The following is an excerpt from “Grow: Take Your Business from Chaos to Calm” by Michael J. McFall, an Inc. Original Imprint by Greenleaf Publishing Group.
How to Manage and Lead with Love
Ask anyone I work with. I am a hard-core pragmatist who loves to grind numbers and crush strategy with anyone. I am as hard nosed and hard charging as anyone you know. I started as a minimum wage barista 26 years ago, and I am now selling over $250M a year in coffee. If street credibility is important to you, I hope I have earned enough to push you into a few areas that make most people uncomfortable. Do I have your permission?
I hope you’ll believe me when I say that to continue to grow your business, you need to become 100 percent focused on people and the relationships within your organization. They are all that matter; they are everything. You need to make love the glue that holds your organization together. Yep, I did it! I used the word “love” in the context of management and leadership. Some will shut down when they read those four letters. I am here to tell you the organization of the future is going to make love the cornerstone of what they do. Get with it or get left behind.
Yes, I know that the traditional mindset is to hit your numbers, accomplish your tasks, keep your nose clean, and hopefully everything works. Miss your numbers, fall short on your work, or engage in unhealthy behavior, and bam, you are sent packing. It’s on you, the employee. Be accountable or be gone with you.
But times are a-changing. Being a good manager/leader is about relationships. Relationships are a two-way street. You are as accountable for your people’s success as they are. You must constantly bring value to them, and when that is your focus, you will find people falling all over themselves to support you too. The relationship will be mutually beneficial, a two-way street. Your people will be in love with you and vice versa because you are both committed to the personal growth and development of one another. To me that is the definition of love.
Here is what I know to be true: Great organizations, great teams throughout history were overflowing with love; we just didn’t call it that. I share examples later. This book is written to attempt to unlock the power of love. I promise you this isn’t some bullshit, smarmy book written by a dope-smoking hippie who lives in the land of Oompa Loompas riding a unicorn through a tulip field. Love isn’t only about making people warm and fuzzy. Love is so much more. It is about engaging somebody and supporting them in their own growth so they can have the life of their dreams, a life they love. You can’t do this with only gratitude and platitudes. Often it entails having hard conversations. It is holding a mirror up and reflecting unacceptable behavior. It is reminding people of their commitments, and yes, it is ultimately about telling people they are amazing when, well, they are amazing.
This book is not soft, and love most definitely doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Having an environment that is loving is often much harder than running one that isn’t. Solutions to problems can become more complicated when love is the baseline.
When you manage from a position of love, you are obligated to know your people intimately, to know them better than they know themselves. You are coaching and mentoring them daily; you get to be a part of the inner sanctum. If somebody is falling short, it is as much on you as their manager as on them to course-correct and get things moving in a healthy direction as it is on them. If you work with them and don’t see progress, you have an obligation to move the person into a more suitable role. Here we go with another primary theme of this book, the responsibility starts with you. It is on you to make sure you are building healthy teams, and that starts by having healthy members. Your job is to lead each member of your team, to coach and teach them so they reach their potential specifically at work and more generally in life. The responsibility is immense.
Not for the Faint of Heart
Be prepared for the transition from bootstrapping entrepreneur to leader to be a winding journey and excruciatingly painful. I am proposing you first completely overhaul your personality to become a great leader and then ultimately strive to make yourself irrelevant in your business. Once you are irrelevant, you have completed the grow phase of your business journey. It’s unsettling to go from knuckle-grinding, spit-flying, maniacal control freak of the start-up phase to the loving, tender, nurturing leader of the growth phase to one who is finally unnecessary once the business is sustainable. And as hard as that first transition is, from entrepreneur to leader, the second, from leader to irrelevant, is even harder.
Most entrepreneurs, most people, want to feel needed. It makes them feel worthy. It gives them identity; it gives them a reason for being. When you are unnecessary, your phone doesn’t ring, and your calendar is pretty open. You will be left feeling dumb because you aren’t aware of something pivotal happening in the organization. Your temper will flair as your team tells you an interaction with a middle manager was unhealthy and way too “micro.” You were just trying to be helpful. People in the organization will still copy you on things but more to be polite than because they need you and/or want your approval. Being irrelevant is gut wrenching, infuriating, lonely, and unsettling.
You are going to screw up constantly. The learning curve is going to feel like a sheer rock face. You have no ropes, no guides, nobody at the top shouting words of encouragement because so few have been able to make the transition. Your hands will feel like they are on wet rocks with loose foundations. You will feel like you can fall at any time. Sound dramatic? It is! Remember, 1 in 37,000.
Not only is feeling irrelevant hard, but watching your baby—your business—go off to college to be raised by others—your management team—is like taking a heavy body blow. Your team will do things with which you disagree, and you must support them and even encourage them anyway. You must believe in them with all your soul—not because you must let them make mistakes and learn, which is often how this process is framed by many leaders, but because you hired them, and they are smarter than you. Now, you have to let them work. Eeecckk! What? Yep, they are smarter than you. It is a hard pill to swallow.
I always know I am in the presence of a simplistic, unsophisticated leader when I hear “let them fall, skin their knees, and learn,” because the assumption in that line of thinking is that the manager knows the one and only “right” answer and is letting them go down a different path. If this is your mindset—and it is the thinking of many managers/ leaders—you need this book deeply. If you are doing your job appropriately and assembling a team to run the business for you by hiring and developing leaders who are better in their discipline than you, then that collective group is going to be infinitely smarter than you and their decisions will be better than yours. It is a psychological chasm most entrepreneurs can’t get over. Most want to stay in the space of skinning knees, as it allows them to continue to be the smartest person in the room.
In the end what I am talking about is ego management. Ego is a beast with big hairy fangs, dripping with blood. Everyone has one. When I hear somebody say they don’t have an ego, I automatically understand that they lack emotional intelligence. Strong management/leadership isn’t about eliminating ego, it is about being mindful and making sure we know how it is impacting our behavior and how that behavior is impacting our team and business. Those who understand their ego have a chance at becoming powerful leaders, and those that can’t will run middling enterprises that never reach the promised land of sustainability.
You will grow accustomed to hearing and understanding the voice of your ego. You will begin to evaluate it while breathing deeply and treading lightly as it drives spikes into your heart and soul. The conflict between you and your ego will be intense. Understanding that your ego is not you and that it can be coached and understood is pivotal to your growth and development as a leader. Managing your ego will become a huge part of your life and be one of the hardest management challenges you face.
As I said, this is not for the faint of heart.