When I was in my early twenties I was incredibly ambitious. I wanted to move up, gain experience, and keep going. It wasn’t necessarily for the right reasons. My desires for career success came from scarcity growing up, not an abundance mentality of wanting to make a difference.
Regardless, when you are young you have bosses. I prided myself in being the boss’ favorite wherever I went. I had some tough bosses, too. My strength at this age, and stage of my career, was figuring out what my boss needed or wanted, and delivering it in the way they preferred.
The Leader I Wanted To Be
At the same time that I was trying to figure out each manager’s preferences, I was also studying their leadership. I saw many flaws in their ability to inspire, motivate and mentor. In a few, they lacked technical savvy. I was building the ideal leader in my mind. The leader I wanted to be.
A few years later, I had my chance. I was promoted to a management position with about 4-5 direct reports. Remember, my credentials for management were being a stellar personal producer with a self-created picture of what the ideal leader looked like.
Six months into it, I was given a 360-degree leadership assessment. This means that my bosses, my peers and my direct reports would assess my leadership.
Leadership Can’t Be Taken For Granted
According to the results of my first 360, this super producer who could spot a manager with poor leadership from a mile away, had not bothered to look in the mirror recently. My scores from my bosses and peers were still outstanding. My scores from my direct reports were dismal.
How could this be? I knew exactly what great leadership should look like. So what was the problem?
The Transition to Leader
Basically, the leadership assessment confirmed that I was still a personal producer and had not made the transition to leader. I was still too busy impressing my peers and making my boss look good.
Looking back, I can see that personal production and leadership are two different skills. In order to embrace a new season, a time of leadership in my career, I had to let go of personal success being my measuring stick.
I had to realize that in order to have an impact bigger than myself, I needed to lead others to shine.
By spending my time communicating, guiding, and mentoring my team, they could all flourish as personal producers. The positive impact of five people achieving was much greater than limiting our department to just my production.
And then, when I prioritized helping others become effective leaders, not just great personal producers, the impact was exponential.
Small Business Ownership Usually Begins With Personal Production
As small business owners, we usually begin our business without a big team or just by ourselves. We start out as personal producers in our own business. We become the star producer because we are the only one at first. Then when we add people, they usually just support our production.
As we grow, we begin to hit the limits of ourselves. We can’t continue to grow without other producers. We bite the bullet and add the higher salary that comes with someone who can produce; be a profit center. However, we assume they can lead themselves.
Your Team Can’t Lead Themselves
I believe this accounts for most of the turnover in small companies when they first begin to add staff. They feel like the people should lead themselves, after all, we are small and it isn’t that complicated.
But everyone needs leadership. It’s your company. Your employees can’t decide on the vision and go for it. They can’t hire people without your permission. As an owner of a small business with employees, you are a leader.
If you stay in personal production mode, there is a high probability that the new staff will not meet your expectations. You will feel it is still all riding on you. Because it is. The growth of your company will still be limited to how far you can personally stretch.
Unless you shift your priorities to your leadership and development of your team. Unless your priority becomes mentoring and guiding your team to become incredible producers. Only then can your company grow beyond you.
Leadership Becomes Your Priority If You Want To Thrive
Leadership and personal production are not mutually exclusive, however, one must take priority. And they each require the use of different skills and talents.
If you own a business with employees, you need to switch your priorities to leadership to create a healthy, thriving team and company.
Is this a new season for your business? Have you grown to the capacity you can achieve through personal production? Now is the time to make the shift.
Now is the time to lead!