Some Very Specific, General Information

Battlefield mentality + your business = phenomenal success.

“Heath,” I hear you thinking, “Have you gone off your nut?”

Nope! Here’s what I mean:

In the military, they have a chain of command. Why? The simple answer is that very rarely will two people agree on much. So someone must be in charge, and be the decision maker for the group. Now, if they’re good at it, they can convince an entire platoon that they’re all super heroes and can walk through all that flying shrapnel coming at them with success.

If, on the other hand, they’re not so good at it, they end up with all those folks depending on them being killed or, worse, a group of under-confident individuals who might ‘accidentally’ shoot them.

I’m exaggerating, to some degree, but here’s where I’m going with this: When you began your business, you more than likely also became the General. You might not realize that that’s the role you’re playing, but it’s true. Have you considered this before?

If not, then do it RIGHT NOW. Being the General means making good decisions, being a leader who is looked up to, and a leader who’s army will follow them through Hell and back. Your army are your staff, and if that description doesn’t sound like them, then you’re doing it wrong.

I’ll make an example of myself, not to self aggrandize, but to give you an idea of the responsibility and power that I am called upon to wield successfully (with consequences should I not meet certain benchmarks or criteria) each and every day, and how I do it successfully. At my day job, I am an Operations Manager for a machine shop. The company employs 30 individuals, male and female, ranging in age from nineteen to sixty-five. I am responsible for running the business, with the exception of terminal discipline, hiring, and firing, unless the owner is away (which he often is.) How does he rate my performance? During each annual employee review, he inquires about my specific performance in interacting with the employee. During >MY< review, he outlines shortcomings, and strengths – and I never get to know who said what. This makes me a better manager.

I have been in this position for nigh on fifteen years and, when I began, I wielded no respect on the floor. Truth be told, I was a lousy manager. But, I was a lousy manager who wanted to better himself. So I learned, I read, I watched, and I walked softly. Over the years, I have earned the respect of the vast majority of my employees and, every day, I am forced to earn it all over, lest I lose it. To earn that respect, I had to be a good General. I had to listen to the troop’s ideas, comments, complaints, and thoughts. Then, I had to act in the best interests of the company. My decisions, therefore, could make or break the company in subtle ways – or profound ones – at any given moment.

I could blow up on an employee, and be a jerk to him or her, or I could take them aside, listen to their grievances, offer suggestions, or fix the problems. I could make poor decisions without a second thought, or I could walk the employee through my thought process, ask for their thoughts on the matter, and show them that the decision I reached was well reasoned – and often reliant upon their specific expertise. I could talk behind the backs of my employees (and one, I do, to be honest – but I shouldn’t) or I could build them up to others. I could offer them sincere credit for their contributions, or I could claim them for my own.

It was once explained to me that respect was like a bank account. For every positive praise, you were making a ‘deposit’ in an account. For every negative reprimand, you were making a withdrawl. The point? If you make more withdrawls than deposits, your account no longer works. So I take the time to not only show respect and reverence for a good idea, I often tell others about the great idea that so-and-so had. And when I do have to reprimand them? They take it in stride, I make sure we understand one another, and then it’s behind us – no grudges, no pettiness.

When I make a mistake, I often not only own up to it, I will often discuss it with others to see their perspective on how I could have done something different. This not only ‘humanizes’ me to the employee, it shows that even I need their help for things to run properly because – well – I do. Each of us plays a role in making the whole function smoothly and, more importantly, properly.

In your role as the General, you need to do all of these things. Why? Because I have a staff that I can address, and they will hear me. I can ask them to work late, come in on a Sunday, or do something difficult, and they will do so, out of the deference I have earned. I can make reasonable demands, and decisions they may not agree with all the time. Why? Because as a good General, I’ve earned the right to do so. Anyone can be labeled a ‘manager’ – only an elite few can actually measure up to the moniker. With every passing day, I strive to achieve that elite-ness. I often fail, but learning from those failures makes me stronger. And openly sharing my failures eliminates the ‘us versus them’ mentality in the workplace.

Consider all of this next time you interact with an employee. Be a kind, loving, flexible, gentle, approachable, stern when necessary, appreciative, cognizant General – and your troops will follow your command, even if they don’t understand the larger picture, or agree with you. Once you’ve earned that right, operating your business becomes a whole lot easier, and a lot less combative.

Now go forth, and change your methods!


~ by digitalninjasmedia on February 24, 2012.

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