Filter Your Priorities, Not Your Ideas

Entrepreneurs often aren’t aware that they’re constantly spewing out ideas (and hey, it comes with the territory). But as we do this, it can be unclear to employees whether we’re communicating actual directives, or just thinking out loud. As a result, a LOT can get lost in translation, and in the end create more noise for you and more confusion for your employees, who are typically more focused on their specific job function and the short-term.

But good news -- your Master Key Executive can not only help you prioritize these ideas, but also translate them to the rest of the organization and preempt any misinterpretations. Let’s break it down.

Action expresses priorities,” Mahatma Gandhi sagely said. He may not have been alluding to business, but let’s say for the sake of this post that he was. Because this nugget of wisdom can certainly be applied to any business and the Entrepreneur/MKE duo behind it.

Reflect on your actions and your priorities separately. Then together.

Ask yourself, are they consistent?

For example, if your priority is to be healthy, but you constantly eat junk food and never work out, then there’s some disconnect between your actions and priorities.

Now let’s apply this to your business. If your priorities are to innovate and grow, but you’re constantly spending your time on small tasks that just don’t drive the organization forward… well, then your actions do not align with your priorities.

It’s no secret that Entrepreneurs have busy minds (probably some of the busiest). A big priority for us is to constantly innovate and spew new ideas -- something we often do verbally, casually, and unofficially. But when this happens, our thoughts and ideas, like shining a flashlight into the night sky, have nothing to bounce off of and never come to light. They just drift off and disappear into a black hole, and are never given the chance to become real life action items.

A lot of our noise (there’s the magic word) comes from exactly this: the fact that we have all of these ideas, but we don’t know where they go.

However, there’s good news!

When an effective MKE not only captures these ideas and innovations, but prioritizes them in a simple way, it reduces our noise (there it is again) and makes for a clear head -- ripe for more ideas once again!

Rinse and repeat.

Sound logic, right? So, how exactly can an MKE “filter priorities” to help make the noise go away?

I’m so glad you asked.

In an ideal world, we could give all of our awesome ideas the same critical thought and attention; every idea would be a “top priority.” However, we all know that’s not always possible.

Enter Master Key Executive.

As you’re constantly expressing these ideas and innovations -- verbally, almost casually -- your MKE can help you to capture and prioritize them.

When I emphasize that Entrepreneurs often express ideas “verbally” and “casually” -- what do I mean? I’m talking about where priorities come from! Entrepreneurs often communicate new thoughts and concepts in this way because our wheels are always turning.

But when we do this, it can seem to the MKE like we are just “thinking out loud” rather than explicitly communicating an idea as a priority and/or action item. And as for the Entrepreneur, we just hope/assume that our MKE will “own” these things and make them happen. Meanwhile the MKE is thinking “I’ll wait for [Entrepreneur] to tell me that this idea is an actual priority.” The Priority Filter is what bridges this gap between “thinking out loud” and “priority/action item” and gets you both on the same page.

Think of your MKE as a “collector” of ideas and innovations. They don’t necessarily make all of your ideas happen, but they help you decide which ideas will come to life and which won’t.

As your MKE collects these ideas, they will then help you identify the value that each idea would bring to your business. For example, would the idea bring us more clients? Boost employee morale? Increase our revenue? Help us grow? In implementing this Priority Filter tool, you’ll put a plan in place instead of a cluster of ideas just floating around, crowding up your headspace. And at the end of the day, you’ll feel more heard and confident that your actions in the business are reflective of your priorities. Gandhi would be proud.

To learn more about the Priority Filter and how you and your Master Key Executive can implement it to quell your “noise,” CONTACT US for a free tool.

Permission: One Simple Concept that can Change an Entrepreneur’s Life

When we talk about the word “permission”, what comes to mind?  A piece of paper pinned to your shirt ready to be signed by your parent before a field trip?  Or your kid asking to borrow the car to go to a friend’s house?  

We rarely think about permission in the context of leadership and entrepreneurship.  Permission is actually a tool that, when consciously utilized and communicated, can elevate an entrepreneur’s productivity, effectiveness, and ultimately, their happiness.  After all, that’s what matters, isn’t it?

The fact is that Entrepreneurs do a lot.  They take on a lot.  They own a lot of responsibilities.  Why?  Because they are the only person with everything to lose if their business fails.  So naturally, they are going to take on everything that will allow their businesses to not only grow, but to be culturally and financially healthy, competitive, and innovative.     Ironically though, those activities often take the Entrepreneur away from the things that they do best, because things exist that they HAVE TO DO in order to grow.  This constant conflict can drive an Entrepreneur crazy.  Over time, it can make them question if they really have any of  the “freedom” that they hoped for when they chose the path of entrepreneurship.  Unfortunately, many Entrepreneurs will forego the things that they do best or bring the most value to the business in order to do the things that they assume they have to be the one to do.   This is where growth trajectories stall out and where many Entrepreneurs find themselves 2 years, 5 years, and even 10 years after starting their business.

Years ago, I used to fantasize about a magical person who would swoop down, build and maintain my company culture, align my employees about the future, cast a spell on people to start being more innovative and solve bigger problems, fire bad employees, and do all of the things that take up the cavernous pit in my brain that weighed me down to the ground every day.  Mind you, I never had to wish for someone to grow the business, create new products and services, develop strategy, and differentiate our company in the market.  That was easy (and FUN)!  It was all of the more nebulous things that I longed for someone to care about, to take on, and to feel a sense of ownership.   These were not things that would be in anyone’s job description.  They were things that reflected a mindset and an understanding of things beyond what the business actually “does for a living”.  

Then it happened.  I wished out loud one day.  I was sitting in my office having a conversation with my COO about a staff issue I was concerned about, and wanted to get his feedback on whether he thought the person should be terminated.  Then it happened.  In my typical sarcastic, teasing way, I said, “Feel free to worry about this stuff too!”  Ok, maybe it was passive aggressive.  

He had a somewhat confused look on his face and said, “Well, I never realized you wanted me to do that.  I thought that was kinda your thing.”  

“NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.”  Sigh.  “No”.

And my world changed.    It was then that I realized that because Entrepreneurs are confident, assertive, and push forward with their chins up, without missing a beat, that our behaviors are often misconstrued as enjoyment of whatever we are doing.   We do things because we have to.  It’s like picking up my dog’s poop in the back yard.   Do you think I LIKE to pick up poop?  No.  I do it because otherwise I’ll step in it.  And I probably do it with smile.

There are so many things that we as Entrepreneurs simply take on because we have to.  And guess what!  Something that we “have to” do can easily be something that an employee “gets to do” if you simply give them permission to.   I have seen this transformation happen within minutes when I work with Entrepreneurs and their Master Key Executives.  It is an amazing revelation  that transforms not only their relationship and the Master Key’s feeling of empowerment, but it frees up that place in the Entrepreneur’s brain that creates noise, allowing them to spend their time and energy doing what brings the most value to the company while knowing that someone else now has their back and has ownership over the important things that would otherwise bog them down.a

To learn more about how to empower your Master Key Executive to understand and feel ownership of the things that keep you up at night, CONTACT US to request a free tool

Who is in YOUR cabinet?

By Debbie Gordon

Selecting your Cabinet as an Entrepreneur

With all of the activity surrounding the President-Elect’s cabinet selections, it occurred to me that so many entrepreneurs don’t always have the luxury of hand selecting individuals to advise and lead specific areas of our businesses.  In many entrepreneur owned companies, often people assume a role or roles simply because it is where they have spent their time and energy as the company matures.  A person may have been around since the inception of the business, and they do what they do because, well, that’s what they do!  Additionally, one person may wear many hats simply because of budget constraints, necessity, or again, well, that’s just what they do.

Remember back when you started your business.  Oh how lovely it would have been to have the resources and foresight to be able to handpick a group of individuals to be the leaders of each of your critical departments.  Unless you raised significant capital and had a network of people that were ready to drop everything and come to work with you, chances are you started small.  Maybe you enlisted a friend, maybe a partner or spouse, or perhaps you hired someone to simply help out that has since grown into a much bigger role.  

Now consider a very different situation as it pertains to a Presidential Cabinet.  The President-Elect was in essence “hired” to be the CEO of the country and has to select people to lead and advise various departments in which he has little to no experience (NOTE: fact, not political statement).   Think about this in relation to your business. It’s certainly a lot easier to hire people to fill certain leadership roles when you personally have done that job or at least been involved in the decision-making around that subject or “department”.  You have the ability to think critically about what has to get done and how it gets done.  But when you don’t know what you don’t know, it is a lot harder to know if this person is indeed the right person to lead.

There are some things that you can ascertain no matter how your “cabinet” came to be, or whether you are at a point in your business where you can deliberately handpick people.  Here are some simple things to consider:

1.       Do they know (and share) your purpose?  Alignment of values can make or break a business.    Think about this as it pertains to the Presidential Cabinet.  The President-Elect, when identifying potential people for his cabinet, needs to be sure that these people share his values.  In government, those values are very apparent, as we all know from the months and months of campaigning.  But in a business, values are not always so apparent.  Yes, your company may have a values declaration written on the wall or somewhere on your website, but how do those values actually manifest themselves into decision making?  Besides just being aware of your values, does your prospect actually share those values and are they willing and able to make decisions that align with those values?  

2.       Are they your clone?   Have you said something like, “I could totally hang out and have a beer with that person”.  Do they act like you or have similar traits to you?  Do you feel comfortable with them because they are predicable because it is how you would do something?  Nothing will inhibit innovation more than hiring someone who is going to do things just the way you would do them.   As a fast-moving, hard-charging entrepreneur, when you consider a candidate for a leadership role perhaps you may think “they are not decisive enough” or “they are too reserved”.  They just don’t seem like a good fit, right?  I have been in situations where someone’s personality was so different than mine, that it actually made me uncomfortable to interact with them.  20 years ago, there is no way I would have hired such a person.   But when I look deeper at what those things actually represent, that is the foundation for a perfect fit.   We need someone to balance us and bring different perspectives to our ways of thinking.  We actually need someone to think versus simply act, which we entrepreneurs often do all too impulsively.  So that person who you may think is “too reserved” or “not decisive enough” may actually be processing situations in a much more methodical manner versus just going with what comes to their mind impulsively.  Look for people who don’t think like you, embrace them, and learn each other’s styles. 

3.       Are they willing (and permitted) to challenge you?  As an entrepreneur, you likely exhibit an air of confidence when talking.  People in your organization may assume that what you say is already well thought out, and well, a final decision.  For example, if you say “We should do x”, others may hear it as a directive.  But in fact, as a continuously improving leader, what you are actually saying is “This idea literally popped into my mind 3 seconds ago when someone mentioned XYZ and we should think about exploring that so what do you all think?”  Right?   When I ask key executives if they think their entrepreneur/CEO would say that they desire being challenged by their key executives, most of those key executives answer “no” or “not really” or “I don’t believe so”.  Even people who hold high level, leadership roles in organizations do not always challenge the CEO/entrepreneur enough.  That doesn’t mean they are a “yes man” or “yes woman”, it simply means they haven’t been specifically told by the entrepreneur that they actually want to be challenged more.  Once that alignment happens and the key executive has been given permission to challenge, a new level of leadership occurs and in turn, an unexpected (and counter intuitive) level of comfort will be felt by the entrepreneur.

So, in this pre-inauguration season, as our President-Elect continues to select his cabinet members, think about who is in your cabinet.  Having people in your cabinet who share your values, take a different approach to decision making and problem solving, and have been told that you as a leader welcome being challenged, together create a solid foundation for a high performing business.

Up Next: Cleaning out your cabinet.