PetAge_Cover_NOV14

Good Boss, or Good Leader?

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Do you nurture your employees so they can grow to be leaders themselves? Do you let your employees make decisions and yes, even wrong decisions? Is it difficult for you to give up control, or are you at the point where you are happy to have other folks help run the business?

I ask these questions because in the last few weeks I have been fortunate enough to be with some folks who are now, or becoming, real leaders. I was visiting one of my good friends who has a very successful store.

As is usually the case with owner/operators, ever since I have known him he has been involved with just about every decision that was made in the company.  Making deals, the marketing, product selection, you name it, he was there to make the decision.

Mind you, he was making very good decisions and his flourishing business was proof. Then something happened that made him realize he has good people and they should help run the business.

I was there to pitch some new skus of food and  much to my delight, Joe was not in the room. He told me he knows the only way to let his folks grow is to let them make the decisions. He is certainly there if they need him but, “they can handle it.”

I gotta tell you, I was just so impressed with the way things were handled. I could see some coaching, which was completely appropriate since  we all need to be guided a little, but  the decision to bring in the line, or not, were made by the folks who actually would have to sell them.

What a concept!

More importantly, the style of leadership was evident. It is a: “I will coach you, you are a bright person, and I have faith in your abilities. You know my vision for the business, take it and run, I am here if you need me.”

Here is the part I like the best: “You make the decisions, I won’t second guess you.”

Now, we obviously can’t turn over decision making to folks who aren’t qualified, but have you given your employees the chance to show you they are qualified?

I don’t want you to confuse being a good boss with being a good leader. There are differences.

A good boss is fair, honest, knows and practices good management skills, and is a good human being. A leader takes those skills, and is able to get folks to “buy into” whatever he/she is “selling.” We all know great leaders and we also know some amazingly powerful leaders that were anything but good.

One of my good friends took over his folks very small food, people, not pet, service distribution business a few years after he got out of college. Over the course of many years, he built the business up to a pretty big business and sold it to a national company for a large chunk of change.

He is a leader.

He oozes passion for whatever he is doing and his can’t fail  manner and personality  is contagious. You just can’t help feeling energized being with him.

We were together last week at meeting listening to a presentation. The presenter was talking about an investment idea that made perfect sense, everything was upfront and clear. But the presenter just didn’t do a good job presenting his plan. He was a great guy, as honest as can be, bright, knows his stuff but just not a good presenter.

My buddy said something to me that just hit such a chord with me: “You need rapport before you can influence.” So simple but profound.

All great leaders build the rapport before they try to influence. Think about that, do you do that in your management life? Actually, it is true in your personal life as well. We in the group are waiting to see if he sends a note thanking us for our time.

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