Leading Your Leaders

One of my favorite conversations to have with business leaders that I respect is asking what their favorite books are that they’ve read recently. The answers often vary, but one of the most recent answers particularly struck me because it introduced a new concept of leadership that has rarely been mentioned to me. The book is titled “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win”. Its authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are former U.S. Navy Seals that served on Seal Team 6 during the Iraq War. They also literally wrote the manual on leadership for U.S. Navy Seals. Needless to say, what they say carries massive value to anyone. 

The principle that my friend related to me that I found most fascinating was the concept of leading your leaders. I admit, the initial thought confused me, so I asked for further clarification. In the book, Willink and Babin speak about how military leadership relies on their on the leaders on the ground to give them tactical advice so that they can develop high level strategies. The leaders on the ground rely on their fellow troops to provide them with accurate views of the battlefield so that they can make the proper adjustments to the battle plans and receive proper supplies from above to give them the best chance to succeed. The chain continues to go down the until each position is actually leading someone above him. 

Almost always when I’ve thought of leadership, it’s been a top-down approach. The boss tells the subordinate what to do and the channel simply runs downhill. However, under the concept of leading your leaders, the importance of personal responsibility is maximized at each level of command. It’s incumbent on subordinates to show their superiors the best way to lead them so that the team achieves success. 

How can you lead those who are in a position of leadership above you? Could better communication with them make your challenges easier to accomplish, because the reality is that leaders can’t make adjustments when they aren’t fully aware of the challenges. Do your superiors know the causes behind the challenges you’re facing? The reality is that your leaders desire for their teams to succeed. 

Adding Value to Each Task

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With the amount that we are all connected to a steady stream of information through the internet and smart phones, it seems that being able to focus has never been more difficult in our society. The second we try to begin a task, it always seem like your pocket buzzes, there’s a knock on the door, or an email that seems to be begging for your click. Before you know it, thirty minutes are gone and progress on your original task is minimal. 

 

Robert J. Shiller, a Nobel Laureate, once said, “The ability to focus on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence.” As leaders, our teams rely on our ability to act wisely, including the way that we utilize our time. Despite the way it seems that distractions can seem to pull us in other directions, we still have agency over where we focus our attention. This week, I hope you’ll join me in recommitting yourself to choosing to focus the finite amount of time we each have toward wise activities, whether at work or at home. It’s not simply about getting more done- it’s about adding value to each of our tasks! 

Go Farther by Going Together

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Over the past several years, Chattanooga has gained a strong reputation for attracting endurance races. From running, cycling, and triathlons, these athletes are an incredible testament to the power of preparation, endurance, and willpower. My favorite of these races though has to be the Ragnar. This nation-wide brand puts on hundreds of races across the country and one of them goes from Downtown Chattanooga to Nashville, TN. Climbing over Monteagle Mountain in the middle of the night, this race lasts over a 24-hour period covering 200 miles. Teams of 6 or 12 split the course and run varying distances, elevation gains, and times of day and night. The craziest part of the race is that most of the teams genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. They dress up in costumes, cheer each other on from vans, and celebrate with cold beer and delicious food at the end. It’s incredible!

There’s an old African Proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go farther, go together.

There are moments in life and in business where we have to go fast: when completing a task, getting through a busy day, or sprinting to finish an important project before a deadline. Those times are necessary and vital to your business and I don’t want to overlook the importance of those moments. Even the best sports teams require a last-minute drive or a buzzer-beater at times.

But what’s more important: the immediate results or the long-term health of your business?

For example, I love to go hiking with my friends. When we go though, I have to intentionally stay in the back., otherwise I’ll set a pace that’s unrealistic for everyone else, tiring everyone out quicker, and causing the group to take more breaks and slow up our pace for the day.

As a leader, you can set lofty expectations, ask for fast deadlines, try to move your team at your pace, and drag them along in the process. But you might find yourself looking back and dragging a bloody stump.

The team you work with is vital to the long-term health and success of your organization. Great leaders understand that while the short game might get results, the long game will keep your business thriving for a long time.

Your team is your most important asset. You hired them to share the load and run the relay, not the solo race. The value of appreciating your team will pay dividends no matter what season your business might be in. They aren’t dispensable expenses. Their contributions will make or break your legacy and your longevity.

-       Kyle 

Big News- We've Moved to Serve You Better!

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It’s with great pleasure that we’re writing to inform you that as of a few short weeks ago we officially opened our doors in a more spacious and comfortable space at 835 Georgia Avenue, Suite 301, Chattanooga, TN, 37402. Other than our address, no other contact information for us is changing. Our new location is in the Smart Bank Building across the street from Miller Plaza. 

 

Since we’ve opened our doors in 2016, our goal has been to service our valuable clients with the highest level of clarity and service anywhere in the accounting industry. We want to make sure that our office space allows us to convey that commitment as well through added convenience, better client meeting space, and more room to have a positive environment for our team members. We couldn’t be more pleased so far! 

While we're excited about what this means for the growth of our company, we intentionally delayed publicizing this announcement for a simple reason- it's not about us, it's about our clients. This is an important time of year for our clients, and we want you to know that our focus has been squarely on the work. While our move is fully focused on serving our clients better, we wanted to be sure that our actions followed our words and that our focus was on maintaining our process, not on shining the light on ourselves. 

Thank you to our team members who have made this move smoother than we could ever imagine. Thank you to our families who have supported our dream of creating a better accounting firm. More than anything, thank you to our clients for entrusting some of the most important things in your life with Market Street Partners. It's not a responsibility we take lightly, and we look forward to serving you even better in our new space! 

The MSP Leadership Team

What To Do When Your Competitor Fails

Business owners know that mistakes happen. We’ve all felt them and fear them within our own businesses, but often experience the opposite feelings when the tables are turned and hear of a public failure about a competitor. Perhaps you read the headlines in the morning and discover a big scandal or failure has befallen your rival or you hear about a negative experience with their products or recent their financial struggles, the first feeling is utter shock. The second is “this is my shot”. Before arriving to work that morning- heck, before the mistake even happens-  it is essential that you be prepared to handle the situation. How you conduct yourself in this moment not only says a lot about the character of you as a business owner, but the impression you’ll give your consumers. While the mistake likely presents an opportunity for your business to capitalize on, it can also be tempting to shift your focus away from your own business strategy. This could not only be a rare opportunity for your business to bring in new clients and earn more market share, but an opportunity to prove your integrity to potential customers. Your employees will follow your lead with handling the sudden shift in the market. This rare opportunity is one that could easily be squandered. Here are three things you that will help you prepare for when the inevitable happens.

1.      You Didn’t Succeed Because They Failed

Because we’ve all experienced our own failure, it sometimes feels good when you’re not the one who failed. When it is your competitor that failed, your first instinct may be to sing along to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust”. However, your company still didn’t necessarily win- an opportunity has just presented itself. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, the Hare’s laziness didn’t automatically mean that the Tortoise won. The Tortoise still had to put in the work, continue its slow and steady strategy, and finish the race to win. Just because your competitor has failed, their customers don’t automatically become your customers. Their failure does not automatically equal your success.

In the midst of Uber’s recent scandals, Lyft- their main competitor- has taken Uber’s failures at face value and recognized this principle. The two founders made a concerted effort to communicate this to their team members. They wrote a pointed email to all their employees noting, “the faults of our competition don’t do anything to deliver a better experience for our customers”. Uber’s failures have no impact on Lyft’s business operations or what consumers will think of Lyft. Lyft understands that the failures Uber is experiencing may provide them with more opportunity to improve in the market; but it doesn’t directly impact the performance of their company.

Keep your focus on the value you provide to your consumers. Lyft didn’t pour out marketing dollars into ads that highlight Uber’s failures, they remained diligent in communicating why they are the best ride-sharing option available. Simply being “better than the worst” opens up your company to new competition and consumers will seek new alternatives in place of you and your competitor.

2. Be a Reporter, Not a Scavenger

It’s important to understand why your competitor failed so you don’t make the same mistakes. For example, if they got involved with the wrong business partner, you better be sure that you don’t make the same mistake. If their employee made a mistake, for goodness sakes, don’t hire that person! By understanding what went wrong, you can take measures to make sure you do the right thing for your business and your consumers.

This is a rare opportunity for your company to learn from mistakes without suffering the consequences. Think back to when you would conduct experiments in chemistry class. If someone made a mistake and used the wrong ingredients that caused a negative reaction, you’re going to be sure you don’t use the same ingredients. Just like you did in class, your business can see the mistakes from your competitor and take proactive, rather than reactive, steps to avoid these pitfalls. This doesn’t happen often, so use your competitor’s mistakes or scandal as a chance to learn rather than simply a scavenging opportunity.

3. Learn From the Market

With Uber’s recent scandals, people have been outraged with the company. Uber’s app downloads have been decreasing, and they’ve dropped significantly in market share from 90% to 75%. Lyft was able to be in the perfect position to pick up the slack by understanding just why consumers were so upset with Uber. They were able to gain insights from the market about the value of a positive internal company culture, how to handle delicate political and social events, and how the market reacted to industry developments, such as self-driving cars.

Similarly, when you hear how consumers are reacting to your competitor’s failure, consider if you need to make adjustments to your current strategy. Were you about to launch a similar marketing campaign that now needs to be avoided? Do you need to shore up your compliance or human resources issues to avoid a regulatory punishment? Perhaps it’s as simple as telling your salespeople to avoid a certain topic of conversation with a group because of the way it was perceived.

By understanding the market’s reaction to your competitors’ failures, your company can build a strategy to capitalize on the opportunity. However, no matter the strategy you choose, insulting your competitor is a race to the bottom and rarely does anything to impress your consumers. While every business should certainly be ready to capitalize when the market presents such opportunities, your business will only grow if you communicate why you are the best option, not simply why people shouldn’t do business with your competitor.

 

Sources:

http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/22/technology/business/lyft-uber-gloating/index.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/06/13/uber-market-share-customer-image-hit-string-scandals/102795024/

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/consumers-lash-out-at-uber-and-turn-to-lyft-after-ubers-immigration-response-2017-01-29

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lyft-has-been-quietly-catching-up-to-uber-2017-06-13

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