I recently received a Homer Award for ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT, it was one of several I have received the past 4 years working as a Master Trainer for The Home Depot University.
Someone who admires me recently asked me if whether entrepreneurship is a case of nature or nurture. I really look at it like a skill thing like singing or basketball. Some people were born with it and had circumstances where they never even had the chance to realize their skill. I’m sure there are hundreds of people around the country who could play for the NBA right now but maybe they were never exposed to it in high school or maybe their interests lay elsewhere when they were younger.
On the flip-side, basketball may have been a “way out” for some people and they worked their way up to a high skill set through sheer determination. but I always think that at the end of the day it’s about betting on your strengths, so finding a way to figure out what you’re good at and then going all in on it is extremely important. Whether that’s being an entrepreneur, or an accountant or a teacher, it’s all based around skill sets.
So do I think there are outlier situations in which you can be forced into something that you become great at? Sure. But do I think that for the most part it’s a DNA thing? Yes, I really do.
I had no choice in the matter. I HAD to knock on doors and sell or I didn’t eat. It was the only thing I thought about. When everybody went outside to play and go bowling or to Mickey Rats on the beach in Buffalo, I just had to stand on the side of the street, make flyers and put them out door-to-door, bang phones, and sell stuff all day. Now I’m an extreme version of it, but there are a lot of places in between, and I think most of them are predicated on skill and DNA.
So now, you’re probably asking, “how do I know if that’s me? If I hate my job and want to get out and explore my options, how do I know if entrepreneurship is in my DNA?”
I’d say that it’s like anything else. You don’t know if you’re going to be good at something until you do it. Now up and quitting your job isn’t practical. I know that people have lots of variables in their lives like kids and mortgages that don’t allow them to flip on a dime, but that’s why, in my blog I wrote about the idea of 7pm-2am. Now if you really hate your job, that is a powerful thing. Hate is a tremendous motivator. Hate is worth working from 7 at night to 2 in the morning. And what’s great about the time we live in is that 20 years ago, you couldn’t have done that, but with the internet, 7pm-2am is just as useful as any other time of the day.
If you want to know whether you’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit in your blood, here is what you do: You cut out watching your favorite sitcoms at night, you cut out playing more call of duty, you cut out going out for beers, you cut out being on the bowling or golf team, you pick a dream and you go after it.
And if you prefer all that downtime over the upside of building your own business? I honestly think that’s great! That’s totally fine, but you’re not allowed to complain about how much you hate your job, just like I am not allowed to complain about my lack of free time or sleep.
Please share this a friend on LinkedIn or Twitter or Text and Email. 🙂
3 Ways To Become A Better Leader
First up, it’s important to define what a leader is.
A leader, especially in a post-Covid world, is someone who has a clear vision and is able to rally her or his community to achieve that goal.
The greatest job of a leader, whether that leader is a parent, a CEO, or a counselor–is to find a way to build self esteem without crossing into delusion.
That means, in a business setting, it’s important to remember that you work for your employees, they don’t work for you.
Your job is to build your team, provide value, and give them space to grow while holding them accountable.
With that out of the way, there are so many leaders and managers who want to be better.
Sure, they want to accomplish their own desires but they want to accomplish them in a way that helps them sleep at night.
No one is trying to run a dictatorship (I actually fled one in East Africa, so I’m especially mindful of the feelings and needs of my employees) but so many leaders are confused. Let me explain why
They don’t know how to build a business and meet their goals without being a real obstacle to their employees and team members.
Some leaders may have great relationships with their employees, but they want to be better about meeting goals and finding the balance between empathy and ambition.
If either of those sound like you, or you fall somewhere on the spectrum of those two leadership types, this article is for you.
Below are three, tactical methods to become a better leader.
- Remember: you work for your team.
I know I said this in the intro, but the number one thing you have to remember is that if you’re a leader, you work for your team–they don’t work for you.
As a CEO, it’s ludicrous to expect your employees to work as much as you do.
It’s your business; of course, your employees don’t “love it” as much.
So much of life is a “them” game and entrepreneurship is no different.
If you want to be an effective leader you have to give, give, and then ask.
The biggest mistake people make, and why they can’t build scalable businesses, is that they have selfish expectations of their employees.
You may be a hard worker, you may have fought to get to where you are–but that’s it, it’s your business, not theirs.
They have no reason to be as invested as you are, even if you think you’ve given them a reason to be.
You can’t ask an employee to work as hard as you because you believe you compensate them well.
That’s like asking someone to love your child as much as you do; it’s not natural.
You’re going to have much more successful interactions if you set expectations and give your team the means to reach them.
Now, what does that look like in practice?
A lot of leaders have arbitrary expectations about how new hires should perform and act.
This affects their growth in a big way.
Here are two tips to keep in mind when hiring new employees:
a. Give trust easily.
I give trust a lot easier than most CEOs. To me, it’s just faster. I blindly trust all my employees.
If they prove themselves to be incapable, I’ll put restrictions around them.
I genuinely believe that the phrase: “Trust is not given, it’s earned” is slow and egotistical.
B. Don’t compare your hires to yourself
This is where a lot of leaders get caught.
They measure candidates against themselves, and then inflate their egos by finding ways candidates thatdon’t match up.
For this reason, I don’t hold employees to the same standard that I hold myself.
On the contrary, for me it’s all about offense.
I don’t care if my hires don’t perform as well as I would because they’re freeing up my time.
Even if they’re not performing at “100”, that’s okay because they’re allowing me to go on the offense in other ways.
Keeping these two things in mind will help you become a better leader because it’ll train you to really internalize that you work for your employees (not the other way around), and then things start to change.
Ultimately, they’re reminders to be grateful.
- Stop micromanaging and teach your team how to swim.
If you have trouble structuring your business, if you go through rounds of hiring and firing–listen to this.
If you have trouble finding the “right” team members…the problem may be you.
This may be tough to accept but I know good leaders can handle the truth.
I’m not trying to be impractical, but as I said before, good leaders don’t caste judgement on their employees.
Good leaders don’t yell and scream, or try to watch their employees’ every move.
Good leaders are supportive and ask how they can help.
Instead of being upset that their employees are drowning, they teach them how to swim.
- You must build a strong company culture.
After you’ve internalized that you work for them, it’s time to establish what sort of legacy you want to leave behind.
What does it mean for someone to say they’ve worked at your company?
What do you want it to say on your tombstone?
For this reason, among others, I call all my free leadership and sales training“the land of milk and honey”
The way to build great culture is not in words that are written on the wall, but in your actions.
You have to make every one of your employees and team members understand that you care about them more than you want them to care about you.
I know that sounds impossible, but you can’t be crippled by the task.
It’s tough. But, if you do it, you will build a great culture.
If you do not, every day that you work will take you further and further away from that culture.
You have to practice this everyday.
It means not being afraid to fire your top salesperson because they’re also not a nice person…it means knowing who your employees are, what drives them, and if their needs have changed.
It also means promoting and compensating people based on how hard they work, not on how well you know them.
A great work culture is one that “works” for everyone.
It should work when things are easy and it should work when, God forbid, tragedy occurs.
The second you slack on your culture is the second you lose.
Meritocracy is important, word of the day 🔔 ding as a fellow toastie, a toastmaster l be adding the word of the week and it’s meaning ok? It means a social system, society, or organization in which people get success or power because of their abilities, not because of their money or social position: The company is a meritocracy. Good work is rewarded with promotions.
Ok so meritocracy is important, empathy is more important, and knowing the culture that fits you and your employees is the most important thing of all.
Remember, my words mean nothing if you don’t listen to them and internalize them, so they’re a part of your everyday life.
So, what do you do now?
Go apply this training. Share it with a leader you admire or someone you know that is actively trying to become a better leader.
While you’re at it, tweet me your biggest takeaways.
Oh, and of course, remember that perfect practice makes perfect so practice, practice, practice doing these things yourself.
Hey if you’re on LinkedIn and YouTube thanks for watching my video experience, if you’re listening to my audio experience on iTunes, Spotify or any other podcast platform, smash that like button and please leave me a comment, your words are my oxygen.
I love you and I thank you so much for being a part of our mister zee nation of great leaders.
Now go be a great leader and I’ll see you in the next video
I grew up in sales.
Long before my successful sales career I was selling candy, mangoes, pizza, burgers, Indian food, landscaping, computer parts, cars, alarm systems door to door and so many other things.
Always sales. A little over 30 years later, and I’m still selling, but I find myself in a position of mentorship and training more and more often.
In light of that, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to quantify exactly what it is that I’m looking for in potential business partners and employees, and I’ve realized a very specific common strain runs through most of my favorite candidates: Experience in sales.
When you work in sales, whether it’s door to door, services B2C, B2B, working the floor at a convenience store or a big box store, working the register at a family business, or taking orders at a fast food restaurant (I know that’s more service-oriented, but it’s still the same set of skills I’m talking about), you start gaining the one thing that I think is really important for everybody to understand: The ability to read the customer.
If you’re unable to read the customer, to adjust to a customer’s response in real-time, directly in front of your face, I think you’re missing out on something that makes every great businessperson truly exceptional.
We’re living in a faster world, and if you can’t reverse-engineer your customer’s finish line in order to make him/her happy, you’re going to have a very hard time breaking through the scale and the speed that we’re now dealing with thanks to the streaming economy.
As somebody who likes to rant– and let’s be honest, I love to rant. I love to talk.
I love to hear myself talking. I love to be heard– It’s shocking to me how much I like to listen.
To be honest, I used to struggle with it.
“Why the heck do I like to listen so much?”
And then it dawned on me (which probably prompted me to write this article): “Oh… I’m a sales person.”
I had no choice.
Customer walks in and I had to listen.
Long before I could spout about what Keypad would go best with that system, I had to hear what system they were going to install.
Long before I could go on about what system they should buy for their vacation , I had to know how many windows were there and, more importantly, what their preferences and lifestyle were.
And so, my friends, I implore you to recognize the world we’re living in; to recognize that the consumer will always be right forever.
I implore you, if you’ve never worked sales, to try and find a situation that allows you to do that.
I implore my sons and all college students to highly consider taking a summer job stocking shelves or working a register.
The soft skills (which are, in my opinion, hard skills) that you will learn in that job will be transferable to everything you do for the rest of your life.
This piece was originally posted on my website. Head over to LinkedIn, I’ve got over 30 features over there. Take a look.