“Action and feeling go together, and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling.”
– William James
One of the biggest benefits business owners report when they take on fresh leadership, whether an interim or fractional executive is a sense of relief. Of having done the right thing. They report the feeling that someone else shouldered a burden that was becoming impossible. Just too large to handle alone, or with the current resources on hand.
The real reason behind this for all of us business owners is that the challenge is just too painful to deal with on our own. Whether it’s family dynamics, lack of future planning, or declining business, we get embroiled in the inertia of our organizations. Sometimes the pain is so vast, the only solution is to sell the company.
In his book Delivering Happiness, Tony Hsieh describes how the culture at Link Exchange, his first company became so wrong for him that he felt he had no choice but to sell his baby. He justified Zappo’s unique culture as the antidote to all the mistakes he felt he made the first time around.
Luckily for most business owners, less drastic solutions can speedily help solve the problem or capture the opportunity. The best solution often begins with a fresh set of eyes. This does not mean replacement for you as business owner, but rather objective leadership not beholden to past practice or groupthink. A fresh point of view matched with a predisposition to tell the truth. A doctor to look at your whole organization and give you a prescription.
When we deployed an interim CEO into a holding company with 20+ operating entities, he reported that within days of coming on board, he could tell exactly which assets needed to be cut and which assets needed to be nurtured. Just a few of the divisions were causing all of the losses. As painful as it might have sounded to the board of directors, their only reaction was gratitude that someone objective and neutral had identified the exact cause of pain and could act to stop the bleeding and stem the losses.
Owners, whether they play an active leadership role or simply oversee the board, need to demand action and its close cousin: accountability. We all see this so clearly in arenas that don’t count. For example, as sports fans we know exactly when the pitcher needs to be taken out of the game. And yet in business we stall. We rationalize. All at our expense.
The beauty of the new workforce, embracing project based leadership, is that accountability is enhanced far more than before. Owners can have their cake, and eat it too.