You can only break things as fast as they can fix them.

In our last conversation, I talked about two ways to grow your business, a high-intensity, hard-working, risk-loving environment, and a more planned, lower-stress, environment. I pointed out that some of us are hard-wired for the former — we love “living on the edge”; but the wiring of most of our employees is different. (That’s why they are employees!)

So how do we bridge that gap, is there a way for those of us entrepreneur types to learn to thrive in a more cautious, planned environment?

There’s a magical middle that can work for everyone.

Leaders break things; employees fix things

Entrepreneurs are pioneers. We want to go where no one has gone. We see opportunity where others see hard work. We know that a short period of pain might produce a profound gain. That leads us to go for it (again, and again, and again…) But continually pushing the limits eventually exhausts everyone (even the entrepreneur).

Employees (for the most part) like stability. They like it when things never change. If they see a problem, they are pretty good at fixing it. They can make incremental improvements that (mostly) make their life easier. But steady as she goes eventually leads to death, every system needs renewal and adaptation to survive.

This dynamic can be magical if both sides understand their roles and their value.

You can only introduce change at a rate that your team can absorb it.

So, leaders, you see lots of opportunities, lots of ways that change can make you money. Your job is to work with your team to prioritize which areas of change are most important now. What are the things (one or two things) that your organization needs to focus on now, that they could accomplish in the next three to four months, that would make the most significant difference?

Once you establish those priorities they must be accomplished before you can add anything new, so be sure these are the right priorities!

Then make a clear case about why these are the things. Lay out what this change looks like and what it would mean to the business and the team. Show a vision of success. Then turn the problem over to the group and let them work. This is the work of leadership.

You don’t go away; you need to stay involved by steering the ship, answering questions and encouraging good ideas. 

The hard part is, you can’t meddle, and you can’t introduce any new ideas. When you come up with new ideas add them to a list that you are keeping privately. Then when the team completes one set of priorities you can look at your list and find the next priority or two and set them to work on that.

But, patience is not my thing!

Yes, this means you need to be patient. I know you’re not good at that. Suck. It. Up. 

If you can let your team do their job (fixing broken things) before you break something new your business will grow and make progress. Then you’ll be happy, your team will be happy, and you’ll all make more money. Sound good?

P.S. If you don’t have a team, or your organization is super-small and mostly engaged in “doing the work” you still have this problem. Because you are the team AND the entrepreneur, you need priorities even more so you don’t drive yourself crazy. More on that on Tuesday.

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