Every business owner dreams of having a company that runs without them; to sit back and enjoy the fruit of their labor without the pressure and stress of the daily grind. In the crazy world of the construction industry especially, the emotional wear and tear can be unbearable.
So why don’t we do that? Is it just a dream? Is the idea of an autonomous business a reachable goal? And if it is reachable, what stops us from achieving it?
In my work with builders over the years, it has become clear that our approach to people development is the single biggest hurdle to sustainable growth. No doubt there are plenty of other challenges in our industry, but this one – the people problem – proves to be one of the most complex. Are we hopelessly conditioned or predisposed to failure in this department? There is plenty of proof that says otherwise.
They may be in the minority, but builders who have succeeded in creating self-sustaining companies, have not accomplished the impossible. What they have done is create cultures – organic environments – where people function autonomously, within a mutually agreed upon order, and thrive as a result. It is never a perfect panacea, but it does work. And along the way, these companies also foster something else that few in our industry do; real, tangible market value.
It’s the culture that makes the difference; a product of what the leaders create and allow. And winning cultures invariably demonstrate three undeniable traits that attract and keep great people, and ultimately produce self-sustaining, highly profitable companies. Here they are, in order of importance:
Trust must be earned. It may seem like a given, but most of the time leaders don’t truly trust their people, even though they say they do. Our behaviors prove it. We unintentionally send the message that we don’t trust people by putting all kinds of crazy limits on them and micromanaging everything they do. Real trust starts with stubbornly believing the best about people, usually in spite of our presuppositions and conditioning not to. Put simply, trust must first be given away in order to be perceived as a person worthy of being trusted.
That means taking our hands off everything and expressing our confidence that others may very well be capable and competent enough to do things without our constant oversite. It creates an environment of contribution and safety where fear of repercussion is absent, and people can then reciprocate with trusting and productive behaviors. Believe it or not, that is a rarity in our industry!
Autonomy is an extension of trust. For individuals (all of us leaders and owners included) it is the deep-rooted desire to control our own destiny in service of some endeavor that matters. Most leaders focus (unintentionally) on the opposite; controlling everyone else’s destinies. In doing so, we inflict unmeasurable damage to an otherwise high-potential group of people and leave the immeasurable value of their intellectual capital untapped.
Making a shift to an autonomous environment begins with a focus on results vs activities. We’re usually inclined to define and control our people’s activities; do this, do that, go there, etc. If we choose to trust that people are capable and competent (assuming they’ve been properly trained and equipped), which most are, we will become very comfortable pointing them toward specific results and the getting out of their way so they can produce them.
It’s equally comforting to our people as well, knowing they have the freedom to go do their best work in pursuit of a common cause – something that makes a difference. And, not coincidentally, autonomous companies (those that function without an owner’s constant oversight) don’t happen without people functioning autonomously!
Trust and autonomy without accountability are wishful thinking at best. However, our misperception of accountability usually leads us to a mindset of control and micromanagement. Ironically, trust and autonomy are only ever functional with accountability firmly established. Think of accountability as a check and balance, allowing for the creation of results-driven environments where assumptions, doubt, and fear of the unknown become irrelevant.
Interestingly, trust, autonomy and accountability are inseparable when it comes to building a healthy, productive culture. They are an all-or-none proposition. But once functioning in harmony, a tipping point is reached where self-sustaining companies move quickly in front of the competition and command a bigger audience and gross profit.
What are your goals? If you are like most business owners in the construction industry, you too desire “A company that runs without me.” That answer, unfortunately, often comes across as wishful thinking, which is unfortunate. Shouldn’t this be the main goal for every business, yours included? What’s more, it is not just a worthy goal, it is a very achievable one! But, standing in the way, obvious or not, is the one obstacle that lurks in the shadows and almost always represents our biggest hurdle: It’s not our people, it’s us!
If you need help, encouragement or support Legacy Business Leaders is here for you. Call anytime at 330.470.1300, or visit us on the web at www.Legacybizleaders.com. We would love to have the opportunity to be a part of your success story!
Wishing you the very best in life and business!
Legacy Business Leaders, LLC
Solutions for Business – Expect Results!