Two Simple Strategies for Better Leadership

Two Simple Strategies for Better Leadership

In a recent Strategy+Business article, adapted from his book, 63 Innovation Nuggets, Professor George Barbee shares two simple leadership concepts. First, he teaches to “pilot simultaneously at 30,000 feet and at ground level.” The best leaders can see the big picture but are also aware of the facts and details on the ground. I’ve done both separately and they will destroy trust and accountability in your employees. Doing both together has produced big growth in our businesses.

Barbee shares examples from his time consulting with Price Waterhouse and their clients like GE, Pepsi and Gillette. Although your small business looks very different from large international conglomerates, how people prefer to get things done and the leadership principles that will help your team succeed are very similar across companies of all sizes. For example, don’t lose sight of the big picture in how you hire and train new employees. If you get bogged down in the detail and insist on doing every interview yourself, you’ll hire a bunch of people just like you. Yet, if you lose sight of the facts on the ground and live your entire leadership life at the 30,000 foot view, you’ll wake up one day with an office that hardly resembles the company you set out to build years ago. Operate at both levels simultaneously.

Second, Barbee advocates outsourcing as much as you can. I wholeheartedly agree. When our practices used to send every birthday card, make every newsletter and ship every gift when patients got their braces off, we had created a 24 hour per day freight train that we couldn’t stop. Today, we focus only on the things that are the most critical to our competitive advantage. Everything else we outsource. In other words, as a service-focused business, if it doesn’t give us more time to spend with the patients, referring colleagues or employees, moving us all closer to our goals through direct interaction with our highest contributions, we let someone else do the job. You can be the most determined leader in the world, but be flexible in how you get your results. At the end of the day, as long as your key metrics improve and the consumer is receiving tremendous value while the company also meets its objectives, who cares if something was done in-house or outsourced? Sometimes, you’ll find a vendor for outsourcing right under your nose. We’ve had key employees who have started their own companies and taken over areas that we used to do in-house, like real estate facilities management, event management, direct mail fulfillment, etc.

As with any leadership advice, remember, this is an area that almost always excites small business owners. We love talking about leadership. None of us like management and oversight. So, as many things as you read and try to implement, be sure you don’t forget the area of leadership that no one likes as much: compliance and enforcement of the rules. Being a good leader doesn’t mean you allow yourself to get walked all over and you certainly can’t allow your projects to be slow-walked to death. Surround yourself with great people. If you need help with hiring the best talent in your area, get to one of our live seminars at Burleson Seminars and see how the most-profitable companies hire, train, motivate and manage their employees.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.