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Dear Entrepreneur,You Have One Role: To Lead

Want to grow your business? Then you need to focus on becoming more than a great entrepreneur. You need to become a great leader.

Vusi Thembekwayo

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Ever heard the expression: Teams build business not people? Well this statement is true, but it’s not the whole truth.

The whole truth is that teams build businesses, and leaders build people. So if you want to build a business, then build a formidable team. And if you want to build a formidable team, be a formidable leader.

Over the past two years I have been working hard on re-engineering my business. I have pulled my team out of non-core businesses, re-set the business strategy to focus on work we are passionate about, elevated the goals of the team to focus on doing globally significant work and aligned the team members of the business with the values of the organisation.

The trouble with this kind of hard slog, though, is that it is behind the scenes and not sexy at all. It lacks the appeal of the customer-facing actions that we instinctively want to focus on when we build a business. It’s not about fancy presentations and innovation workshops. It’s about getting the basics right.

Related: Business & Leadership Lessons from Kumaran of Spartan

Look at the following questions with your team:

  • Are we headed in the right direction?
  • Do we all know what we must do to get there?
  • Do we know why it matters?
  • Will this leave us more fulfilled?

Much of this thinking is about the very basis of the business you are building as an entrepreneur.

So what are the hallmarks of leaders that build great teams? I have been studying this for some time now in a quest to make myself a better leader. My research has revealed to me that there are three characteristics of effective leaders.

1They are humble in the face of knowledge

Effective leaders know and are comfortable in the knowledge that they do not know everything. This may sound trivial, but in the modern day where many business leaders are seen as messiahs, there is a tendency by followers to abdicate their responsibility of free-thinking to the leader.

The rate at which the world is generating new knowledge far supersedes the rate at which the human brain can absorb new knowledge. So even if you spent your entire life studying everything there was to know about your industry and subject matter, you would never come to a point where you know everything.

2They are stubborn

Stubborn-attribute

Part of the journey of entrepreneurship is accepting the hard fact that things often don’t go your way. In fact, I would argue that we lose more than we win. It’s just that our quantum of wins is greater than our quantum of losses. So we take small bets that often don’t pay off but when they do pay-off, it’s big.

Leaders understand that ‘things not going your way’ is part of the chant of entrepreneurs. So we have to learn to be resilient and resolute in our pursuit of our goals. You have to be stubborn in the face of possible defeat.

Related: 5 Steps To Building Thought Leadership Through Social Media

3They have a clear elevating goal

People and teams are galvanised around a clear elevating goal. Not just any goal. It must be clear so that the team is clear on what the eventual goal is. It must also elevate them beyond their current reality. It must draw the team toward aspiring towards something. It must pull them toward it with the gravitational force of a black hole.

Most entrepreneurs get caught in the everyday trap of sameness — so much that they forget to lead. And leadership is everything.

Do this

Get your team-building basics right, focus on leadership, and inspire others to follow you, and the success of your business will be a given.

Mr. Vusi Thembekwayo has been an Independent Non-Executive Director of at RBA Holdings Ltd. since May 14, 2013. Mr. Thembekwayo has already collected numerous accolades and awards as businessperson, entrepreneur and international public speaker. Mr. Thembekwayo completed a PDBA and a course on advanced valuation techniques with the Gordon Institute of Business Science and completed a Management Acceleration Programme (Cum Laude) with the Wits Business School. His speaking achievements include the international hit talk “The Black Sheep” which he delivered to the Top 40 CEOs in Southern Africa, addressing the Australian Houses of Parliament and speaking at the British House of Commons. To add to this, Vusi speaks in 4 of the 7 continents over 350 000 people each year.

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Leading

3 Tips For Succeeding After You Fail

Failure is pretty much inevitable. What comes afterward is a choice.

Tor Constantino

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If you’re an entrepreneur, you will fail. It might not be a complete meltdown, but you will experience a failure of some aspect of your venture at some point.

My first business failure occurred during my mid-20s. I tried to launch a product I invented, which was a durable, pocket-size strap that carried different kinds of recreational sports gear.

After determining the market need and securing piece-work manufacturing, as well as retail packaging complete with trademarked logo, I had several thousand units in hand.

Distribution was, ultimately, the one trick I couldn’t turn and ended in failure. I tried everything I could think of. I engaged several independent and sporting goods retail chains that weren’t interested in the hassle of adding a single-product vendor to their ops management systems.

I offered to give hundreds of units away to dozens of specialty ski, skateboard and inline skating shops on consignment to “seed the market” but was rejected. They all said my product undercut higher-margin competing products.

I tried to contract with different retail brokers to add my product to their sell-in portfolios, but was rejected three times due to the low-price point for my product and limited margin potential.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

The greatest success I had was when I broke even for a catalog ad I purchased in a Sharper Image-type printed publication.

Mind you, this was all pre-Google, Amazon, PayPal or eBay when ecommerce was still finding its way on the Interwebs. However, my lack of offline success drove me to have a developer build my own ecommerce website (at great expense at the time) with an incredibly clunky, pricey payment system managed by Visa.

Sad to say, I shuttered the website after six months due to lack of sales and lack of traffic caused by the overall lack of consumer confidence in the whole “internet spending thing” at the time. During the three-year span of this odyssey from my initial concept to collapse, I had spent countless hours and in excess of $40,000 trying to convert my vision into a viable venture.

As a 20-something kid, I felt like a complete failure. I was afraid to ever try again, but eventually I did – several times – and had success. Fast forward 20 years and here’s what I would share with the failed entrepreneur I was back then.

Failure is painful but not fatal

Failure is not final, fatal nor forever. I had a great mentor who completely re-framed my thinking regarding failure when he told me:

“If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

That phrase has been a touchstone through tough times during my subsequent entrepreneurial endeavours.

Related: Why, When You Fail, You Should ‘Fail Forward’

Fail faster

Back then I thought I had to exhaust all my distribution options, which took a significant amount of time and resources, because I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and say “what if?”

In retrospect, I’m glad I did it then but there are signs I should have seen sooner. For instance, the first retail broker who rejected my product was very clear that my effort to keep the retail price under $10 for the consumer did not make it worth his while to sell it.

I should have bundled it with another product or enhanced it in some way to boost it to a higher price point, but I naively thought he was just being porky before two other potential brokers I engaged had schooled me on the economics of their services.

Looking back now, I could have compressed my failure cycle by at least 50 percent if I had been more teachable then.

Find insights from failure

At the time, $40K was all the money in the world and (thanks to scholarships I had earned) was eight times more than my total college student loans. But, I learned a lot about intellectual property, financing, materials sourcing, vendor research and selection, production timelines, operations management, sales and marketing as well as ecommerce. I came to view that lost $40K as a masterclass in real-world business. Most importantly, I learned what I didn’t know and that propelled me to pursue my M.B.A.. degree, which my then-employer paid for.

In hindsight, I perceive this greatest failure has been my greatest success because I earned it and learned from it. No one is immune to failing, but we must understand that it is not an ending but rather a beginning – if we choose so.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Leading

4 Tips To Become A Team Whisperer (And Improve Your Employee Engagement)

Engaged employees are motivated, innovative and willing to take on more responsibility.

Pieter Scholtz

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Your team needs to be nurtured on an ongoing basis if you want to attract and retain the best employees. You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. But you can’t make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team; as long as they do what they are paid to do then the state of their mental health is seen as superfluous.

This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent pieces that demonstrate the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In particular, they list several additional things that engaged employees bring to the table: Motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?

That level of motivation contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go beyond what their job description requires, and if there is a chance for them to duck out of work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond what is required of them.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

A great company cannot exist without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mould them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees to be engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.

1. Be a team, not a dictatorship

Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second reminding your employees who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though you are in tune with everything that is going on. Some managers come off as though they are giving mandates from heaven, or worse, they rattle off long lists of orders because they don’t want to do the work themselves.

If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.

2. Give them a chance to shine

It’s true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mould will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day.

Related: Effective leadership – Serving Your Team To Serve Your Clients

These restless employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.

If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person who will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.

3. Don’t take them for granted — show your gratitude

This goes beyond a simple “thank you,” although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognised or rewarded, they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.

As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.

Related: Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

4. Share the bigger picture with them

A really important element of keeping your team engaged is to share the bigger picture with them. This involves amongst others:

  • Constantly communicate the Vision and Mission of your business to your team. If your team can buy into why the business was started, where it is headed and why you exist as a business, they will be able to be as passionate as you are.
  • Provide a monthly update on how the business is tracking against its plan and this will empower them to focus on the areas that matter most to the business at that time. This includes sharing financials with the team — here one needs to take into account any legislation that might be applicable — but the more you share, the more you show your team that they are trusted with the information as well as being able to make better decisions that affect the business.
  • Keeping your team engaged, excited and energised is a pre-requisite to developing a high performing team that is able to take the business to the next level. It takes a team of dedicated people to build a successful business. Without this team, your ability to expand at the rate you had planned to will be severely hampered.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Become a leader that inspires greatness

multipliers-how-the-best-leaders-make-everyone-smarter-by-liz-wisemanREAD THIS: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, By Liz Wiseman.

Multipliers is profound. It’s been lifechanging for me and everyone that works with me. Leadership is not about having the best answers. You need to ask the best questions, and what happens is that you are turning people into productive engines. Micro-managing stops people from thinking for themselves as they wait for answers from you. The principle is that micro-management on that level means you are paying people 100% salary for 50% productivity. The multipliers effect allows you to pay 100% salary for 200% productivity.” — Robin Olivier, co-founder and MD of Digicape, a R240-million business based in Cape Town. Go to multipliersbooks.com for additional tips, tricks and surveys.

 


WATCH THIS

Radical Candor means challenging employees directly and showing you care personally at the same time. It will help you and your team do the best work of your lives.

Developed by Kim Scott — who led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar — Radical Candor is all about becoming a leader who is both respected and followed, without being falsely ‘nice’.

There are two great YouTube videos that will give you her tips and lessons in under 20 minutes:

And if you’re interested in really unpacking the lessons behind radical candor, read the book: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

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Leading

5 Signs A Business Is Being Poorly Managed

Are you considering investing in a new company? Evaluate its leadership with these five factors first.

Phil Town

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Ideally, every business’s success would be so simple that anyone could run it – even an untalented person. Unfortunately, though, many businesses cannot withstand the leadership of an unqualified or untalented person, and, if a business is lucky enough to achieve longevity, odds are that someone unqualified or untalented will run it eventually.

But, how can you, as an investor, identify when a business is being run by one of those untalented people? More importantly, how can you spot when a business is being run by an untrustworthy person?

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Phil Town breaks down five signs of bad leadership you need to consider before investing in a new company.

Click play to learn more.

Related: How To Help Your Team Shift Their Mindset To Embracing Technology For Business Management

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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