always there. Over time, this left over residue builds up and presents as complexity. Eventually it forms a ceiling which limits further progress until you do something to break through the ceiling and reach a new state of simplicity.
In other words, the ceiling of complexity is a byproduct of your achievement and success.
How do you experience this ceiling of complexity when it happens? You can feel buried under a mountain of ever-increasing demands on your time and resources. So much so that you don’t even want to show up at your workplace anymore.
The antidote to complexity – namely simplicity – is of course, always the preferred state. To reach simplicity you must constantly be improving your skills and – you must somehow attain and utilize valid perspective. Utilizing astute input from mentors and coaches can help you streamline routine activities, reorganize, develop better ways to get things done – and ultimately guide you to the much preferred state of simplicity.
The second of the five business success killers is URGENCY. More precisely it is the tyranny of the urgent. When you are constantly working with persistently looming deadlines and intense pressure to perform quickly, painful mistakes will be a frequent and definitely unwelcome companion. Never enough time kills momentum.
In 1967, Charles Hummel, wrote a short essay he called, “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” In it he said, “We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week…but the momentary appeal of urgent tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy.”
And I’ll add to that by saying that the tyranny of the urgent can drive you crazy. I’ve seen it happen and it’s ugly.
When you would give anything for a 26 hour day, when your priorities are all a jumble, when you don’t know where to start, that’s a signal that something is wrong. Then it’s time to look carefully at the urgent and the important stuff in your business-life.
- What is urgent and important right now?
- What is urgent but clearly not important right now?
- What is not urgent but important right now?
- What is neither urgent nor important right now?
The trick here of course is to spend quality time and effort working on the important but not urgent things. That is where significant business growth and additional profit can be made.
The problem with managing your time is rarely the length of a day, but rather the misdirection of your attention and priorities. Even if you had a couple of extra hours in your day, you would quickly fill those hours with additional tasks. The additional time would not guarantee an unhurried or well-ordered life. Only a judicious shifting of priorities and focus can put an end to the tyranny of the urgent and get you back to a sane work schedule of meaningful profit making activities.
The third of the five business success killers is DISTRACTIONS and distraction’s cousin, INTERRUPTIONS. The thing here is that life just happens to be one great big hailstorm full of distractions and interruptions. They can overwhelm and engulf you and waste countless hours of precious time you can’t afford to squander.
You know how this works. An employee comes up to you and starts talking about a movie they saw the night before. Or worse, an employee comes to you with a question about and work, and it’s a question to which they should already know the answer and not bother you with in the first place. They say, “Hey boss, got a minute?” And you say, “Sure come on in,” even though you’re busy with something important.
You’re a nice guy and you want to be reassuring so your door is always open. And when something like this happens, you stop what you are doing and listen a bit, and in no time, you find yourself engaging with them. You get into the conversation and immediately whatever you were doing or thinking about before is, well, halted, or just gone altogether.
Ten minutes later, they leave and you must regain your momentum, try to pick up where you left off and get something done before the distracting interruption began. If this happens a lot, it’s a problem and you need to stop it. You don’t like being distracted in this way, but you tolerate it because you are a nice person.
What can you do? You can tell your people that, sure you want to be available, but there are limits. When your door is shut, people need to knock and not just barge in. And when they say, “Hey boss, got a minute?” You have the right to say, “Not now, try me later.”
Oftentimes, you distract yourself. Even when you’re snowed under with work, you’ll still check your emails or surf the Internet for cheap vacation flights.
Dr. Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, says that distractions and interruptions are both stressful and costly. Research she conducted found that it takes an average of 23 minutes for a person to fully regain his or her focus on a task after being distracted. Multiply 23 minutes times a bunch of times in a year when this happens and it adds up.
So yes, normal run of the mill distractions and interruptions like these have costs and it takes a bit of thought to deal with them.
Here’s one thought. You can schedule a specific time in the day to check email, maybe at 11:00 AM and at 3:00 PM for example.
Here’s another thought. Sure, the ring of your office phone or cell phone often prompts an intense need to answer, even if you’re deep in concentration. But, you have voice mail and you can turn your phones off when you want to work without interruptions.
And… you can close your door even when you don’t need to. Just closing it for and sake of closing it will go a long way toward teaching yourself and others to respect your time and space.
The thing is you are totally in charge of allowing yourself to be distracted and interrupted, and with minimal effort of your part, you can significantly reduce the number of them in your day, week and year. Yes, you can.
The fourth of the five business success killers is ISOLATION. “A support system is critical for business endeavors. In the absence of support the environment will control and that is rarely a good thing!” ~Graham Skinner, Master-Mind Alliance Director, Chico, CA. Graham has it absolutely right.
The loneliness of the small business owner – and lack of a support system – has been written about a lot by many authors. Here’s the deal. When you feel stuck with a pesky cash flow problem, who can you turn to for advice? Certainly, not your competitors. Probably not your employees because if they could help, the problem would most likely already be solved. And probably not your spouse either, who might say something like, “Honey I hear what you’re struggling with and I’ve offered my suggestions, but if the problem persists you need to find someone who can help you solve it, and that’s probably not me.”
So, you feel stuck and you live with the isolation because indeed the buck and the complicated issues and the pesky problems stop with you. This is painful and stressful. You have a genuine need for helpful input and yet, you have no one who can meaningfully provide the help you seek.
What can you do?
Simple, you can search for a mentor or an experienced business coach. And arrange to meet with him or her, lay out your problem and ask for advice.
Or, perhaps even better, you can join a mastermind group made up of other ambition business owners who agree to offer each other advice and aid in a spirit of mutual respect and harmony. There are mastermind groups in many places, even on line.
Reaching out to a genuinely helpful individual or group of individuals, well, it’s the only way to minimize the isolation, that as a business owner, is your constant companion.
The fifth of the five business success killers is RELUCTANCE. When you are not sure how to proceed, when you are frozen in place by circumstances, when you are scared, angry, discouraged, concerned about dwindling resources, fearful of another lose or failure – or even fearful of success – for then much more might be demanded of you – and you do not resolve your situation in reasonable time, big trouble will in variably occur.
Where does reluctance come from? Reluctance is a consequence of confusion, uncertainty, lack of clarity, dwindling resources, time and personal energy.
Feel unprepared? Make a plan, add an activity schedule and just start.
WE SHALL OVERCOME
Now then, what can you do about these FIVE BUSINESS SUCCESS KILLERS? How can you overcome them?
Simple, you can find and install better business strategy and better business behavior.
How do you get better business strategy and better business behavior when you’ve tried everything you can think of and no improvement has occurred?
Simple again, you can open yourself up to receiving help from people who can – and who are – willing to offer you meaningful help in a spirit of harmony.
Who are these people, and where can you find them? The people who can be most helpful to you are fellow business owners – peers who understand what your business-life is like, because they have been there and they have faced much of what you have faced.
How can business owner peers help?
Simple again, because they are not inside your business, yet are widely experienced in many aspects of business ownership, they are uniquely positioned to provide you with the one thing you can never provide to yourself, namely valid and reliable perspective, an objective look at what is going on inside your business. Outside the loop peers can see and can hear things you simply cannot.
How can you get started on this journey of receiving input?
First, you have to want better strategies and better behavior. Then you have to be bold enough to ask for it in the right place.
Where is that right place?
The Master-Mind Alliance® is the perfect place. The Master-Mind Alliance® is a terrific input generator. Taken collectively, the business owner members are a better business strategy and better business behavior input generator.
Alliance members will listen carefully to you as you describe what’s going on inside your business. Then, they help you process your issues and problems and offer you salient advice with which to create better business strategy and better business behavior. Then, they will nudge you to install that better business behavior. Finally, they will hold you accountable to all decisions and actions you take that will make your business better and more successful and more profitable.
Better input, better decisions and plans, better behavior and a truck load of accountability gets it done.