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A little bit on maps

I’ve been working on my family budget. Tax time is a great opportunity to revisit your strategies and make sure you’re on track.

On track with what? With your plan. Your strategy. You know, the one you wrote down clearly and carefully. The one that has all the good ideas and good destinations written in it. The one that defines success in such a way so that you can periodically check your progress against it, and course correct.

Without a plan, aimlessness sets in. And what exactly is aimlessness?  No aim. The state of not aiming. This does not sound like a very successful strategy, does it? Imagine the results of an archer with no aim.

Develop clear targets. Clear and simple definitions of success. Targets are definable and measurable. Visions are not- they are dreamy and vague. Write down your targets beside your visions. Your visions should motivate you to hit your targets. Your visions inform and dictate what you targets should be.

This is where the strategy comes in. You could call it “How to hit my targets which grew out of my vision.” A strategy is a ”HOW” and a target is more of a “WHAT/WHERE/WHEN.” You could think of it like this: “How are we going to get there by then?” 

I would encourage you to make a simple illustration of your strategies. It could be bullet points and sentences, but I think it’s more helpful to make a map. Like a simple treasure map. Put a big X in the middle of the page and call it “we succeeded”, and then define the X. Next devise how to hit the X.

Mix this with a little accountability and skill and hard work, and you will be hitting dead center every time.

More On Accountability

Let me try bring some clarification to the term ‘Accountability.’

There are several ways to use this word. One way refers to being held responsible for certain actions or outcomes. Like your tax bill. You are being held accountable by the IRS. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, you will pay the consequences.

Another way to use the word is in thinking about it’s root, Account. To count up, or log. To keep track of. Think accountant.  These people count dollars.

But a third way to use the term is more loosely defined, and probably a more common way to use it, at least in my circles.  And that is as reminder, or a checklist. “Remind me to call the dentist tomorrow.” “Wake me up in the morning so I can go to the gym with you. If you don’t, I’ll never go.”

This is how I am using the word. All three meanings kind of merge together, but when I say that we need accountability in our business ventures, especially as solo business owners, I mean we need someone to remind us to get things done. Things that we know we need to do. The only person we actually answer to is ourselves, really. Spouses too, perhaps. Bankers and the taxman of course. But at the end of the day you are your own boss, and by definition, you answer to yourself.

Asking yourself if you got ‘such and such’ done, and then penalizing yourself, or chewing yourself out, seems pretty ridiculous. But asking someone else to check up on you seems smart.

And that is the point.

I have found that I need to develop clear goals, and then ask someone else to help me by asking me “Did you meet those goals you told me about? Why not?”

These goals that I routinely miss are short term. Sales and Admin come to mind. These are things I am most likely to avoid due to discomfort and lack of skill or interest. But they are vital to my company, and if I overlook or postpone doing these tasks, it won’t be long before I get added to the ever growing list of numbers called ‘Failed Businesses.’

The take away is:

  • identify your weak spots
  • make a yes/no check list
  • find someone reliable to ask you if you succeeded

 

 

 

 

Accountability

Many of us escaped the ‘Boss’ and the ‘J.O.B.’ because of the pressure coming from up the chain. Or because of the ridiculous management style, or company culture, or downright stupidity emanating from ‘The Man.’

We hoped to escape some form of toxic accountability, which is definitely a great idea. But unwittingly, many of us have escaped accountability all together. We have become ‘self-accountable.’ Which is an oxymoron. Emphasis moron.

We self-made types need someone looking over our shoulder, speaking up and pointing out motives, deadlines, and mistakes. We need someone who can spur us on to get the things done that we would rather just forget about.

 

 

 

Tunnel Vision

Residing inside an organization, like a family or a business, can be much like inhabiting the inside of a pipe. Hard to know what is going on outside of it. Pipes have two parts, the inside and the outside. You can’t be in both places at the same time. How often have you watched someone inside an organization do or say the most ineffective things, all the while thinking he was accomplishing the exact opposite?
Unfortunately, this is very common. And it is very destructive.
Today, while driving down Main Street of my hometown, I noticed that a new business had opened up in one of the store fronts. I pulled up in front of the door, and tried to deduce what sort of business it was. I could not tell. I saw a graphic with some flowery writing on it, and an orange sign that said ‘Grand Opening.’ My best guess was a hair dresser. As a business coach, I’m very interested in meeting new business owners, so I decided to walk in. The walls were lined with knick knacks for sale. So much for the hair theory.
The signage on the front of the store was completely confusing. It was also very, very small. And almost illegible, because of the font. I very nicely introduced myself, and tried to help the nice woman who is running the store understand her peril, which is that her days as a retail business are numbered, unless she fix her problem, and quick.
She was barely interested in my free advice, and surprised that I didn’t understand what her store was all about. She looked at me as if to say ‘what planet are you from?’ Well, I thought, its the same planet all your customers come from.
She is stuck inside her pipe. It will soon become the tomb of her business.

Spring Cleaning

For me, spring is the best time to set new resolutions, not the new year. This is when everything starts to come alive. The daylight is longer, and brighter. Spring is infectious. January is, well, depressing.

This is the time to look at your organization and tune it up. As you finish up your taxes, you can see the holes in last year’s strategies. Now is the time to fix it. Spring is the time to set your course for the year, to review what went wrong last year and resolve to change it. In your business, things heat up in the spring. Customers get motivated. Stores see numbers increase. People are feeling better, more energized. People are hopeful and positive in the spring.

I like to look at my books and insert hope and energy into them in the spring. This is a time in which I have the momentum to push through the motivational haze left over from the winter, to clear away the winter’s dust and rust, and to crack open all the windows of my business and let in some daylight. To throw out the useless relics of last year, metaphorically. And to maintain and tune up the truly effective parts of my approach, making myself and my organization ready to tackle a busy and productive year.

On Purpose

Intentionality. This is an important idea and an important quality that must be present in the entrepreneur. It is the thing a person implements when he or she starts a business. They decide to do something. They decide to change course from their current path, which may be employment, and choose a different path, self-employment and business ownership. Leadership, not follower-ship.

But the problem I see in my clients is that the ‘intentionality’ mood passes over time. This is a problem. We must, as organizational developers, continue to be proactive, as opposed to reactive. We have to keep pushing forward with the same spirit and vigor we walked in as we started out on this crazy venture. There are too many ways to fail if we lose our edge.

If your business flourishes, it will be because you are intentional. Make it flourish, on purpose.

 

 

the wide gate

I’m am regularly gripped by a fog that won’t let me go. Perhaps this is a confession, or perhaps just an observation. I feel the fingers tighten as I reach out to accomplish something worth doing. You could call it a lack of motivation. You could call it depression. You could call it discouragement. All these are possibly true, but I think it is something else.

I feel embattled. When I see a change that needs to be made in the course of my life, all the sudden unseen and unwelcome fingers reach out and grab onto me and try to hold me back. It’s almost like the path that I need to take suddenly and inexplicably becomes totally covered in thorn bushes and briars. Of course at the same moment the pathway which I should NOT take widens before my very eyes. It looks so easy, and well trodden.

It reminds me of an ancient text that goes something like this-

“Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it-”

 

Drunk on the daily grind

They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see who they really are- Aldous Huxley

Down in the trenches. On the front lines. Nose to the grindstone.

We’ve heard this before, and done this before. And while working hard is by no means a bad idea, let’s not forget that we can often become completely unaware of WHY we are working.

Hard work can be intoxicating. It can be satisfying too. But in that state, it can also distract us from the truth. The truth that we don’t know where we are headed. “Just keep paddling” is a rather unfortunate response in a boat that is bobbing about on the sea.

The remedy?

First, we must answer the question, “where are we now?”

And next, answer the question, “where are we headed?”

And then, “which direction is that from here? North? South?

And finally, “will paddling get us there?”

After that, we can just keep paddling- in the right direction.

A little leverage

Carl Jung once said  “we always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the lever of criticism.”

As I’ve said before, objectivity. An outside view, an observer who is not inside the organization, or the family, or the mind of an individual.

So here are some thoughts on Jung’s statement:

  1. It is impossible to be self-objective. We need, by definition, someone else to look at our situation, whether in business or in family life, and give us that outside view.
  2. Criticism, in it’s non-emotional form, is simply making constructive observations about the weaknesses or failures of a thing that should be strong and whole.
  3. A lever is a simple device, like a crowbar or a wheelbarrow. You can use it to move heavy objects, like your world.
  4. The person giving you that ‘outside point to stand on’ needs to be a trusted source of criticism. Opinions don’t necessarily rise to the level of constructive criticism.

 

the destination

The fundamental definition of a leader is a person who leads others to a destination. Key words  LEAD and DESTINATION. 

Where exactly are you going? Too often we lead for the sake of leading. This amounts to a cruise ship going around in circles. Not too hateful if the food is good, but most people want to know where they are going, and why. And how it will effect them.

Can you define concrete, actionable destinations for your organization? If not, you better hire a good chef.