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From Home Furnishing Business

Coach's Corner: “Leaving a Legacy of Leadership in Your Company”

By Tom Zollar

Our last column provided the reader with a preview of this month’s exciting Forty Under 40 issue, by presenting some ideas about what it takes to be a leader and how to help them grow within your organization. The point being that without creating the right environment and opportunities in our companies, we will not attract, develop and keep the individuals who will evolve into the movers and shakers of the future.

Since then it has been announced that the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathon Scott, are being inducted as honorary members of the class of 2018. There is no question that over the past few years they have grown to become two of the most visible leaders in the home furnishings industry because of their amazing talents and wonderful personalities. We made it clear last month that being well liked is not as critical for a leader as being respected. However, if your business is centered on entertaining people while providing answers and educating individuals about creating the home of their dreams, then I think being well liked is just as important as being respected for Jonathan and Drew.

My plan had been to follow up on that article with some ideas about what a successful leader must do in their business, in order to leave a legacy of leadership that will help the next generation of owners/management continue the company’s success after they depart. The recognition of the Scott Brothers as future leaders in our industry gave me an idea to help drive home this month’s message. You see, being an avid fan of their shows, I realize that a key reason for their success is the way they perform every week as the leaders of the various individual projects they tackle. Indeed, it is their ability to create a plan and execute it that provides the happy endings we all want to see. This is what leaders do and all we need to do is watch a few of their shows to help us understand how they apply many of the points I want to make about being a leader in your business.

With that in mind, below is my list of some important things a leader must do to be successful in their business and leave a legacy of leadership for future generations to follow.

Establish Guiding Values and Principles

It is fundamental to continued success and building a high-performance team that all members of the organization share the same values.  A strong belief system of principles that reflect these values should be in place to serve as the basis for the work done by all employees. Everyone knows what is expected, and employee behavior can be measured against the stated beliefs. Every decision made in a project or plan must be constantly compared to and measured against these principles. Without this basic belief structure, the organization will struggle to find consistency of effort and often find individuals working at odds against each other within the company. Think about what would happen if Drew went looking for homes that didn’t have what the client wanted or that Jonathon could not renovate within budget. They both value what the client tells them and their guiding principles are aimed at providing the client with the end result they desire. As a result, everyone is focused on the same outcome or ultimate goal.

Set the Vision and Create the Plan

Setting a vision is basically establishing where the company needs to be in the future. It is determined by understanding the opportunities available and matching them to the organization’s ability to move forward. Creating the plan involves setting goals that are tied to a timeline that puts the company at its targeted result in the most efficient and effective manner. First, leadership must know where they are, then they must determine where it is feasible for them to go, given the resources and timeframe with which they are working. Last, goals for completion of each step in the plan—that are time sensitive— need to be established. It is like using a map. Find where you are on it, then mark the destination you want to go to and determine the best route for you to take, given the time, vehicle, fuel, etc. you have. Each city or stop along the way would be a goal. Drew and Jonathon do this for every project by interviewing the clients and creating a vision of what they want. Drew shows them examples of existing houses they can’t afford that fit the vision and then Jonathon provides a digital image of what could be done to one they could buy, that would fulfill their dream. Without the vision being set at the beginning and with no solid plan in place to create it for the client, their subsequent efforts would have little chance of success.

Instill Discipline and Execute Plan

The next step is to execute the plan, however unless leadership has instilled the discipline to follow a plan within the organization, chances of success are greatly reduced. The desired result of having a disciplined team, is that people do what you want them to do. As General Schwarzkopf said, leaders get people to do things “willingly” that they would not normally do “willingly”. A major reason this happens is that strong leaders radiate confidence and a positive energy. People naturally want to follow them and do whatever they did because they believe in them and trust their direction. Leaders are also proactive and listen to the input they receive from others, no matter what level they are on in the organization. There is no better way to get buy-in from people than to listen and react thoughtfully and honestly to what they say. The goal is to get people to do things because they want to, not because they have to. Next time you watch Property Brothers, take note of the energy they exude and the positive way they deal with a problem, issue or negative situation they encounter. Their team is always onboard, and you will also see that having a great sense of humor serves any leader well!

Build Confidence

One of the results of being a positive person and strong leader is that you will build confidence in the people you work with, both above and below you. There is no quicker way to reduce productivity or lessen the chance for a project or company to succeed than to allow negativity to permeate the organization. This is one of the hardest tests for a leader because it requires great dedication and self-discipline to make sure it never creeps into their outlook or their actions. It also mandates that people who spread negativity must be stopped and the quicker the better. Communication and including everyone in the planning process is another way to build confidence in a team’s efforts. There is nothing worse than the infamous “mushroom treatment”, which keeps people in the dark. It breeds negativity and discontent. Keep people informed, even when things are not going the way you want, and you will have a much better chance of keeping them on board for the whole journey. Obviously, building confidence in the plan and the process is key to Drew and Jonathan’s success in each of their projects. While I am sure there are problems and issues we don’t see in the final cut, I am equally sure that they communicate with the clients, the team and each other to keep things moving in the right direction.

Pass on a Passion for the Business

This is probably the toughest thing to do, but it is extremely critical for the success of the next generation of leaders within any business. Many of our businesses started as family operations and were driven by the zest for the business that the founders had. Often when the next generation of management takes over, whether they are related to the founders or not, some of that passion for the business is lost. It is quite possible that this is a key reason why more than half of family businesses fail in the second generation and many more fall by the wayside as subsequent transitions fail. It sure helps to love what you do in any situation. However, given the growing competition furniture stores have faced over the last two decades and the fact that their share of customers is dwindling, it is getting tough for some to carry on without a deep passion for the business. Therefore, I believe strongly that any leader worth their salt in our industry must dedicate themselves to radiating and nurturing in their staff, a deep, lasting passion for creating beautiful homes where our customers truly want to live and enjoy life. The same passion and energy we see every week from the Property Brothers.

By leaving a legacy of positive experiences, goals achieved, and customers thrilled, we can develop our next generation of leaders. Cheers to the Forty Under 40 Class of 2018 and our future industry leaders - may you live long and prosper.

Beam me up, Scott Brothers!

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