Five Cardinal Rules of Business

Business gives a business owner the greatest amount of personal freedom, when compared to different kinds of vocations. Yet, at the same time, business is a jealous mistress. You ignore it; you do so at your own peril.

With that in mind I’ve created five rules for balancing freedom and responsibility in business.

1. Take a random dive

As your business grows it is hard to keep an eye on all the operations. So randomly select one operation and dig deep into it to find flaws and work to shore those flaws up. Because business is organic and social, the entire system should benefit from your one random visit. The entire system almost automatically gets the messages that when you go in to something you really do it with a fine tooth comb. Automatically, the other operations of the business within begin to cure themselves.

2. The workforce copies you

When you are at the top of an organization, your manner and style tend to be copied by those under you. Realizing this, you minimize behavior you don’t want copied down the line. For example, a leader who has a consistent pattern of getting angry at poor performance will see that behavior copied down the line. You will, as a result, have an angry work environment. That’s bad enough, but where the real problem comes in is the reaction to anger. You get cover-ups and lying. You have the classic story of Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq, as the great example. His son was in charge of the military. When the son checked the military vehicles, he finds that none of the jeeps run. Instead of surfacing the information to his father, who was known for fits of anger, he made sure that the jeeps were washed and put in neat rows so when his father inspected them they at least looked good.

3. It’s results not explanations that are needed

Work at not confusing explanations with results. Most workers believe that they are hired and promoted based on following the rules and making good explanations. After all, this is what school curriculum is based on most of the time. To shed this behavior, create a system that is based on results. For example, when action plans are created, you add an extra column asking for results of the plan. When you get them, tear up the action plan, but keep the results section. The worker knows that what you want are results, not explanations. In fact, that’s all you know, because that’s the only thing you have a record of.

4. You don’t get what you ask for Yes you do

You get what you ask for. The environment gives you what you ask for, nothing less, nothing more. If someone down the line asks for something different, and you have been clear and consistent in what you want, it will quickly emerge that there are conflicting requests going around. You ask the person why he or she is asking for something different than what you have been asking for. The result of that conversation will do wonders in clearing the air and creating a more clear message. Remember, you get what you ask for. Be clear, and ensure there is only one message.

5. It’s a jungle down there

If you neglect the bottom third of your workforce, it will become the most powerful unit in the entire workforce. It not only becomes powerful but very smart at maintaining its own survival. The only true fact is that the bottom third of the workforce is the poorest performing part of the workforce. The longer you go without addressing that the more influence the bottom third exercises over the entire workforce. It can end in the poorest performers thought of as the best performers. Before this gets out of control, spend at least a third of your time trimming back that part of the workforce. It will feel like you’re in a jungle. That’s because you are.