Being a business owner is hard. It’s like the old maxim. You avoid mistakes through your experience. You gain experience by making mistakes. By owning a business, you are guaranteeing yourself a fair number of mistakes. Embrace it. If you have never owned a business, you can never understand the struggle. So, if you are considering starting a business, be careful what you wish for. There is no experience quite like borrowing money to make this week’s payroll. Sometimes you will wonder why you bothered starting your company at all. Building a business is a struggle. You struggle to build something out of nothing. To impart some of your vision on the world. And to try and make the world a better place. As you struggle, strive to build a company where great people come together to make great things happen. You struggle, but you can also win.
You must develop an environment of open communication with your team. The size of your team does not matter. If your team consists of more than one person, then you must have effective communication to be an effective team. Nothing destroys communication quite like having a jerk on your team. Really, the only thing worse than having a jerk for a team member is having a jerk for a team leader. Either way, an argumentative, quarrelsome individual will naturally shut down communication from most of your other team members. In this environment, company issues will not be fully discussed, if they are brought up at all. Always be mindful of the chemistry of your team. If someone is a jerk, you must deal with it. If you are the jerk, you must change. Because no matter how brilliant the jerk is, eventually they will have to mellow or leave.
Nobody wants to hear bad news. And nobody wants to deliver bad news, either. Phrases such as “don’t shoot the messenger” highlight society’s problem with blaming the deliverer of the bad news for the bad news. And it is safe to say that we have all done this in the past. As leaders, we cannot shoot the messenger many times before our team will learn to hide bad news from leadership. And hiding bad news from leadership prevents the organization from working to solve problems while the problems are still small. Instead, encourage your team to tell it like it is. Not only will that get your issues out in the open, but discussing problems with your team will engage more minds working on a solution. After all, that is what your team is for. So, ask your team what issues you should be talking about today.
One common misconception about being a leader is expressed in the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” That may be true for those who rely solely on their authority to lead. Those that rely on authority create negative work environments. The culture of their teams develops into an us-vs.-them mentality. These leaders undermine team members who show talent and ability. Because deep down, these leaders are insecure about their ability to lead. So, they do not want others to succeed and advance. It is lonely at the top because these leaders strive to be the king of the hill. True leadership does not rely on authority. Instead, true leaders use their influence to advance the entire team. True leaders build relationships with the members of their team. They focus on advancing the entire team. They work with their team. And the entire team advances. True leaders are never alone.
While it is awesome when your employees buy in to your company’s culture and way of doing things, this buy-in can become a weakness. Employees start to believe that your way is the only way. This is especially true for employees who have only worked for your company. When you hear these employees say things like, “we have always done it this way,” you know you have a problem. Sam Walton was a big believer in experimentation. As he adapted new ideas, he forced his employees to adapt to change. I guess you could say that change became an important part of Wal-Mart’s culture. So as Wal-Mart grew, new ideas were adapted and old ideas were discarded. And Wal-Mart became a company of change. Yes, they experienced may growing pains. But management did not allow these growing pains to stop them. They made changes. And the company grew.