The so famous and always timely Gandhian creed of “be the change you seek in the world” is never more relevant than when it comes to what entrepreneurs must do to get better in order to lead profitable enterprises and to fulfill on the mission and promise of their organizations.
I experienced this first hand at my company’s quarterly advisory board meeting this past week.
While we are proud that Growthink’s revenues grew 30% in 2011, the complexity of our business model - with a mostly Internet marketing-based publishing “front-end” meshed with a strategic advisory and venture investing “back-end” - has long been a point of spirited discussion as to how to best organize and lead it.
And as the company’s CEO, I was unluckily (or luckily, depending on one's perspective), the focal point of the debate.
I was challenged by our board for, among other things, not clearly enough defining and measuring the business’ key metrics, to not delegating effectively and often enough, to leading in a too "cliché - driven" fashion, to not taking care of myself, to the simple but highly relevant feedback as to my moderation style of the board meeting itself!
The sessions were painful. They were discouraging. They were sometimes anger and soul-search inducing.
And they were wonderful.
It is way too rare in business and in life - especially as an entrepreneur attains a base level of success and/or as they get older - that they are truly challenged and called out on their shortcomings.
Rather, in our politically correct culture, the default is too often to take the “everyone gets a star on their forehead and trophy” approach.
While there is a LOT to say for a kudos - based company culture and leadership ethos, it has its drawbacks.
It can excuse lack of performance and it can lead to a false sense of “faux” accomplishment.
Most insidiously, lack of “tough love” can impede that creativity inducing state of introspection - and even depression - from which often flow breakthrough ideas and profound transformation.
Call them what you will, but these kinds of in-person business “interventions” can propel more strategic and professional growth than a countless thousand e-mails, tweets, texts, and status updates ever can.
Now, the flip-side is that the executive has to be open to this feedback and be fervently committed to an ongoing personal and professional growth mindset and approach.
You see, while life and business VERY occasionally give us savants with so much of the right leadership and management stuff that they succeed in a linear growth fashion, the vast majority of entrepreneurs learn to get better through failing and through crisis.
And in modern business, these crises almost always come unpredictably.
And they are sometimes of such a severity that while wisdom - inducing for sure can also be so debilitating as to impede forward progress for years.
Far more controllable and repeatable are the “manufactured” crises of a board meeting, of a strategic planning process, of a business coaching and mentoring dynamic.
Look for entrepreneurs that are open and expose themselves to these kinds of sessions regularly.
Even better, look for those that once given the goods on what they're doing wrong and why, go out and do something about it.
Like growing themselves and their organizations to all they can and should be.