Understand how your role as a leader affects your organization and your bottom line.
A funny thing happened in the office a few weeks ago. My team was preparing to have an impromptu birthday party for one of the agency's favorite employees, who happens to keep kosher. Everything was beautifully planned, and they'd purchased several kosher cupcakes. Unaware of any of this, I soon realized what they were doing and made a joke about ensuring they had a kosher cake.
What happened next was right out of a scene from The Office. The party was immediately delayed, calls were made all over Manhattan, and several people were dispatched in search of a kosher cake. All because I made a passing comment that was never intended to be taken seriously.
This was a huge lesson in the power of perception. When you run a business, or a large team, you naively assume that everyone perceives you as the normal, down to earth person you are. The truth is that people inevitably look at you differently when you're in charge. You're wearing the big shoes now, and other people are going to take you seriously because they feel they have to.
There's a theory known as The Butterfly Effect, which suggests that a butterfly's wings flapping in one part of the world can trigger a hurricane in another. This is a good metaphor for the role a business leader plays, and how seemingly insignificant actions can induce a rippling effect throughout the entire organization. Here are some ways to avoid The Butterfly Effect in your own business:
1. Remember your "small request" is their fire drill.
I've been told that the worst thing anyone can hear at Launchpad is me saying, "Hey, you have a couple of minutes?" What seems like a small request from you is, by its very definition, a big to-do for your team. Think carefully before tapping someone on the shoulder, and when you do, make sure that person knows why he or she is doing what you've asked. Otherwise, your employees only know two things: One, that they have to do this because you want it done, and two, it's the dumbest thing they'll do all day.
2. Keep your whims in check.
I recently asked one of my employees to tell me the things I do that drive everyone nuts, and her feedback was eye-opening. I'm an instant gratification-type person, and when I get an idea, I want to share it immediately. I'll grab a few key people and ask, "Hey, do you have a couple of minutes to go over this?" I assume that if people are busy, they'll just say so! Turns out, they never do. Instead, they rearrange their schedules and mess up their days to accommodate my idea.
3. A little filtering on your part can go a long way.
It's not only something as simple as a one-off comment that can eat up your organization's resources. Sometimes it's those ancient, embedded procedures that are so deeply interwoven into your system that they just happen without any real thought. This came up when I was working with a large company, where every once in a while a consumer would send a complaint note to the CEO's office. Sometimes these were real issues that required real action, but often they were crazy, irrational comments that amounted to nothing. These insane comments demanded a tremendous number of resources to investigate and respond to--usually for something that was entirely unimportant in the first place. Why? Simply because they came from the CEO's office. Just a little common-sense filtering on the part of his staff would have made a tremendous difference to organizational productivity.
4. Your indecision is their nightmare.
Your employees' time is valuable. To them, and to your company. Irresponsible use of their time can lead to squandered resources and subsequently make you look like a thoughtless manager. I remember working with this one executive who was flying out to San Francisco to give a five-minute presentation at a sales meeting. This guy could not decide what he wanted to say. I ended up spending days packaging 100 slides for a five-minute speech. Spending just a few minutes thinking your requests through can save tremendous time and frustration for your team.
Remember, you're the boss. This all comes back to understanding how other people perceive you. You're the person who signs their paychecks, the one who they're trying to impress. There's no escaping that. Most CEOs have no desire at all to throw a wrench into the works; they just aren't thinking about how their actions can affect the ecosystem of their company. This is especially true of owners of growing businesses with roles that are expanding as the company does. When Launchpad started, for example, I was part of a team of just a few people. Today, I'm running a ship of more than 60. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you go from the person you know yourself to be, to "The Boss" and you're now that butterfly. Just be careful how you flutter your wings, and you'll avoid setting into motion small disasters that eventually cost your company time and money.