Business growth starts and ends with people. Success depends on the will and skill of people at every level of an organization. Sure, sometimes growth efforts start at the top, but it’s impossible to sustain growth without the zeal, efforts, and imagination of people throughout the organization.
To stay vibrant, the organization must be in a constant state of renewal and in a continual state of transformation. You must constantly look for signs your existing business model needs changing, by understanding shifting market conditions, competitive threats, customers’ ever-changing needs, new technologies, and so on.
As the complexity of the business grows, the problems begin to pile up. Each new sale seems to make things worse. More balls are dropped. More mistakes are made. More fires are being fought. More customers are unhappy. More profits are lost. Whatever way it appears, more and more things are going wrong.
For a business to reach the highest levels of growth, profitability, and success, there must be a shift from dependence to independence. When a company is young, the founder is in total control, but as it grows and matures the self-interests of the founder can no longer trump the needs of the business. The organization needs sovereignty. The challenge is to forge the organization into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Successful companies aren’t perfect – no company is – they continually face internal and external challenges. But these companies have reached a point where they can effectively respond to those challenges. They understand their success; they’ve nurtured it, scaled it, repeated it, and sustained it. In fact, these businesses have a pattern of success firmly etched into their organizational DNA. Here are just a few of the strengths they use to stay on top:
The shift from growth to decline is almost imperceptible at first, particularly by those inside an organization. After all, the organization still looks and feels successful. But the signs are there if you know what to look for. Slowly, the business has lost the creativity, risk taking, initiative, and flexibility that made it successful in the first place.
By far the toughest skill for a CEO to learn is the ability to manage his own psychology. The technical aspects of running a business – creating systems and processes, designing structure, developing people, and so on – are relatively straightforward skills to understand and master. But growth is also psychological – you must mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to change as the business changes.
When it comes to meetings, your own team is often its own worst enemy. Discussions get hijacked. Bad ideas fill whiteboards. Negative team members squash good ideas. Stronger team members dominate weaker ones. People wander off topic, cause decisions to be delayed, and act in any number of dysfunctional ways.
A company may appear to be the picture of success, a company that all others would aspire to be. But your greatest fear shouldn’t be that you will have to compete with this company. Your greatest fear should be that you become this company. This company isn’t a model. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. It’s dying, and it doesn’t even know it.
If you are going to be a leader, you are going to have to deal with conflict. It’s part of your job. If you can’t or won’t handle conflict in a straightforward and effective manner, then you shouldn’t be a leader. Dealing with conflict is one of the most critical abilities that determines the effectiveness of a leader, yet it is often one of the least developed skills.