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The Highly Motivated Enterprise (or, how to motivate your staff to work 80hrs/week for you)

In Entrepreneurial Leadership on February 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Enterprises in a way are similar to individuals when going through certain life cycles.  There are times to start new things, there are times of crisis, chaos and difficulties, there are times where there are limited financial resources and time to make something important happen, there are times of simple normalcy.  Enterprises that succeed, overcome and take advantages of new opportunities can do so primarily because of a visionary yet sensible and practical leadership team (the brain in an individual) and a highly motivated staff (the body in an individual), acting as one whole being. 

The role of the entrepreneurial leader is fundamental for creating and establishing an environment where the team members maximize their potential and contributions to the organization and stay highly motivated.  The leader has enormous influence in shaping the culture, organization, management, innovation process and the actual leadership of the entity.  Here is a list of factors that create an environment to maximize the staff’s motivation, based on our studies of the cases of Branson, Vermeer, IDEO, the study articles and lectures and my own experience and observation in highly productive, effective and talented organizations.

1.  It all starts with the leader – the organization itself and the culture starts with the message the leader sends by:

  • Being aware of who she is, her strengths, talents and skills,
  • How she builds the rest of the leadership team and organization with people with diverse and complementary skillsets and personality traits. 
  • How she establishes a vision, mission, strategy, planning, organizational structure, physical environment, hiring, reward, control and communication systems, policies and procedures, job design, training and development and how the leader interacts with others and performs their own job

2.  Building the team:

  • Highly talented and motivated people like to work with people that are also highly talented and motivated
  • Members are experts on a particular something on which they can build the strengths of the team
  • People at all levels are willing and capable of respecting each other, trust each other, listening to each other regardless of hierarchy, and encourage each other
  • People at all levels are willing to go on to “the field” beyond their cubes and offices, meet other experts, observe, learn and bring back to share with others what they have learned and how that can be useful for the team
  • The leaders recognize individuals and teams continuously for contributions big and small
  • The leaders empower and trust the team to do their job, come up with new ideas and solutions, and overcome challenges
  • The leaders identify, acknowledge and leverage individual’s strengths, skills and talents by matching assignments/projects/roles accordingly and by promoting ongoing dialogue for development

3.  Setting, communicating and implementing expectations

  • The leaders communicate vision, goals and expectations clearly
  • The leader is willing and able to address poor performance timely and professionally
  • Individuals receive timely feedback and coaching based on expectations and observations and periodic discussions of career interests and future path options

For instances when the organization needs to go through a “crisis” or chaotic time, when they are very tight timelines, money, resources, staff, hours, the entrepreneurial leader’s role is critical to inspire, communicate, facilitate, and be there for the staff.  In addition to sustaining the factors described above, the leader must:

1.  Determine that this is actually absolutely necessary and exceptional.  As a leader, you can pull a “situation” once or twice every so long, but not one after another for years and years, without losing credibility.  (Unless the nature of the job is such, which is obviously communicated to the staff as a candidate for hiring prior to accepting the job).

2.  Share factual, objective data with transparency about the current scenario, the potential difficulties ahead (the “who” and “how much”, in other words, limited staff and budget) and expectations in terms of outcome (the “what” by “when”, in other words, tangible product or service and due date).

3.  Clearly communicate how each individual’s contribution is directly related to a successful outcome

4.  Guide the staff to brainstorm and agree on:

  • “How” to deliver a successful outcome: i.e., the communication flows of news, progress, ideas, even frustrations; the actual process steps require to get things done; who does what by when; how they would stay internally motivated; how they would motivate each other.
  • “What” would be required from them (for example, a prolonged period of time working longer hours), and “what” would they require from the leaders that only them can provide.

5.  Rolling up your own sleeves and be there with the staff through and through

6.  Remind the staff that this moment shall also pass

7.  Have a “steam  outlet” mechanism so that the staff can properly, timely and effectively vent frustrations and be able to get their focus back.  It could be individual sessions that the individual staff may ask with someone in particular, a mentor, a head of department.  It could be town halls after certain milestones.

8.  Recognition, recognition, recognition all the way through the process and a big celebration upon end.

How irrational may an entrepreneur be

In Entrepreneurial Leadership on February 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm

This week’s reflection included “The Anatomy of the Entrepreneur: Clinical Observations”, in which Manfred FR Kets De Vries, professor at INSEAD, France and psychoanalyst. He starts with a brief summary of the role of work in psychoanalytic theory, followed by an overview of brief factors important to entrepreneurship from various perspectives, but the most compelling part of the article is his description of one entrepreneur named “Mr. X” who chose to be treated through psychoanalysis after facing serious collapses in his marriage and his company. 

I found this case very fascinating and one that brought hope to an otherwise seemingly insolvable situation. It made so much sense based on my experience with myself and with people around me.  I like when the author says that “running a business is not necessarily a rational process”.  This is especially true when the business is led by someone with irrational behaviors.  While this case might be seen by many as “an extreme” or “disturbing”, I actually have seen quite a bit of dysfunctional behaviors displayed by many people in middle and senior management levels of the corporate environment in top companies I worked for and with that resemble a lot of the behaviors Mr. X showed.   This particular case explains the complexity of people and individuals and how their resolved or unresolved issues of the “inner theatre” have extensive repercussions within an organization in reaching its highest potential.  

The case reminds me of what I learned a few years ago about the concept of strengths gone wrong, in other words, when certain strengths that and nurture success in positive environments flourish, but may cause “derailment” in stressful environments (for example, someone with very strong ego may derail into eccentricity or melodrama).  A former company offered those with “high potential” the “Hogan” or “derailer” test so that we became aware of those character traits and keep them in check.  However, as with most academics and researchers, the actual study of the why of certain character traits and behaviors was not addressed. This case reminds us that it is really up to us individually to look for help when certain strengths become serious, potentially damaging derailers.  

We all have “baggage”, some simple to change or control, some deep enough to be troubling. I believe our professor included this “unusual” case in our curriculum so that we see that it is important as entrepreneurial leaders that we take a look inside ourselves, identify and address the potential derailers resulting from our past, especially the more damaging and serious ones, which if left unresolved would eventually leave us with unrealized potential and in worse case scenarios put our enterprises (and lives) in serious trouble.  Mr. X and others that had dysfunctional backgrounds and exhibit dysfunctional behaviors as peers and leaders in an enterprise can and may have success in their businesses and careers up to a certain degree, based on their true talents of creativity, advantage, focus and ego.  But a success to be sustainable, maximized and exponentially multiplied requires continuous self awareness, a will to change and to look for help when needed.

What are some examples of dysfunctional behaviors by leaders, executives and entrepreneurs you have observed?

What do you think is the key to their success despite of such behaviors?

The entrepreneurial process

In Entrepreneurial Leadership on February 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I like the fact that Bolton and Thompson’s definition of an entrepreneur is based on actions and behaviors that are clearly observable and tangible.  It focuses on what entrepreneurs do in terms of actions and how these actions fit in an entrepreneurial process with 10 steps. 

A process is a systematic series of actions directed to achieve an end; it is a continuous action, operation or series of changes taking place in a definite manner. Therefore, a process can be replicated.  The starting point of the process is the entrepreneur as (1) an individual motivated to make a significant difference, transforming ideas into something that works, initiating change and enjoying it.  This motivation coupled with the (2) entrepreneur’s creativity and innovation helps the entrepreneur (3) see, create and leverage opportunities and overcome challenges by (4) finding the required resources, (5) building and using networks extensively, (6) showing determination in the face of adversity and (7) understanding, taking and managing risk.  With these actions the entrepreneur builds a growing, successful enterprise where (8) the business is controlled paying attention to details and monitoring key indicators, and (9) the customers are put first, listening to them and being able and willing to respond to what they hear from customers.  The final result is the entrepreneur’s recognition by the (10) creation of value expressed in financial, social or aesthetic capital terms, which is in line with their motivation to make a difference, the starting point of the process.

Through this entrepreneurial process, the entrepreneur’s internal intellectual and emotional capital generates external financial, social and/or aesthetic capital.  The intellectual and emotional capital of the entrepreneur relates to the entrepreneur’s talents (abilities, strengths) and temperament (needs and drives).   While a process is replicable, it is the entrepreneur’s internal intellectual and emotional capital the key to generate the desired results.  Therefore, the talent and temperament of the entrepreneur are fundamental for entrepreneurial success.  

Tell me of an instance where you or someone you know followed many if not all of the steps of the entrepreneurial process?

What were the outcomes?

A definition of an entrepreneur

In Entrepreneurial Leadership on February 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm

In their book “Entrepreneurs: Talent, Temperament and Technique”, Bolton and Thomspon define an entrepreneur as “a person who habitually creates and innovates to build something of recognized value around perceived opportunities”.

The definition of entrepreneur as a ‘person’ includes an individual or an organization that acts in an entrepreneurial way.

A critical component of the definition of an entrepreneur by Bolton and Thomspon is that the entrepreneur behaves and acts in certain ways consistently as a result of their nature, strengths, skills, core themes.  Therefore, it has to be ‘habitual’ or consistently shown as a behavior, custom or practice on how they see the world and live in it.  Entrepreneurs have both a pattern of thought and a pattern of behavior/action that is consistently applied in their lives as a result of their natural or acquired talents.  These thoughts, behaviors, actions and results are not a fluke, or a come as a single decision under certain circumstances or scenarios; instead, they represent an innate and enduring way of thinking and operation that is clearly observable.

These behaviors and actions have certain results to qualify as entrepreneurial.  Entrepreneurs do not stay at the conceptual or ideological level of just introducing an idea or seeing an opportunity; they are urged and moved to actions that feed into each other until a tangible achievement of something with recognized value becomes a physical reality.  Entrepreneurs see an opportunity then they act on it by creating and building something out of nothing. They are not the ones maintaining that ‘something’; that’s the task of a manager or administrator.  Entrepreneurs see their ideas come to fruition by acting on them: creating, building, innovating, overcoming challenges until they finish what they started. The final outcome will be something that is of value to someone – to them, to a company or organization, to society, to humanity.  True entrepreneurs are profit oriented, but profit or making money is not the only value they look to deliver.  The value that they look to achieve to deliver is universally recognized in financial, aesthetic, and/or social capital terms.

What do you think about Bolton and Thompson’s definition?

Which entrepreneurs come to mind when reading such definition as someone that shows such characteristics?

How do you fit within this definition?

“Top 10 Best Entrepreneurial Leadership Practices”, Virgin’s Richard Branson

In Entrepreneurial Leadership on January 23, 2010 at 1:40 am

Our first assignment consisted on creating ten best practices of entrepreneurial leadership as a result of our review and reflection of Virgin’s Richard Branson, based on two key resources:  “Branson’s Virgin: A coming of Age of a Counter-Cultural Enterprise” article by R. Dick and M. Kets de Vries, and Richard Branson’s “My Life” video documentary.

Individual Behavior Traits

  1. Be clear of why are you in the business and follow your passion (i.e., to make a difference and have fun while making money).
  2. Project a leadership style that inspires people’s loyalty to you and it is truthful and genuine.
  3. Self promote and take risks to advertise your companies (i.e., speed boating, balloon crossing).

Structure of the Enterprise (how people are organized)

  1. Know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and recruit and organize great talent in areas where you know you are not strong (i.e., artistic judgment of Simon Draper, administrative skills of Nik Powell and later Don Cruickshank and Trevor Abbott).

Strategy (organization goals and how to achieve them)

  1. Look for opportunities where change is needed and most people would not look at the time (signing Sex Pistols, buying gay Heaven, building an airline and tackling big BA in the process, adding the rail business).
  2. Know when to make tough choices and cash in on your investment and use the money to grow even more (i.e., sale of Virgin Records to ensure the airline’s future) to avoid debt and protect your majority ownership position as much as possible.
  3. Observe, take notes and act promptly on feedback so that your businesses become the best in service.
  4. Immerse yourself in every detail in businesses where you do not have an initial knowledge; then, once they are up and running,  delegate to trusting team members, let them run with it and share your wealth with limited share ownership with them.

Culture (values of the people in the organization and the way people work together)

  1. Allow opportunities for people to grow and develop in ways not seen elsewhere in the same industry; encourage their participation in business growth and reward their contributions; listen to them and keep a familial feeling.
  2. Remain sensitive to your people and what is going on in your business (i.e., approached them and listened during flights and visits, had staff meetings when facing tough times, reviewed salary scales for those left after closings, gave home phone number to staff at airline business to give him ideas on how to improve the business).