Highlighting Rich Hall

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Rich Hall has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2020. He currently serves as a Board member, Chair of the Membership Committee, and Facilitator of two CEO Roundtables (The Woodlands area and in partnership with Houston’s Better Business Bureau).

As the founder of Rich Hall Group, he works with small business owners and leaders to help them achieve their vision of success for themselves and their company. He has extensive experience with family-owned businesses looking to grow, transition to the next generation, or prepare for a successful exit.

In addition to his advisory and coaching services, Rich is the proud father of 3 boys, Jeremy, Mark, and Daniel, and husband to his beautiful wife, Jamie. They’re active members of The Woodlands Methodist Church, and parents to pandemic puppies, Bucky and Riley.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Hall, or Silver Fox Advisors, see our website at www.silverfox.org/directory

Top 5 Mistakes CEO’s Make When Trying to Grow Their Company

I work with a lot of CEO’s and a common trait is the desire to grow their company. Instead of reviewing how to grow, I thought I’d highlight some approaches that DON’T WORK!

Hire more sales people!

I was leading a CEO peer group when I heard a CEO say the solution was easy, “Just hire more sales people”.

If it was ONLY that easy.

Increasing revenue must come from an expanding market, new product or service, new form of lead generation, etc. Simply adding to your sales force will not ensure increased revenue.

Build it and they will come

This is not a baseball field.

Careful thought and planning should go into the product features, market demand, market research, buyer profiles, competitor analysis, etc.

Don’t build something new and hope.

Just work harder

I’ve heard owners say “we’ve got to grow and you’ve got to work harder”….as the CEO departed for happy hour.

How you grow is the responsibility of the owner/CEO and leadership team. Be very careful when you ask team members to work harder. That’s rarely the right answer.

Focus on increasing demand, not working harder.

Buy more social media ads

There are LOTS of gimmicks out there. People will promise leads through Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. by hiring them. Don’t fall for it. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Can you generate leads via social media? Absolutely. It should be part of your growth strategy, depending on the industry you’re in.

If you’re unsure how, hire a reputable advisor to help you better understand how it works and to make recommendations.

Don’t chase the pretty penny

Most small business owners are entrepreneurs that get excited by trying new things. Unfortunately, many put their best and brightest on the new “project” while impacting the ongoing, bill-paying operations.

Consider developing a market research team of 2-3 people. Let them do the research and come back to you with a plan.

This doesn’t mean you don’t pivot when the market changes. A smart CEO always looks forward. Just don’t chase an idea without applying a process and logic to the approach.

Summary

We could probably come up with another 100 items a small business CEO shouldn’t do to grow their company. If you have additional ideas, send me a note at rhall@silverfox.org.

Perfecting the Art of Recruiting Key People

Are you prepared when recruiting key personnel into your organization? 

What is your process? 

Are you sourcing, identifying, and choosing the best candidates or simply choosing from the most available?

Should you be using a recruiting firm or are you sufficiently set up internally to handle this function effectively?  If you use a recruiting firm, make sure you are using one that is ROI focused and delivers prospects that can provide a return on your investment.

Here are seven steps to consider before starting your recruiting process.

  1. Yes, you must have a Job Description
    1. It’s important to know the title, duties, and responsibilities of the person to hire and where they fit into your organization chart.  This is a given.
  • An Extended Company Vision-Mission Statement. 
    • Have a clear vision of the company’s mission, including established goals and the required strategies and tactics of who’s doing what by when to achieve projected results. 
    • An accurately portrayed picture story of where you will be in 10 years adds value to your offering by proving growth opportunities and a security factor.  Know clearly and communicate how this position contributes to your company’s success. 
    • Knowing where you are, where you are going, and having a plan on how to get there is a confidence builder in the minds of desirable candidates. 
  • Your Company’s Value Proposition. 
    • What differentiates your company?  Why should someone consider you and why do current employees work for your company vs. pursuing other opportunity possibilities? 
    • Know the reasons your people work for you and your company and know what they are saying about working in the company.
  • Knowledge of your Company’s current and desired Culture
    • What attributes are you seeking in a candidate that match your company’s culture? 
    • Are you wanting a person who fits your current culture or someone who is a culture creator to help establish best practices for the company’s future direction? 
  • Return on Investment (ROI). 
    • When considering an employee’s cost, know what the return expectations are for hiring them. 
    • Having team members involved in specific strategies and tactics that drive mission goals, they become profit centers for your organization. Employees either make or save money for your company’s operation. 
    • A key personnel attraction and retention feature is employees experiencing a sense of pride, knowing their contributions add value to the growing success of the organization. 
    • Promotional Opportunities – Are they lateral or are they expected to move up the corporate ladder?  What are the performance expectations, the contribution requirements, and how far can they go?
  • Established Agreements
    • When recruiting, discuss critical success factors and key performance indicators required to achieve the company’s objectives and goals. 
    • Your best prospects are those you can establish agreements with on your processes. 
    • As an added benefit, this helps eliminate on-the-job expectation surprises, the ….we didn’t discuss that, after they’ve been hired.
  • Compensation Plan
    • People not only want a cultural environment where they can learn, grow, and feel secure, they want to feel competitively compensated for their contributions. 
    • Make sure they know the What’s In It for Me.  Communicate the career/promotional opportunities along with pay and incentive plans tied to performance results achieved when attracting the desired candidate.

For additional information on recruiting key personnel and/or other strategic questions, give me a call. 

Jim Iden, CPC

713 927 3564

jiden@silverfox.org

The Entitlement Virus Is Killing Your Company

“Entitlement and privilege corrupt.” — Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale

One quiet Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk at the far end of what I assumed was an empty office with just me there. As I was working, I heard the printer down the hall spitting out documents. I looked at my computer to see that I hadn’t sent anything to the printer. I thought maybe it was malfunctioning, so I decided to take a look. Only one other office had its lights on. I moseyed over to where the printed documents were spitting out to see what was going on.

It turned out that one of my employees was about to resign and start his own company. He was planning to compete against us, and he was making copies of our proprietary business documents. Apparently, he thought he was entitled to take what he wanted. Had I not been there, this employee’s sense of entitlement would have resulted in our confidential information, which I had trusted him with, being taken.

The sad fact is that 95 percent of all companies experience employee “theft” of some kind. It may be as small as employees taking home office supplies, or it could be as serious as millions of dollars embezzled by a trusted bookkeeper.

Entitlement is a Serious Matter for Your Business.

A sense of entitlement thwarts you, your employees, and your company from meeting the challenges of competition and growth. In his transformational, still relevant, 1993 book, Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest, Author Peter Block writes, “At the heart of entitlement is a belief system that my needs are more important than the business, and that the business exists for my sake.”

I’ve dealt with this issue myself when a downturn in business during the Gulf War made me want to keep my employees at any cost. But, as I learned, the need to nurture familial-type relationships with employees was a double-edged sword.

When I related to my employees as if they were members of my extended family, I made it nearly impossible to hold them accountable for the things I needed from them. That created a terrible model for getting important work done —not only with my longtime employees, but especially with others who had joined later and realized this was a place where you didn’t really have to work very hard, be on time, do what’s promised, or even complete assigned duties with any degree of enthusiasm or integrity.

It took me some real reflection, but I realized, finally, that I was the original source of entitlement in my company – it was my fear, thinking and actions that created it.

What Is Entitlement, and Where Does It Come From?

Anyone who has ever owned or managed a business has likely experienced the impact of entitlement and wondered what to do about it. It’s a covert issue that can be difficult to recognize. Entitlement is most noticeable when leaders appear to be doing everything they can possibly think of to keep their employees satisfied and stay with the company, while those same employees demand more from the employment relationship and then withhold their commitment and performance if they don’t get it.

Entitlement will prevent you from executing your strategy, but it’s merely the symptom of more dangerous underlying conditions. Employees who think they are entitled often believe they are victims of management exploitation or mistreatment. Left unchecked, entitlement can result in covert acts of revenge. Therefore, it’s important to understand what’s at the source of your employees’ entitlement thinking. Your company’s future depends on it.

Patriarchy Is at the Root

Entitlement Virus can be attributed to two issues:

1. The fear of losing, which makes clients, employees, and others more important than the business.

2. A pretense of leadership that claims employees are more important than management, although, in fact, management furtively believes chiefly in its own entitlement. Entitlement is the result of a patriarchal belief system that most of us share—a belief system often designed around financial control and the idea that you must maintain a clear line of authority to operate your business: Entitlement implies that if you’re the boss, you are endowed with special privileges that others don’t have, and it arises when management wants to avoid being seen by employees as taking advantage of the system for their own gain.

Don’t get ahead of me here – there’s more for you to consider…

To believe in your own entitlement as a leader, you must first operate under the (superior) assumption that you’re making all the (mostly financial) sacrifices and that, therefore, you should be entitled to something extra. After all, it is your company. But, at the same time, you are trying to hide that you’re doing exceedingly well financially; you might even become indignant if someone suggested that you were making all the money and not paying others what they “deserve.”

Finally, you might be telling yourself that if employees knew how much you were “raking in” compared to what you pay them, they just might up and leave. All this kind of thinking allows you to prolong the fiction that no such issue exists. And that will come back to bite you because you’re only fooling yourself.

In reality, you ARE entitled to something special. You ought to be making significantly more money than your highest-ranking employee. Why are you trying to justify your salary to yourself? When you have a good year, do you jack up everyone’s salary? No, you don’t do anything of the kind. Instead, you find a way to give people a nice reward along with verbally demonstrated appreciation. And that’s exactly what you should do, not go off half-cocked out of guilt, trying to make it up to others for your good fortune. That’s just another pretense of leadership, and it’s the pretending that is hurting you.

Even if employees come and tell you that they think they should get a raise, having your best year in business doesn’t mean you have to start overpaying employees. Once you overcompensate by raising a salary, you can never bring it back down, if necessary, without consequences.

Who Has the Entitlement Virus, and What Does It Do to Them?

So, to paraphrase my friend Peter Block, the viral ‘meme’ that best encapsulates the Entitlement Virus is “The employees’ needs are more important than the business.” As for who has been infected by this viral thinking, the answer is: business owners/CEOs who are trying to prevent employees from withholding their efforts unless they receive extra perks. Employees will know when you’re trying not to lose business, not lose good employees, not lose your best clients, or not lose face.

Managers who are infected by the Entitlement Virus think they’re doing what’s best for the company by overlooking infractions such as coming in late or taking longer lunch periods. These are the things that my clients complain about most. What’s the big deal with a little tardiness, they ask themselves, or missing a client’s deadline, or helping yourself to a pencil or a pad of paper for your kid’s homework? The answer is the loss of integrity. Little infractions turn into huge issues over time.

But the real cost of ignoring this kind of thinking is that it keeps your organization from operating with integrity. It’s an infected strategy that derails attempts at resolving even the slightest conflicts between you and your employees. When managers believe their own sacrifices entitle them to special benefits, that belief creates feelings of entitlement among the rank and file as well. It’s infectious. Management is the primary source of entitlement thinking, and therefore, only management can transform the negative Entitlement Virus into the positive Empowerment Virus.

The Plan of Attack

To attack the virus of entitlement, take these five steps:

1. First, eliminate the ridiculous conversation that begins, “We’re like family around here.” If I had $100 for every time a CEO told me he or she tried to treat employees like family, I’d be floating on a yacht in the Caribbean. Sure, it sounds good when you say it, and it might seem like it’s desirable to create close relationships because you can make the argument that it feels good to everyone. But the fact remains that most families are somewhat dysfunctional. Why would you want that kind of behavior in your company, too?

All families tend to be patriarchal or matriarchal just by nature. So even with the best of intentions, trying to create a business culture that’s like a family ends up ultimately breeding sibling rivalry, jealousies, and resentments. And as in your family (and in mine, too), accountability is usually absent most of the time.

When employees become familiar with each other, they tend to stop holding each other accountable because nobody wants to step on friends’ or ‘siblings’ toes. Start relating to employees according to their accountability (that is, in the job they hold or the professional role they play) instead of their personality (their privileged position in the company).

The ”vice president of marketing” is an accountability; my Starbucks buddy Anastas isn’t. The big shift usually takes place when you ask employees to make real promises to take real actions and then measure how well they have kept their promises. If they don’t do the job, rather than getting upset, simply be curious. Ask, “What’s missing that kept you from keeping your word?” Then, begin working with the employee to close the performance gap by helping to provide what’s missing. Doing this one thing will cause immense change within your company.

2. Next create a structure for fulfilling promises. When employees know what your vision for your company is and how they contribute to its fulfillment, they can make meaningful promises to take actions that will make a difference on the bottom line. But that requires a different kind of conversation from you as their leader. The first thing to do is knock off all the talk about all your great ideas. Sure, you’re an entrepreneur; you’re going to have great ideas. But you don’t have to blab about them out loud, so stop talking about all the things “we’re going to do” in the future hoping to get employees excited about the future with you. Keep it to yourself, at best it’s confusing.

Focus on your core business issues and start promising the specific measurable actions you are going to take right now. Rather than talking to your employees about what you will do in the future, be an example of what you want from your employees. Managers literally stop the action when they confuse “talking about taking action” with actually taking action. They collapse the two into each other.

For example, you may hold a meeting to talk about how to solve a problem or how you’re going to get a desirable new client, but a week later, you have the same problem because no action has been taken. No one is managing and measuring the promises for taking action; they’re simply “talking about” taking action. So, get into action and hold employees accountable, and then start measuring for what you want. Those are the only things that matter.

More to Come

3. Communicate fully and tell the truth. If you are keeping secrets of any kind in your company (yes, losses, affairs, transgressions, bad behavior toward others), you are building resentment, and feelings of entitlement will emerge. Without truth, employees cannot be expected to act in ways that support your vision.

Instead, they begin to make things up, and what they make up is either not the truth or wrong 99 percent of the time. Do you want that going on in your company? When you withhold information, you teach your employees that withholding is an actual value. Most likely it’s not a value you want. Not fully communicating means you don’t trust anyone with important and sometimes embarrassing information. And if you don’t trust your employees, your employees won’t trust you.

4. Understand that alignment is a leader’s work of art. Years ago, a great coach of mine, taught me that alignment was my principal job as a leader. Nothing moves in an organization unless there is alignment with the vision and mission. Without it, there is no accountability, so no accountability means no alignment. They go hand in hand. You won’t mitigate entitlement if you’re not aligned, and you can’t align if you’re not accountable.

5. Finally, make sure all employees understand that if you can’t count on them to do what they said they’d do, you don’t need them. We hold on to some employees longer than we should. There’s no reason to keep employees who have no intention of keeping their word. But if employees aren’t keeping their word, the first place we need to look is at our relationship to our own word. If what we say and what we do don’t match, people begin to believe it’s not important for them to keep their word, either. You’ll know you have a problem in this area when you notice employees breaking agreements with clients.

When we think we don’t have to keep our word because of our position or rank, we breed the Entitlement Virus. It spreads rapidly and is hard to knock out, even with our best strategies. An entitlement mentality exists, to one degree or another, in every organization. To neutralize it requires that people be put in charge of themselves and be allowed to choose how they will perform. With those privileges come responsibility, accountability, and a purposeful alignment with the vision and mission. However, that presumes that the purpose is well communicated and well understood.

Replacing the Entitlement Virus with the Empowerment Virus

How do we empower? When employees are put in charge of themselves, are told clearly what the purpose of the company is. Or we help define their purpose within the company, when they are allowed to choose how they will perform. Also when they are told that they and their leaders will be held accountable for their actions, they become empowered.

They are responsible for their own future. That creates an Empowerment Virus that employees can transmit and replicate among themselves and that serves as the best counteragent to the Entitlement Virus. Those who won’t commit to accountability tend to self-select out when it’s clear they aren’t on the same path as everyone else.

Your only choice as a leader is to take responsibility for performance and continue to enjoy the benefits of behaving like a conscious leader—or not. Choosing not to perform as promised means you’ll have to accept the consequences of your actions. The Entitlement Virus has the power to prevent any organization from reaching its objectives. When you as the leader can grasp the notion that it begins with you and you are squarely at the source of this issue, you can examine your own conversations around entitlement.

In Summary

To summarize, when managers believe their own sacrifices entitle them to the special benefits of a privileged class, the Entitlement Virus, and feelings of entitlement will show up among your employees. Only by creating awareness of the Entitlement Virus will you be in a position to transform it into the positive ‘Empowerment Virus’ and create a truly winning company.

Dan Prosser is a Houston-based entrepreneur, and CEO of Faster Growth Strategies, LLC, who has built and sold 3 companies. He helps others build and sell their companies. He has extensively researched ‘Best Places to Work’ companies to understand why they do so exceedingly well financially. From that research, he wrote the internationally acclaimed book, ‘Thirteeners: Why Only 13 Percent of Companies Successfully Execute Their Strategy and How Yours Can Be One of Them’. Named one of the top five English language business books at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Energy Security

As the Russia/Ukraine war escalates, oil and gas are really back in the spotlight. The rise in our gasoline prices largely driven by national policy to reduce the use of fossil fuels is now being exacerbated by the ramifications of this Russia/Ukraine conflict on worldwide oil prices. I had mentioned this in my recent blog …

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A Serious PLIGHT of the Business Owners and Execs

In my coaching activities, I have found that there is one common issue present in virtually all of these folks that leads to what I refer to as the 3 Ps:

  • Lower Productivity
  • Lower Profit
  • Lower Peace of mind

What is this roadblock?

CONTROL – it seems that most want too much control over many aspects of their business and other affairs. Often referred to as micromanagers

Almost always, they see others performing certain tasks and their first thought is that they could do it better, faster etc.

This leads to micromanaging, a desire to control too many things. This results in

  • Poor time management – spending time on trivial matters
  • Resistance and resentment from workers who want to do it their way – that are doing their best.

The Need for Control

Unfortunately, this need for control usually carries over to other parts of their life.

They want to be the writer and director of the play that is going on in their daily lives.

But because they cannot control so many things, they lose focus and momentum. Then people resist and the results almost NEVER turn out exactly the way THEY think it should or the way THEY would do it.

Since things are not meeting their expectation, this, in turn, leads to toxic emotions like frustration, which can lead to anger and resentment.

And people DO NOT like to be controlled. Like a dog resisting when you pull their leash. And since people are one of any firm’s most important assets, you need to set the stage for them to succeed and not control them.

Breaking this habit of control is the single biggest breakthrough I have witnessed in business owners that I have coached.

After I point out this issue and the negative consequences outlined above, they are ready to get out of that rut.

They are ready to work ON the business, not IN all the details.

Like right NOW.

Time Usage

They reaffirm what they already know – they should use their time on the highest and best use instead of the minutia that comes from micromanaging – in ALL of their affairs.

But habits are hard to break, so I recommend a process that they repeat over and over until they form a new better habit of “LETTING GO”.

That process is:

  1. I ask that they commit to me and another person, to give up fighting to control people and things
  2. They come to realize that while they engage in that fight, they never or rarely win.
  3. I have them realize the value of peace of mind that comes from accepting people places and things for what they are. In most cases you cannot FIX people and have a minor influenced on other things/situations
  4. They are to carry a copy of the serenity prayer with them and when they become agitated with people or circumstances, they PAUSE and read/think about, the serenity prayer.

A good but simple example is traffic.

 Instead of tensing up and/or shouting, pause and read/think about the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can.

And the wisdom to know the difference

I have seen this work with many people, myself included.

Their state of calm and peace of mind is immediately apparent and rewarding to them, their coworkers, their family, and friends.

Of course, vastly improved results naturally follow from such freedom. .

Do everyone a HUGE favor, let go of the reins and let the world go around.

Note – This article was written by Howard Rambin, of the MoodyRambin Company. He is a Silver Fox Advisor and is available for consultation, advising, and mentoring.

POSITION PAPER ON NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Most non-profit organizations’ fundraising struggled in 2020 and 2021 as the Covid 19 economic shutdown forced in-person donor and financial supporter functions to be greatly limited in size and scope or even canceled. Some organizations moved to computer-generated fund-raising events but these events were not as successful in raising money as the more face-to-face get-togethers had been. In addition, many businesses struggled financially just to get their employees paid and their doors open, thus having monies for support to charitable organizations and causes was and is simply just not there.

Further, in Houston, Texas the oil bust of 2020 caused many large companies that operate in the energy sector to limit or completely do away with charitable contributions.

Even prior to these 2020 events there had been a “Trust Crisis” developing regarding non-profit organizations. Ben Gose, a contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, addressed this topic in an article he wrote that was published in the Chronicle’s January 7, 2020 newsletter. This article is very enlightening and worth reading.

fund raising

With all this being said, there were also several very emotional political causes being promoted in this time frame, and many corporations began making contributions to certain groups and causes to show their stakeholders and customers that they are good corporate citizens and are providing support to these groups and causes.

On the Foundation giving side of fundraising, the story was somewhat different in that the stock market provided many Foundations that support non-profit and charitable organizations, increases in their corpora, thus enabling them to have the funds available to make contributions; however, these Foundations are getting more requests than ever before.

Further, Foundations have refined their requirements and giving criteria such that the request process has gotten more detailed and lengthier with committees and/or staff having to evaluate requests more thoroughly and provide the Board with very specific recommendations. Most Foundations today require at a minimum that organizations seeking funding have audited financial statements, which is an added cost burden on these charitable and non-profit organizations. Most Foundations will also check with Guide Star/Candid(1) to see if the organization has filed all the necessary organizational documents, like financial statements and 990 Tax Returns with Guide Star/Candid.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION RECOMMENDATIONS

Richard Hendee/Horizon Associates, Inc. has been working with and assisting non-profit organizations for years. Further, Mr. Hendee has started several non-profits and has sat on numerous non-profit organization boards. He never agrees to serve on any non-profit board if that organization doesn’t have Director and Officers (D & O) Insurance coverage. In today’s litigious environment legal action of some kind is, unfortunately, a given. Even if the organization did everything right and by the book, if a suit is brought against the organization, typically the Directors and Officers are included in the suit, and the expense of hiring an attorney to defend being right can get really costly, an expense most individuals do not want to risk their personal assets for. Having D & O insurance coverage is a must for any non-profit.

Here are some other key recommendations:

  • Run the organization just like any for-profit business would be run. Eventhough the organization has been given non-profit status by the IRS for federal income tax purposes, it is still a business.
  • Develop a well-thought-out (not wordy) Mission and Vision Statement that clearly states the organization’s purpose and future direction.
  • Create an organizational chart that includes position titles and functional areas of responsibility.
  • Identify areas that need specific levels of expertise, like legal, accounting and human resources, and contract with outside service providers to assure all the details are done correctly from the start, like the Bylaws.
  • Set-up the organization with the Secretary of State in the State the organization is located in and make sure updates are filed periodically.
  • Prepare a thorough detailed Business Plan which includes what the organization does, for whom is does it, how it will do it, who are the management team and board members and what are their levels of experience, who are the competitors, how the organization will be marketing what it does, what the organization’s strategic plan is, and the key: how the organization will be funded and what happens if there are shortfalls in the funding.
  • Develop criterial governance policies like code of ethics, conflict of interest statement, whistleblower policy, directors’ roles and responsibilities, gift giving policy, investment policy, internal controls, and record retention policy.
  • Schedule monthly and annual Board Meeting dates and times and hold these meetings using a formal Roberts Rules of Order(2) process. Agendas need to be created prior to the meetings and sent out ahead of time with any related agenda item documents in order that directors may have an opportunity to review documents prior to the meeting. Further, meeting minutes should be taken at these meetings and approved at the next Board Meeting.
  • Create working Committees like Fundraising/Development, Audit, Finance, Nominating, Executive (if needed). Make sure these Committees meet regularly, take minutes, have specific assignments, and periodically report to the Board.
  • Create a Community Advisory Board made up of key visible community leaders, key business executives, and community group leaders who all can be called upon for fundraising assistance, opening doors that may need to be opened and/or providing invaluable information and support about the communities the organization may be servicing. Try to stay away from putting political officials on Advisory Boards.
  • Assure that the organization is properly protected by carrying General Liability Insurance, Hazard Insurance if the organization has a lot of fixed assets, Workers Comp. if the organization has employees, and event riders to these policies for fundraising events like Galas, Hunting Trips, Golf Outings, Trade Show Events, etc.
  • Create budgets and fundraising goals and regularly review and measure actual results.
  • If the organization has real estate, apply with all taxing authorities for a reduced property tax schedule.
  • Hold annual board retreats to develop annual plans and a five-year strategic plan. These plans should be evaluated and adjustments made periodically especially if a major event occurs.
  • Develop a robust communication plan to keep your sponsors, supporters, stakeholders, community groups, and volunteers updated on the organization, events, and developments.
  • Establish a volunteer group that can be available to help with projects, events, manpower shortage, and the like. These volunteers need to be informed and made to feel they are a part of the organization and a valuable resource.
  • Participate in local Better Business Bureau (BBB) non-profit evaluations. Often individual gift-givers check with the BBB to see if the organization has any complaints filed with the BBB.
  • Prepare collateral materials (3) that communicate your messages and what you want others to know about your organization. You want to make sure that your message is in your words to avoid any miscommunication or key details being left out in any communication chain.
  • Develop an annual giving campaign that is geared around some important date related to your organization, like the founding date. You could always use the end of the year date, as some contributors do tax-saving contributions at that time of the year.

Horizon Associates, Inc., founder by Silver Fox Advisor, Dick Hendee, has developed this non-profit organization position paper to provide non-profit organizations some guidance and assistance as individuals set up a non-profit organization and to provide existing non-profits some directional changes or planning ideas if needed Horizon Associates, Inc. does not guarantee using any of this material will result in your organization being able to achieve any specific results.

  • (1) GuideStar/Candid is an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies. In 2016, its database provided information on 2.5 million organizations. In February 2019, GuideStar merged with Foundation Center to become Candid.
  • (2) Robert’s Rules of Order is the basic handbook of operation for most clubs, organizations and other groups. So, it’s important that everyone know these basic rules! Organizations using parliamentary procedure usually follow a fixed order of business.
  • (3) Collateral material is any media material used to promote a company’s products or services. This includes everything from print materials like posters and flyers to digital content like catalogs and e-magazines. Anything you can use to communicate your company’s brand message is considered marketing collateral.
small business owners

Leaders: Setting a New Standard

Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.

As for me, I have chosen a noble task.

I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.

For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.

The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.

I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.

It’s Tradition

First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.

“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”

WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)

In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.

Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.

In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?

Nature or Nurture?

Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.

I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.

These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.

I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.

On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.

Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.

Back to Human Resources

I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”

While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.

The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.

Today’s Situation

Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.

Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:

Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.

In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”

Should You Be Surprised?

If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.

Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.

First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?

More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?

When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?

Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.

Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.

Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?

Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?

Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.

Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”

Communication is King

Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.

This is a line I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.

With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.

Finally, learn how to read the room.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.

The New Year

Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.

Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?

Case Study: The nybl Story

Every small growth company has a unique story to tell including lessons learned. 

The insights from their story and lessons learned help drive their company forward into the next phase of their journey.

For others who are orchestrating their own growth, these insights can be invaluable to help them in their journey.

Overall, my 4 Stage Growth Model for Small Companies provides a useful conceptual framework in assessing your current position and planning for your next stage.

My blog entitled Achieving the Take-Off Stage in Small Business describes moving from the Growth Stage to Take-Off with some mentoring advice.

It is particularly challenging to move into this Take-Off Stage. So, I felt hearing the story of one who has done it would be beneficial for those pursuing this leap.

One of my clients has been receptive in sharing his company’s story, and he has also become a mentor for young entrepreneurs.  

I want to introduce you to Noor Alnahhas.

Our relationship began in January 2017.  Noor was one of three principals in a software development company.  The other two principals were technically focused while Noor provided the business perspective.  He had graduated from the Wolff Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business.

Silver Fox Advisors CEO Roundtable

While the entity had been operating for a number of years, it had no definitive vision or substantive plans for the future which was quite concerning to Noor. 

I suggested that he join my CEO Roundtable where he could get insights on planning from other CEOs of small growing companies.

At the time, each member was utilizing the EOS (Entrepreneur Operating System) framework to explain to other roundtable members their future plans. Noor found the EOS framework from Gino Wickman’s book TRACTION Get A Grip on Your Business most helpful in pulling together his thoughts for the business.

 It also became clear that the leadership structure of the company was not going to get them where they needed to go.

Silver Fox Advisors Fox Den

As the plans took shape, my suggestion was for him to participate in a Fox Den where the Silver Fox Advisors provide a review of the business plan and challenges. 

Generally, there are four advisors with a moderator to coordinate the session.  The plans and issues are provided in advance, so the session provides focused advice.

Noor felt this was extremely helpful because the advisors did not have a built-in bias as do personal friends, investors, and so forth.  They were frank and straight forward in their commentary and assessments. Just what he wanted and needed.

Advisor Role

I have been an advisor and mentor to Noor for some five years now.

Two main aspects of our discussions have been strategy and leadership.  One of my reasons for developing the 4 Stage Growth Model for small companies was to provide a framework for clients like Noor.  It has been an integral part of their planning.

Similarly, the Leadership Personal Profile has been a tool to help leaders understand themselves better and where they need to develop further.  Noor has been a champion of the profile. 

Here are some insights into his profile that will help you understand the nybl story.

Part of Noor’s personal vision is to build companies, chase opportunities, and work with people he enjoys being around. 

One of his key values is finding the positive as he believes negativity achieves nothing.

His perspective on life is there is no such thing as luck, just opportunity meeting preparedness.  If you fall three times, you just have to get up 4 times so that every failure is a step toward success.

His character statement starts with “I am a fun, friendly, and honest person who will do whatever it takes to deliver on my commitments/promises. 

He recognizes that he needs to think more before acting and listen more than talking.

As you can see, Noor is a high achiever.  He strategically looks for the solution in every challenge pondering new and out of the box ideas if that solves the challenge. His leadership brand is chief of dreaming stuff up.

 Over this period, Noor has relocated to the Middle East and has now become the CEO of the reformulated company named nybl.  Here is the nybl story in Noor’s own words.

Noor Telling nybl Story


“Nybl, its structure, strategy and subsequent success are all the result of the lessons learned over many years of doing the wrong thing. But these lessons came much later than the events that brought them about, and I only learned these lessons when I got external, unbiased feedback, mentoring and support – which came from the CEO Roundtable, Mentoring from Lane, and the Fox Den feedback.

The difficulty with achieving moderate success is the complacency it can lead to. The previous enterprise I was a member of had fallen into the moderate success complacency rut. While I was not satisfied, some of my partners were and this was a significant concern for me. This lack of satisfaction drove me to find a source of advice, mentoring and help to get out of the rut, and achieve my personal goals and ambitions.

During my undergraduate studies at the University of Houston, I had the privilege to work with Ralph D’Onofrio, a member of the Silver Fox Advisors, in mentor roundtables setup as part of the Entrepreneurship program in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. I remembered the valuable lessons I learned from Ralph (which I still use today). I set out searching for a way to find a similar source of help. After finding several very expensive roundtable and communities – I went back to the original source at the Silver Foxes and discovered the CEO roundtables. It was exactly what I was looking for, and best of all, it was free. I sent in my application, and after a few interviews I was placed into a group led by Lane Sloan.

The roundtable had a group of CEOs from diverse industries and business types, but it was quickly clear that we all faced similar challenges. I learned from everyone’s experiences and challenges. I shared my challenges, thoughts and ideas and I got incredible feedback, suggestions, advice, and thoughts shared from the CEOs in my roundtable. While the CEO Roundtable provided an immense value, I realized that I needed more one-on-one mentorship. This is where journey with Lane begins.

Lane’s approach on mentoring me was strategic in and of itself. First, we identified my personal strengths and weaknesses, which helped us both understand where I was and what I needed to do to improve. He then helped me map out my personal purpose so we could both understand my personal drivers and motivators. From there we worked together to define where the company was currently in the 4-stage growth model, and where we wanted to go. And finally, he combined all of these to develop a complete strategy. Short term, long term, personal and business. It’s been an incredible adventure. I learned things about myself I never knew. But most importantly this entire process was the jet fuel to our nybl Rocketship.

I’ll go into the values and importance of each of the steps Lane took, but I must point out the most important one of all: being a guiding north star. Building a sustainable, profitable and scalable business is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s stressful, all-consuming, and at times downright demotivating. It takes a ridiculous level of commitment and belief in your concept to battle through all of that. The problem is sometimes, you might just have a bad idea. This is what I believe is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur: you must believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that the impossible task you are setting out to accomplish is achievable even when no one also has been able to achieve it. So, at what point do you give up if it’s not working? Or, how do you know to continue your perseverance at the most difficult times? How do you know if your idea is actually a good one? You need someone like Lane. A trustworthy, experienced, mentor, advisor, friend to tell you, without any agenda or bias, if your idea sucks and it’s time to throw in the towel or if what you have is really something and you should keep fighting for.

People will be happy to share their opinions. Why “you’re crazy” and “you should just get a job” because that’s the only world they know. Or, how it’s irresponsible to “put all your eggs in one basket”. Your true friends and family may be supportive even when they shouldn’t be because they believe that’s how they should help, by being your support system. With Lane as my mentor, I didn’t worry about intent, agenda or bias. When I was doing something wrong, he would point it out. When I chased shiny objects that were diverting my attention from the vision, he told me to focus. When things were going great, he cheered me on. But, most important of all: when it was difficult, stressful, and reaching a point where I could easily give up, he would explain where he saw opportunity. He didn’t tell me what to do, or why to do it. He allowed me to peer through his lenses, see my journey from his perspective and realize, that if what I was doing didn’t make sense, he would have told me. That is the most valuable insight I got from Lane. It allowed me to hustle and work harder. To believe, even when everything seemed impossible, and to get through the most difficult times. Throughout the rest of this article you will come to see the incredible mentorship, advice, and value Lane’s coaching provided, but there is no doubt that being a guiding north star is one of the greatest values of all . So, find your Lane Sloan. It will change your life.

Our adventure began with identifying my strengths and weaknesses as an individual, and as a leader in my organization. The interesting part was the reasoning behind this exercise. Contrary to the usual approach, it was not to “work on my weaknesses”. Lane had a great approach: if you improve your weaknesses, and don’t build on your strengths, you end up being average. Instead, focus on your strengths to turn them into superpowers and compliment your weaknesses with those who have them as strengths. That creates 2 superstars instead of one average individual. Based on the outcome of my Strengthsfinder test, we devised a plan on how to augment my weaknesses using my team and build on my strengths. This was the first step, and it allowed us both to know where I should and should not spend my time. This exercise also taught me one of the most valuable lessons – when and what to delegate to my colleagues, who were better than me at their strengths, my weaknesses.

The second step of the process was my personal purpose. This was life changing for me. Prior to defining my personal purpose, I constantly faced internal battles of work / life balance and making decisions related to the mix of business and personal. As an entrepreneur, that line is very blurry. But, after being brutally honest with Lane and myself during the Personal Purpose exercise, everything became crystal clear. I had, without even knowing, created a prioritization hierarchy for everything in my life by simply defining what I wanted to achieve – my personal purpose – in all aspects of my life. Now, this may sound daunting, but the exercise is very well thought out and takes approximately 2 hours with a great coach taking you through it. These 2 hours were the best I ever invested in myself. Understanding my personal purpose also created goals, targets, and milestones for my personal life. I always had a business plan, timelines and milestones for work, but never applied the same level of thought and planning into my personal life. Defining personal purpose makes every decision, whether personal or business, a simple decision. It either fits and delivers on your personal purpose or doesn’t. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!  

Once we had defined my own strengths and weaknesses, and my personal purposes we now moved on to the business.

The process for the business was similar. We began with an audit like approach – defining where the business sat in the 4-stage growth model. If you’re not familiar with it, the 4 Stage Growth Model, as it is defined by Lane, categorizes businesses based on their growth stages, and helps in building a strategy to move from one stage to the next. It is important to identify where you stand, in order to identify where your focus needs to be now, and where it should be in the future. The Four stages are Development, Growth, Take-off and Expansion. Through this analysis we identified that nybl was at a critical point: moving out of the growth stage, and into the take-off stage. But, we were still acting like a company in the growth stage. Our organization was not ready for take-off. We did not have the proper processes, systems, organizational strategy, and internal leadership that take-off requires. As a leader, I had to take responsibility for the position we were in. Most of it stemmed from my lack of developing my internal team into leaders of their own. This is, by far, the most important quality of a leader – to build their team into independent leaders capable of carrying the mission and vision forward on their own with guidance.

“if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”

  • Lewis Carroll

Before working on our short-term strategy, we first mapped out the long-term strategy. Once that was complete, we knew where we were going, and could devise the short-term strategies that would take us from one milestone to the next – our path to success.

This began in January of 2020. The original 7, as I like to call us (the 6 co-founders and our founding investor) sat down for 5 days to decide where we wanted to go. We emerged with a vision. A company built to transform data into intelligence, and a long-term strategy to be a camel, not a unicorn. A sustainable, profitable company that will be much, much larger than a unicorn, and not mythical! To become the largest technology innovator in the Middle East generating human, technological, and economical value in the Middle East and exporting them to the rest of the world. That was our plan for nybl.

Now it was time to get to work.

Now that we had this Big Hairy Audacious Goal in mind, we set out to map the path to get us there, one milestone at a time. The first milestone was to prepare our company for the take-off that was we were on the verge of. This was a gargantuan task in and of itself. It meant hours of discussions, planning, strategizing, re-planning, re-strategizing and more discussions. We worked on everything, beginning with the organization. We mapped out the current team, their strengths, and weaknesses and where they could become superstars of their own. We identified the gaps, and weaknesses that no one had strengths to fill, and set out a plan on how to build a world changing organization.

Every hour of conversation with Lane turned into tens of hours of work with the team. Lane and I met on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week when the progress permitted. The company began to take on a life of its own. Mind you, this process began during COVID, right when we all got locked down. At a time when we had no clue how we were going to even make payroll at the end of the month. But, having a clear vision of where we were going and what we wanted to achieve gave us the energy and motivation to power through the most difficult times. It enabled us to take one rejection after another from investors (we were not ready for them at the time). We took every rejection as a learning opportunity: how could we have done better? Where did our messaging fail? What did we do wrong? How can we improve in the next round? We learned. We improved. Most importantly, we continued to build the foundations for expansion.

We emerged from lockdown with an incredible plan. One that paved the way to the company we are today. In the past 12 months, we’ve grown from an 8 person “start-up” to a truly global scale-up with 40+ people all over the world working with more cohesion than organizations running for years. This was not luck. It was preparedness meeting opportunity. It was the hard work put in to focus on the foundations to enable sustainable growth. Most importantly it was thanks to the invaluable coaching from Lane Sloan, the support from our initial investors and my incredible co-founders. We owe everything to this group of people. An incredible handful of people who believed in our vision and supported us every step of the way. Shriprakash, Ayman, Rawan, Rashad, Mohammed, Essam, Saleh, Karim, my Father Nasser Alnahhas and of course Hugo. Of course, my co-founders and the entire nybl team – thank you all!

Our Growth stage organization had become a take-off organization. Individual members were now leaders. Each with their own path, milestones, and responsibilities as part of the rocket ship we called nybl, barreling through space. As the saying goes, we were here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and we were all out of bubble gum J 

2021 was our transformational year. We began the year with a major theme: getting our house in order. This meant organizational, structural, legal, financial, and most important of all, people. All part of the 4-stage growth model, to be ready for expansion.

We began this transformation with our people culture. It is my belief that every single company in the world is a people company. Regardless of the product or service a company delivers, it is the people of that company that manufacture the product or deliver the service. Together with our newly appointed Chief People Officer (Reem Osman, our savior) we built an organization destined for success. We made it our goal to be the best place in the world to work. If our people loved working at nybl, their output would be stupendous. And it is! 

We brought on a CFO (Shoutout to Hans and Kristian from Finstrat Management). Through their fractional accounting & finance service we built a financial structure fit for multinationals. We had solid financial metrics, we planned, we budgeted, we forecasted, we analyzed and repeated. Over, and over until we had it right.

We built our team out with the structure for expansion, and a focus on culture. Software developers, data scientists, industry experts, product champions. This focus on our people enabled us to develop world changing technology, and this technology yielded incredible products. These products brought business and as a result we signed multiple long-term, global contracts during 2021 to set the stage to move nybl from take-off to expansion in one year. And what an incredible year it has been.

We entered 2021 with 14 people. As I write this today, we enter 2022 40 strong and growing. Our biggest competitors are now our partners, and our journey is just beginning. 2022 marks the year we shift from take-off to expansion.

 And we’re not going to just expand, we’re going to explode. We explode with an arsenal of tools including our culture, technology, strategy, and a vision and a mission. Lane and I continue our sessions on a regular basis. Each time, analyzing our strategy, making pivots and adjustments where necessary, and working on each step towards our giant goal.

Our milestone for the year is to become a Billion-dollar company (yes, with a B). Not through valuation from investors, but by sheer volume of business, technology, and innovation. It is our first critical milestone in our journey to becoming a camel. It’s an incredibly challenging milestone. One that is exciting, motivating, and fun! So much fun, I sometimes forget it’s work.

Peter Drucker says “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I’d like to add my own twist to his quote: great culture combined with great strategy eats whatever it wants. That is the essence, the secret sauce to nybl. Incredible culture, with incredible strategy. I wish I could say we thought of that all on our own. But we owe our success to our team, our investors and to every person and organization that supported us along the way.

To The Dubai Future Foundation, and The Dubai Future Accelerators: Thank you for believing in a handful of people with nothing more than a vision.

To Smart Dubai Government, Dubai Health Authority and ADNOC: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to prove ourselves when no one else would give us the time of day.

To our investors and board of advisors: Without your unwavering support we could not have survived the difficult times. Thank you for your belief in a vision and mission greater than all of us.

To the nybl team: Without each and every one of you Rockstars, none of this would be possible.

To the original 7, my ride or die co-founders: This is the result of your dedication and belief. Our Journey is just beginning, and the dream is becoming a reality.

To my Mother, My Father, my Wife, and my beautiful Daughters: I love you. Thank you for the support and for being my light during the darkest of days.

And of course, to Lane Sloan: Thank you for taking on a scrappy entrepreneur who wouldn’t give up and imparting the most valuable of your assets: your time, and your knowledge. You are a gift, a treasure.” 

My Remarks

When I asked Noor to write the nybl story, I was interested to see what he would say.  This is not really a typical case analysis with detailed financials and particular steps along the way.  It is all about his learning and feelings that led nybl to fulfilling the Take-off Stage.

You feel the energy and passion that Noor has in the business.  It for sure has been a challenge.  Today, as Noor said he does not see this as a job or work rather instead an exhilarating fun experience that he looks forward to every day.

Results make a difference: the huge revenue growth, investors coming to him, unsolicited people wanting to join the company, next generation culture, inspired employees, an incredible hiring system, leaders emerging at every level, an adaptive growing organization, a well-structured financial system, linked operational processes, reputation growing faster than marketing and so on.  All this contained in the strategy and forward plans. The key elements in taking off.

Noor’s incredibly lofty goal of becoming a billion-dollar company may appear unrealistic to you, but Noor believes it.  He has done the research on similar companies in the artificial intelligence space and their position. Reaching take off requires lofty goals so I am careful not to dampen his enthusiasm.  He is willing to put the aspiration in print!

Finally, you may feel Noor is taking an early victory lap by thanking everyone who has been a part of nybl reaching Take-off.  This is only one stage in the nybl journey ahead.  Yet, it is crucial one.  For Noor, the present position is a relief in many respects seeing the company take off and his thanks to the many contributors is genuine.  He has been overly kind to me.

Throughout this blog, you should get a reasonable picture of Noor.  Foremost, he is an incredible learner and listener.  Second, Noor does not accept defeat.  His leadership growth has been extremely fun to watch.  And I believe leadership is the key to achieving the Take-off Stage.

The Keys to Becoming a Great Leader

Now everybody knows something about leadership. 

But when I taught strategic leadership courses to MBA students at the University of Houston, in the beginning my first question to the students was “who wanted to be a leader and a great one at that?”

There was always this look of bewilderment on their faces not knowing how to answer. 

Leadership can be puzzling and seems like a lofty aspiration as many times leaders are put on a pedestal.

 Leadership does make a significant difference in the performance of an organization.

Jim Collins demonstrated that in his well-researched book Good to Great as have a boatload of others. 

Normally, when people begin to talk about leadership, they start rattling off all these characteristics.

Well, I am not going to tell you that these are the top ten characteristics of being a great leader as many articles do. 

But in my opinion that is coming from the wrong starting place.

If you begin with characteristics and try to figure out who is great, you enter into a mindset of rating one leader against another based on the characteristics they possess.

The focus is all on the leader trying to find that special one. It’s grading on the curve.  You are better than that guy, but this other bloke is better than you.

 When the conversation begins with the leader and their characteristics, it leaves out the other half of the equation.

What is really fundamental about leadership is that there are followers. There is no leadership without followers. 

You can be a great solo performer, but that is not leadership which requires more than one person. 

Think of the Other Person First

But why do people follow? 

They follow you because their needs are being fulfilled in some meaningful way.

In effect, the leader must provide a value proposition that fulfills follower’s needs as discussed in my other leadership blogs. 

This is the first key to becoming a great leader, you must start with the needs of the follower by developing a value proposition that motivates them to follow you.

That is what a company does with customers.  It provides a value proposition that cause people to buy. 

You must have a value proposition that potential followers can buy into.

What about the natural born leader? Don’t people just want to follow them naturally regardless.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You shouldn’t rely on whether you got that special leadership gene. 

In fact, most serious leadership authors advocate that leadership can be learned and dismiss this great man theory from days of yore.

Develop the We Mindset

Unfortunately, we grow up being graded solely on ourselves.  It begins in grade school right on through to high school, and then on to college.  It is all about me.

When I worked for Shell, there was a lot of emphasis on the qualities the leader possessed.

I always felt under the microscope to be this superhuman leader with all these wonderful characteristics. 

I knew an awful lot about leadership theories, but it wasn’t until my later years in senior management that the second key came to light. 

A lot of my conversation had too much I.

To be a great leader you must shift your mindset from me to “we”, which is the second key to becoming a great leader.

That requires going out talking to people finding out what really drives them.

Thinking in a “we” mindset opens them up to describing their needs.  People truly love to talk about themselves.

Leadership and Planning Go Together

Leadership is not a random hit or miss process.

How do you figure out a value proposition that motivates people to follow you? This requires planning. 

What big thing have you ever accomplished without a plan?  Planning sets direction. 

Thus, the third key to leadership is planning and setting a motivating direction.

Execution is the Fourth Key

Planning by itself is not enough, even though it does set the stage. 

The plan must be executed achieving the desired results.

People follow successful performance. 

Thus, the way to measure a great leader is to look at the absolute results. 

Thus, the fourth key to becoming a great leader is to focus on results.

That is the mindset shift that makes all the difference. 

Look at the results, but what results are we talking about?

A leader has various stakeholders with different needs as set out in the first key.

Targeting these needs means forming value propositions for each key stakeholder, and since every leader has multiple stakeholders, that means multiple value propositions. 

Great results come from satisfying these different value propositions that cause your stakeholders to follow you. 

Moreover, if you judge leadership on the basis of absolute results, it’s absolutely possible for everyone to become a great leader.  

Leadership Maturity develops a Situational Style

People have different needs; situations require different leadership, and things change over time. 

There is no cookie cutter approach to being a great leader.

Thus, the fifth key is to recognize that leadership is situational depending on the world you and your followers face.

Look to Other’s Strengths

Next, you win by utilizing yours and other’s strengths.

That is what companies do with their value propositions.  They capitalize on their strengths. 

 Great leadership is all about building a winning team, where people step up with their greatest strengths.  That is the sixth key.

You build a gameplan that leverages and synergizes on these strengths.

Develop Specific Actions

Many plans fail for lack of execution as set out in the Fourth Key.

The plans must have executable components with specific actions and be constantly reviewed and revised as results dictate. 

Leadership is not about how many initiatives you can create.  It’s about how well did you deliver on your value propositions by taking well defined actions. 

Thus, the seventh key to leadership is delivering on your value propositions with specific targeted actions.  

That creates authenticity.  Doing what you say you are going to do.

Those are my seven keys to becoming a great leader.

Develop your Leadership Plan

This is a prelude to My book Develop a Leadership Plan Become a Great Leader that recognizes that your personal planning is the key catalyst for greatness.

Typically planning is done from the business perspective, at the corporate or business unit levels on what the company is going to do.

The leader needs to figure out how to integrate into these business plans with his or her leadership actions. 

Some of the leader’s value propositions to key stakeholders will be integral in the business plans. 

Other elements require the leader to formulate more specifically a leadership plan to fulfill those people’s value propositions.

In developing these leadership plans, the focus can then turn to what strengths the leader needs to develop and what fatal flaws to correct. 

That requires the leader to fully assess his/her inner profile. 

What is your leadership style?  What are your proficiencies, things you are really good at?  What are your values, beliefs, and character?  And fundamentally, what is your purpose in life? What legacy do you want to leave?

Weaving together the “outer” world of a leader’s work environment with their “inner” world of character, style, strength, and purpose s brings a practical focus to leadership development efforts.

The leader can then reflect on those aspects of the inner self that more directly impact the outer world and pursue improvement in the areas that will make a significant performance difference, and much sooner.

In doing this, the chances of becoming a great leader go up significantly because there is a targeted focus on your actions and behaviors that will make a real difference in achieving great results.

That is the whole concept that led to my book Develop a Leadership Plan Become a Great Leader. 

The quest for great results doesn’t end with one great achievement.   

It’s not one and done; it’s a marathon. 

People will follow the leader who consistently produces great results that benefit them.  And when these great results occur, that is a great leader in my book.

UPCOMING EVENTS
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