A year or so ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a dozen chickens for our three daughters to raise. The thought was our kids would learn responsibility and how to work and be rewarded with the money they earned selling extra eggs to the neighbors. Things are actually on track with egg production and chicken chores, and the girls are thrilled with the cash they are earning and saving. The only downside? It’s costing my wife and me a lot of money!
This experience reminded me of the dedication and sacrifice required to successfully grow a business. As the leader, you have to pay attention to the culture, the product, and the health of the business. Building a great product is different than building a prosperous company. And building a financially strong company is not the same as building an engaged and satisfied workplace. Each is important, yet each requires very different skills.
Perhaps more importantly, if you focus on one area too exclusively, it can be to the detriment of the others. This is illustrated by three classic stereotypes: the brilliant engineer who can’t produce a viable product, the cut-throat bean counter who alienates the workforce or impacts quality with a maniacal focus on the numbers, or the touchy-feely HR leader who has no credibility with business leaders. Strengths taken to an extreme can become a weakness.
As a business leader, surrounding yourself with a balanced perspective is essential. In addition, it’s helpful to recognize that sometimes there are seasons of imbalance as you try to get one of these things to a better place. This could take the form of layoffs or cost cutting to get the company financially healthy. It may come in the form of rethinking or reinventing your key product. Or it may come in the form of a culture building effort or an initiative to help people through major change. One thing is certain, people, and thus good leadership, are at the center of the process.
In the big scheme of things, my wife and I are fine with the time and money spent on our egg laying project because we realize we are raising children, not chickens. In the bottom-line world of business, however, the product, the people, and the company each have to perform. If you ignore one of these, then bad things could happen.