A Leadership Crisis In My Own Business
October 26, 2010
TopicsAuthentic, Change, Character-based Leadership, Courage, lead change, leader, LeaderPalooza 2010, Passion, Self Development, self leadership
I’ve been working on a new strategic plan for my consulting business that includes a new website to mirror the strategic shift. This required me to make a lot of changes and turned into a serious leadership challenge. The decisions I finally made concerning this effort would not have happened if it wasn’t for the Lead Change Group and what I learned at LeaderPalooza last February.
Leading your own business can be tough at times like these because you only report to yourself and ultimately the marketplace once you execute the strategy. For most of us in our endeavors, we tend to focus on the specific issues of what we do and are careful not to venture too far outside of that framework publicly (though among friends and family we will explore all kinds of issues). As a consultant, that would be things related to organization success.
But two things become very clear as I stepped back to review what we had done the last 25 years and ask myself what were we really all about. Maybe I should have stopped there but decided to open up Pandora ’s Box. What has the recession taught me? Is there anything I can do to help out using my expertise and do I have a moral obligation to do that? If I am truthful with the answers to these last two questions, what should my business be doing right now and what role should I play in society as a whole?
Like I said, I had to open Pandora’s box and by doing so thrust myself into a major leadership challenge. To go where the answers to these questions were leading would require me to step up to the plate in some new ways that went beyond just my business practice but were consistent with who I am and what I do as a consultant. Erin Schreyer would call that being authentic. Gee, it’s a lot harder to do than to talk about Erin!!!
What became clear was that I had to immediately focus my business on services I had put on the back burner many years ago and I had to go public with my ideas on how to address all kinds of current issues that went beyond what my business addressed.
1. With the economy limping along, I realized that my firm should focus on one thing right now which is helping businesses to increase their sales. All the other things we offer as a firm are important but what good are they right now if companies can’t ring their register more. In that way, our service could help the economy right now.
2. Since my entire career has been about helping people and organizations make better decisions, it was time for me to take that same expertise and apply it to the current public issues of the day. That meant I would have to throw my ideas into the public arena for others to consider. It’s one thing to do that around your friends or at a local organization you belong to but another thing entirely to put it out there for everyone to see. That could open me up to a lot of other people disagreeing and potentially place me in some heated situations. But I deeply felt that this perspective was sorely lacking based on all I hear in the news. Was I willing to be my authentic self out there in the public’s eye?
This strategy is exemplified in my new business website www.firstconcepts.com. Instead of the home page promoting my firm as most business websites do, I turned it into a magazine style blogging page with two blogs. One blog titled "Insights Into Success” features articles about organization success. That’s the normal application of my expertise. The other blog titled “A Better World” focuses on my ideas concerning the current issues of the day. So it is similar to an opinion/editorial column like you might read in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. And in that column I pull no punches.
The first two blogs on there are titled “3 Steps to Boost Jobs and Economy” and the other is “The Assumptions That Tanked The Economy.” Politicians from both parties will not like what I have to say. Banking, finance and mortgage executives will probably make voodoo dolly pin cushions of me they can stick needles in. Corporations that have shipped a lot of jobs oversees might be rather angry.
But this feels right to me. It feels authentic. Soon I will be writing about the real healthcare crisis, solving the Somalia piracy issue, why General Motors failed, the Muslim crisis in America, what’s wrong with corporate governance, the real cause behind the Mexican drug cartel war and much more. It has amazed me what happens when I apply my consulting process to all these other issues.
As a registered non-partisan since the age of 18, I have discovered I have a unique voice. As a consultant, I have a unique way of analyzing problems. Maybe somebody will pay attention. Hopefully, nobody will throw tomatoes or shoes at me. But that is what it means to be a Character Based Leader and I intend to go down this path regardless of the consequences.
Character Based Leadership is a way of being. It’s who we are deep inside when no one’s looking. When we have to act as our own leader, it’s critical to have this inner guidance or we can flounder too easily.
The last time you had to lead yourself, what did you learn from the experience?
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This is an inspiring piece, Don.
I admire your courage and conviction, stepping forward to apply what you’ve learned. Timidity may be an effective self-preservation strategy, but it seldom saves anyone else By raising your voice, with noble intent, and bringing your talent and experience into issues that matter, you are, in fact “Leading Change.”
I have no idea if I’ll agree with your conclusions, but I already know I’m proud of you for offering them up!
Thanks Tristan. That means a lot to me. I’ve learned so much from my involvement with the Lead Change Group. Seems it’s rubbing off on me. I’ve always been so much in the background helping others so they could shine. This is a new and uncomfortable experience. Ummm…gee, I guess all new experiences are uncomfortable aren’t they? Maybe that’s why it can be hard to get people to change!
I completely agree, especially with this point:
“With the economy limping along, I realized that my firm should focus on one thing right now which is helping businesses to increase their sales.”
Help your customers achieve THEIR goals and they’ll remember you the next time a need for your service arises. Better yet, they’ll also recommend you to their friends.
Appreciate your sharing my point of view about focusing on what customers need right now. If we’re not helping our customers to achieve our goals, then why are we in business to begin with? The only thing customers buy is something they value. We have to deliver that value otherwise there’s no purpose for our business to exist.