Monday, November 16, 2015

The Soul of an Enterprise

The Soul of an Enterpriseby Hatim Tyabgi

The essence of an entrepreneur can be boiled down to three basic tenets. First, entrepreneurs do what they do because they want freedom and self-direction in their work. Second, they want purpose and the ability to make a contribution, and third they want to create wealth. Central to the entrepreneurial culture, then, is the belief that work is our primary activity, and that through work we can achieve the sense of meaning that we are looking for in life.

Driving the economy, therefore, are immensely talented and highly energetic people who are seeking a practical answer to a core question: ‘How can I create work that I am passionate about, that makes a contribution and that also makes money?’ In other words, ‘what defines my soul?’
Thinking about that very profound question brings to mind a book written in the mid seventies that was called The Soul of a New Machine. The essence of the book was capturing the experience and work of a group of young men and women who got together and created the Data General mini-computer. That book addressed the soul of the people who created the machine; what I want to talk about is the soul of the enterprise.

One has to ensure that when an enterprise is put in motion it is founded on a guiding philosophy — a set of principles that are buttressed with deep convictions. Unless and until that framework is there, and the convictions are there, there cannot be a soul.

In creating the soul, the fundamental essence comes down to leadership. I have high standards of leadership. I practice these standards myself, and I judge my own performance, and the performance of others, by them. I am not shy about advising others when they fail to meet my standards and, by the same token, I fully expect others to advise me when I fail to live up to my beliefs. The following tenets of leadership express my deeply held convictions — they represent the way I live and work.

1) Lead by example — saying one thing and doing another will only compromise your effectiveness. You are the role model for your staff. Practice your own beliefs faithfully and you will find your staff following your lead.

2) Take the toughest problems on yourself — you can’t delegate difficult decisions to your staff. As a leader you must assume personal responsibility for making the calls and accepting the consequences.

3) Set standards of excellence and measure performance against them— if you accept mediocrity, you will get mediocrity. Demand the best. Be consistent and explicit in both setting expectations and evaluating results.

4) Give commitment, get commitment — commit yourself and demand commitment from others. Make the extra effort to ensure that goals are met and results are achieved. Demonstrate your own commitment in everything that you do and expect nothing less from your staff.

5) Maintain a driving sense of urgency — take action now. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. It may not be the absolute best choice but it is better than no choice at all.

6) Pay attention to detail.

7) Accept failure — nobody likes to fail, but a leader cannot afford to be paralyzed by the fear of being wrong. Take risks and be prepared to deal with the outcome.

8) Recognize limits — a true leader changes what can be changed and manages what can’t. Don’t waste time trying to solve problems beyond your control. Focus instead on the problems you can solve.

9) Set priorities — if you try to do everything at once, you will end up doing nothing at all. Rank what you and your staff have to do in order of importance. Use this ranking to spend your time and their time most efficiently.

10) Be tough but fair — leadership is an intensely personal and interpersonal skill. How you relate to your people means everything. Toughness starts with your own standards, your own performance and the example you set. Fairness is the other side of the coin. Judge others as you would judge yourself — fairly and consistently.

In summary then, when one thinks about convictions, one must have a deep and passionate belief. If you believe you can change the perceptions of those around you; if you believe you can change the business methods of your customers; if you believe you can change the behavior of your competitors. At the end of the day you can change the structure of your industry.

But to be able to do that you’ve got to participate — not only that, you have to live your life according to your particular guiding philosophy. Life is not a spectator sport. If you disagree with the precepts and philosophy of the company that you work with, you have an obligation to speak up. If you observe actions that conflict with the philosophy, you have an obligation to take corrective action of your own. Sitting on the sidelines and complaining is patently unacceptable. A true leader needs to count on each individual in his company to continually be an instrument of positive change.