I’m not sure if it was Peter Cetera or Kierkegaard who said, “Everybody needs a little time away.” Regardless of who said it, that statement is certainly true, especially for business leaders. In this 24/7, constantly-connected world we live and do business in, there will come a time that you have to find that spot that you can go to and be truly alone.
Even Superman had a place to go when the rigors of defending Metropolis got to him and made him feel less than super. For CEOs, there are a number of tasks that you will not be your most effective in solving if you attempt them working in a standard office environment. Maybe it’s annual reviews, terminating an employee, deciding whether or not to launch a new product, or even something as simple (yet, mind-numbingly complicated) as a customer issue. At some point, we all need our own Fortress of Solitude. You need to find a spot that will allow you to truly embrace the beauty that is complete solitude, a place that allows you to really focus on an issue, re-energize yourself, and go back to being super.
Here are 7 Steps to finding that perfect spot:
1. Embrace the beauty of being alone.
Even if you are the most gregarious person in your office, sometimes you want to enjoy your own company. In your fortress, one of the most important things is to be comfortable with yourself and only you. No Lois Lane, no Jimmy Olsen, and definitely no Lex Luthor.
Goals are great, in fact they are paramount to actual success. Every single successful business in the history of time started with a goal, achieved it, and went from there. The only problem is, why do they take so long? Here’s a very simple, two-part process that will help you rocket to the finish line.
Part 1: Understanding the Path
- Declare the goal. The best definition of a goal is a dream with a deadline. So declare not only the dream, but the deadline as well. What do you want to do and when do you want to do it by? These two very simple questions can help you to measure progress along the way and to know when you’re winning.
- Create the path. The major difference between most goals and dreams is that a goal not only has a deadline, but it has a plan. What’s your plan? How do you intend on reaching that finish line and achieving that goal? Do you have everything you need to get you there? Have you anticipated roadblocks and pitfalls along the way? Do you have a plan to sidestep the landmines that you won’t see until the last minute?
- Set mini-goals. Be sure you have measurable milestones–mini-goals along the path to let you know that you’re on the right road. The most important part is that they are three things: applicable, measurable, and attainable.
- Define winning. The mini-goals and the major goal have to be tangible, specific.
I am not a great vacationer. I wish I was. I am not alone, a lot of CEOs and senior executives confess that they do not disconnect well. They think about business a lot when they are gone, check in, keep their phone and email available, and are not as “present” on their vacation as they would like to be. As a fellow sufferer, I have studied how to be a better vacationer. I tested some guidelines on a recent break in Mexico and they worked really well.
- Be gone for enough time to disengage–It takes me 1-2 days to disengage my mind and my sense of urgency from work. A three-day weekend is usually fun, but not truly a vacation because it does not allow me to totally release my mind from work. You have to give yourself enough time to break your rhythms of office life. I know for me that six days is the very minimum.
- Unplugging may not be possible, so ration–All of the items I have studied about this topic have advocated a 100 percent disconnection. I know they are right and I know it is not happening. So I ration instead 20-30 minutes of email when I get up in the morning. I delegate or defer almost all responses to someone on my team back home or until I return. The “no contact” rule is better, but beyond my human capacity, so I ration.
- Avoid digital temptations–Shut down the email, texting, and voice as much as possible.
Nothing is more frustrating in this competitive, hyper-commoditized world in which we live as businesses than working with a customer and believing you have developed a value-based relationship with them only to be tossed into a bidding war every year to keep the business.
As I approach this idea of being “sticky”–which means not being so easily removed from a customer as a provider because of a lower priced competitor–let’s make a few assumptions:
- You provide a good product or service at a market-relevant price. Not necessarily the lowest, and maybe the highest, but logically justifiable.
- Your customers are regularly being approached by competitors who encourage your customers to “try them out” or switch entirely based upon promises of equal or better performance at same or lower prices.
- Your customers can switch with relative ease, (or what they perceive to be ease), from you to you competitors.
If these assumptions fit for you, and you have felt some “slippage” with your customers, here are some things you can do to become stickier.
Expand your connection net. Often in customer relationships, once the agreement has been made to work together, the management of the relationship thins. The sales person or account manager becomes the primary and often singular point of connection to the customer. On the customer’s side, they also thin their points of contact to only transaction processors. If you want to be sticky, you need more touchpoints in the relationship. We recommend that you look at a minimum of three connections that are occurring between your company and your customer’s company on at the bare minimum of once or more per month.
How much do we tell the employees about the money in the business? For small and mid-size business owners, there is often a lot of anxiety about sharing too much information. For employees, there is a strong desire to understand the business and its prospects for the future. If you are a privately held company, balancing this is tough. Here are some general guidelines:
- Don’t give information without education. Providing any financial reports regardless of whether they are summaries, or complete traditional reports like your balance sheet, P/L and budget, should always be provided with a thorough education as to how the employee can read the data. It is possible that your employees do not have the background or training to fully understand these documents, so giving them the documents without education can be little more than distracting.
- What’s it mean to them? When looking at the information that you provide, there needs to be a clear summary telling the employees what it means to them. They will likely have lots of relevant questions:
- Is our company getting better or worse? More stable or vulnerable?
- Is my job at risk?
- What are we investing in to make us more successful in the future?
Employees look for context and relevance to the numbers.
- What can I do? Along with providing context for the numbers themselves, it is also important to provide a road map for what you are doing as a company with the information and an ask for the employees. The ask during positive periods is simple–Keep doing your great work!