Home Human Resources News Management nuggets: How to multiply yourself

Management nuggets: How to multiply yourself

27th Jun 12 7:26 am

There never seem to be enough hours in the day, do there? Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, explains how canny leaders use co-operation to create more

Every Saturday night, British television serves up some new talent contest. So no one could be blamed for getting the idea that status and celebrity are the highest aim in life, or that there can only be one winner, because special gifts nullify each other. Shows like “The Apprentice” just reinforce this notion, suggesting that an entrepreneur “wins” by beating out others through the sheer force of their enormous ego.

After nearly 40 years of coaching very successful entrepreneurs, I can tell you this is a complete fiction. Yes, I’ve met plenty of businesspeople with big personalities and towering self-confidence, but the ones who consistently get great results over the long-term are fully aware that much of their ability flows from others. That’s why I recommend the following “law” to entrepreneurs: Always make your co-operation greater than your status.

Choose your focus: status or co-operation

The more you work to elevate and protect your status, the less responsive you’ll be to the world around you—including your team members, your clientele, and the marketplace. Status is about looking good instead of being useful. It’s concerned with what others think instead of what they value. It’s inward-focused, an insatiable worry and a shaky foundation. Status is static—anchored in the past—and leaves you vulnerable to being bypassed.

Co-operation, on the other hand, is an outward-facing appreciation, and there’s simply no limit to its power or future potential. You’re in the business of creating increasing value for a growing number of people in the world, so if you’re going to succeed you need to build up a store of human “uniqueness”—knowledge, skills, and resources that are beyond the scope of any one person. Co-operation is the means by which you acquire, enable and support these qualities.

Status and co-operation are the extreme poles of one continuum. Which side you move towards is up to you, but you can’t go in both directions at once.

Give up what you’re bad at

There are plenty of activities in your organisation that you have no interest in. If you cared about those things, you’d be good at them by now, right? You lose nothing by surrendering that territory to others.

In the early days of starting up a business, it might be necessary to do everything yourself, and some business owners never give up the habit of doing certain day-to-day tasks—even if they drive them crazy or distract them from potential money-making opportunities. As your business grows, however, you gain the means to hire others who actually enjoy and are good at these tasks, which can be an incredible source of freedom.

Many of the entrepreneurs I speak to revel in how bad they are at some things, and do it without embarrassment, because they’ve employed someone who has a real talent in that area, making them very capable at something which used to be a weakness. They love how much bigger and freer they can be because of this co-operation.

You can be in charge without having to be in control. Co-operation doesn’t diminish your importance or your authority as a leader. On the contrary: team members are far more devoted and hard-working for an entrepreneur who’s an appreciative champion than they ever would be for a “micro-manager” or tyrant.

A defence budget of zero

I want my team members to have a “zero defence budget”—in other words, I don’t want them spending any of their time or effort on covering their backsides.

A status-based organisation is like a free-for-all football game where everyone’s competing for possession of the ball, grabbing credit and glory wherever they can. It’s about taking.

Co-operation, on the other hand, is about giving—adding value rather than extracting it. It’s a reinvestment, like seeding rich farmland. When one person’s results are celebrated, no one else is diminished; on the contrary, their chances of success have just increased.

People pick up on this like it’s your company’s radio signal: an environment of co-operation attracts other future-focused contributors. And the more you acknowledge and reward others’ contribution, the safer they’ll feel—which, ironically, enables them to take greater risks and be more innovative. Ultimately, this creates a multiplier effect, and your business’s capabilities increase exponentially.

How do you get people to co-operate?

Here are a few things you can do to foster greater co-operation in your business:

1. Communicate your goals. Meet regularly with your team members and share your vision of the results you want to achieve with their help. Convey the ends—give direction by communicating your intentions and objectives—but leave room for them to supply the means.

2. Encourage, reward and reorganise around talent. Link up activities and abilities, even if that means making changes in your organisation. Results and personal satisfaction are much more important than job descriptions. When asked their title, many of my team members have to make one up on the spot, because their “role” is really just being who they are.

3. Open wide with your ears. Your team members want to use their talents and to contribute their insights at work. Your clients and customers want you to be the one to solve their problems and help them capture their opportunities—you just have to be open to hearing what they’re freely offering you.

Sustainable status.

The high irony in forgetting about status and focusing on co-operation is that it actually increases the likelihood you’ll do something remarkable and gain accolades for it. But you won’t be distracted by that: No matter how big you grow, you’ll always remain rooted in a deep appreciation of why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for and who helped you along the way.

Dan Sullivan is the president and co-founder of Strategic Coach.

Leave a Comment


Sign up to our daily news alerts

[ms-form id=1]