09/9/16

Momentum–Let it Ride!

The NY Times’ Corner Office, by Adam Bryant is one of my favorite business columns. In it he reports on his interviews with business leaders. On Sunday, September 2, he turned his spotlight on Ben Chestnut, CEO of MailChimp.

When Bryant asked him to name some of his leadership lessons, Chestnut’s answered: “Never sacrifice momentum. I might know a better path, but if we’ve got a lot of momentum, if everyone’s united and they’re marching together and the path is O.K., just go with the flow. I may eventually nudge them down a new path, but never stop the troops midmarch.”

This lesson came to mind while I was working with a client who was trying to decide on one of several possible paths. The choice became obvious upon considering where there was the greatest momentum, and thereby the possibility of a quicker return.

Recognizing a path with momentum can be tricky, but it can make all the difference in your business’ success.

10/22/15

Differences and Consensus

In his October 4, 2015, NY Times column “Corner Office” Adam Bryant presented his interview with Gary B. Smith, CEO of the Ciena Corporation: “Gary Smith of Ciena: Build a Culture on Trust and Respect.” In it Smith shares some of his history, his early influences and how his views changed with experience. In last week’s blog I wrote about Smith’s understanding that “it’s all about people.”

 And of course, with people there will be inevitable differences of opinion. Smith says that this is healthy. These differences should exist. But ideally, he aims at consensus. “I’m a great believer in getting consensus,” he says. But he knows that consensus cannot always be reached, so “you’ve got to say, O.K., that’s good enough.”

What’s critical he says, is that once agreement has been reached the leadership team must be synchronized and the agreement is communicated down the ranks of the organization so that all are moving in the same direction.

One of my first clients started our engagement by stating: “My dad has fired me twice.”

The point of contention was over my client’s approach for implementing a strategy. His father would neither acknowledge nor respect his son’s difference of opinion saying: “any way you do it is ok, as long as it’s my way.” Clearly there was no working toward a consensus.

Perhaps for the health of the organization it might have been easier, in the short run, for the father to fire his son, thus avoiding having the operation of the business skewed by trying to follow two conflicting directions. But for multi-generational longevity, an opening must exist, for at least a partial consensus.

To ensure multi-generational success, members of the next-generation need to be granted a degree of autonomy, allowing them to acquire leadership skills and giving them the invaluable opportunity to learn from their own mistakes.

Handling this transition is one of the most difficult challenges facing family businesses.

10/15/15

It’s All About People

In his October 4, 2015, NY Times column “Corner Office” Adam Bryant presented his interview with Gary B. Smith, CEO of the Ciena Corporation: “Gary Smith of Ciena: Build a Culture on Trust and Respect.” In it Smith shares some of his history, his early influences and how his views changed with experience. In last week’s blog I wrote about how Smith’s management philosophy of creating an environment that people could be successful in is important to the success of family businesses.

This week’s blog: “It’s all about people.” This is another important management principle, one that Smith says he learned early in his career, but that took time for him to truly grasp. “…if you get that right,” he says, “the other stuff will get addressed.”

In family businesses the people are all stakeholders–leaders, family members, team members, staff. The “other stuff:” smoothly running business operations, processes and procedures depends on careful attention to building and maintaining a culture of mutual trust and respect.

For me this means putting relationships first and business transactions second. It’s a philosophy for building a family-business legacy.

If you have thoughts or questions about building relationships of trust and respect within your family and family business, contact me through my website.

This is the second of three important management principles I pinpointed while reading Adam Bryant‘s interview with Gary B. Smith. I’ll share my thoughts on the third: “Differences and Consensus” in next week’s blog post.