The hard skills of Calm, Focus and Flexibility
Have you ever watched a surgeon operating on a patient’s heart or some other delicate part of their torso? What do you notice about the operating theatre disciplines and about how the surgeon handles the body? What strikes you most about the atmosphere in the theatre? How would you describe the operation?
Surgeons and theatre staff all have their own style of working like the rest of us. Close observation of an operation in progress will show you a wide range of skills and disciplines. Your main impression will be of simple discipline, acute observation and willingness to change course when necessary. Call it Calm, Focus and Flexibility.
Well run businesses have plenty of discipline. In fact, several have too many systems that are too complex and end up confusing the workers. If your business is not disciplined like a child – very few, clear rules, absolutely obeyed – it will go bankrupt sooner or later. This is the basic structure on which every business must be built. Good discipline breeds Calm.
At least half the businesses we see are poor on focus. They are staring at their bottom line. This does no good at all. A quick, occasional glance is all that is required. Focus must be on whether the way the business runs matches its purpose. When cost cutting is the only objective the best profit opportunities are being missed. You can’t see those if you don’t know your business’s purpose. And making money is a consequence, not a purpose.
If many businesses are missing profit growth through wrong focus virtually all are failing to beat the competition by their lack of Flexibility. Less than 10% of businesses we see are truly flexible and they are usually the little ones. Their motivation is survival – something MNCs can forget until it is too late. Competitive intelligence is poor and what they have of it is poorly analysed. Restructured too often they build dotted lines and matrices fit to realign outer space when what they need is to ensure that the firm’s resources are used well.
So how do you establish Calm, Focus and Flexibility in your business?
First, examine your talents and assets. We see massive waste of people resources for want of understanding what those talents really are. Bosses who spend less than 70%+ of their time with their people don’t know them well enough to understand how they work. You do not want obedient executioners but thinking, opinionated contributors.
Second, stop “restructuring” your business all the time and look at how it actually works to promote top quality products and services fit for purpose. A business that fails regularly to re-examine how it is fulfilling its purpose is heading for disaster. Consumers are no longer the docile buyers of what you sell. They are already ahead of you with what they want.
Third, get your managers properly educated to do their jobs. An MBA, valuable as it may be, does not equip anyone to run a business. Your managers need proper coaching, mentoring and training to perform well. When they don’t get it, they fall short of their potential.
Fourth, if transparency isn’t your management style adopt it now. More damage is done by unnecessary secrecy in business than by any other single failure. Open the windows of knowledge and the birds of innovation will fly in.
Finally, make sure your team are always thinking about the business and how to improve it. Encourage new ideas, invite challenges to the old beliefs about the market. Praise seemingly outrageous suggestions and help turn them into something doable.
Remember, the Company that plays together, stays together.