The Apprentice a catalyst for reflection?
If you need your fix of BBC’s The Apprentice, then maybe the current series of Young Apprentice will keep you going until next year? Like it or loath it wherever I’ve worked, networked or met up with other business people, everyone has an opinion of The Apprentice.
A couple of years ago I began mentoring a business owner and we met on a Thursday morning after the previous evening’s episode. Inevitably, each meeting began with the usual question, ‘Well, did you see it last night?’ My mentee enjoyed making observations about each episode, demonstrating an awareness of how team members worked together or didn’t; how the Project Manager engaged the team, or didn’t; the lack of planning for the task and too often how the Project Manager should have stepped in and regained control of the task.
OK, we may enjoy being armchair business critics but these discussions got me thinking about the importance of reflection and consideration. There are times, if we’re honest, when maybe we don’t take the time we know we should to reflect on our personal effectiveness. Do we pause for professional refection on our leadership and management styles? Are we continually asking ourselves the right questions? Are we effectively engaging our people? Have we translated our vision for the business into a strategy and plan? Perhaps most significantly; have we communicated this, empowering our teams by giving them a sense of direction and momentum towards achieving the business’s future goals?
I’ve got a business to run!
Day to day, we’ve all got to be go getters, entrepreneurs, innovators and motivators. We’ve got to spot new business opportunities, gaps in the market, have our competitors on our radar to be aware of what they are doing and understand the financial health of the business. To list a few of our roles! It’s not always easy to continually cultivate a high level of self awareness and keep our fingers on the pulse of our businesses but it’s exactly what’s required, even more so in current economic climate.
For a small business here’s your starter of 5:
- You’re an entrepreneur and a leader: Ask yourself why are we here? What is this business about, how has it evolved? What do we do well? Where’s the pride in the products or services we provide? What makes us, us? Where are we in the market place? How do we compare to our competitors? Can your people answer these questions? More than once I’ve been contracted to work on specific projects in some businesses, sometimes for as long as six months. After completing my project, even after six months, I can leave without a real understanding of what the business is about, why it exists and its future direction. Sadly, I often find the staff also don’t know.
- Learn to love strategy: A strategic action plan (emphasis on action) can be one side of A4, whatever works for your business. It’s important to map out the business’s future direction, communicate and keep communicating this to your people and go for it! When you need to revisit it, then revisit but keep communicating. And don’t lose touch with your business plan!
- Seek expertise and share your expertise: there may not be much funding around at the moment but there can be free business support and business health checks. Sometimes it can be really useful to get an independent view of your business. Also get networking, meet up with other business owners and managers and perhaps use social media.
- Be your biggest critic but a constructive one: you’ve worked hard to set up, develop and grow your business, so you want to get your people to ‘buy into’ your business and get the best out of everyone. Examine your leadership style do you engage and empower people? Be a great talent spotter, see below!
- Is there a better way? Continue to be curious; we don’t know the answers to all of the questions. Maybe there are times when we don’t know the right questions to ask! So encourage ideas from everyone. Not only is it a great tool to engage people but often people at different levels can have a more immediate grasp of challenges and areas of potential improvement. These people could be future managers, team leaders and product and service improvers. But don’t fall into the ideas black hole! If people can make time to submit ideas then you should make time to provide feedback.
And remember be passionate about your business with your people and your customers. Enthusiasm can be infectious. After all, at the end of the day, business can be about people. We all want to enjoy our work and we all like to do business with people we like.