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7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

By Matt McClellan

When Joe Lindenmayer received the results of the Myers-Briggs personality analysis he’d administered to his management team, he confirmed his belief that he built a great group at TSS Photography.

The analysis showed how the personalities of the seven members of the management team both clashed and meshed in a way that worked to the advantage of the company. Some people were systems-oriented and would likely focus on the tactical issues of a product, while others were more concerned with feelings and would be in tune with how change would affect employee morale.

The results showed Lindenmayer, president of the company, that the mix of personalities provided an advantage to the $30 million on-site youth and sports photography company with franchises in 45 states and Canada.

Smart Business spoke with Lindenmayer about why it’s important to give employees Commander’s Intent — defined as “the commander’s stated vision, which defines the purpose of an operation, the end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain; it must enable subordinates to quickly grasp the successful end state and their part in achieving it.”

Q: How do you motivate or empower employees?

I’m a big believer that a leader can demotivate people, but he can’t motivate them. You either wake up wanting to do your job and be passionate about what you do or you don’t.

The military teaches us how to develop the unit by giving ‘Commander’s Intent.’ If the intent is to grow the company by 12 percent, then you hire the right people, tell them what the goal is, make the resources available to achieve those goals, but then you get the heck out of the way.

When they need you, or if you just pop in to check on things, you do that. But if you have the right people, they’re going to have creativity and ideas and work as a team and handle conflict and do all the things you need to do to achieve your objectives.

Q: How do you keep pace with changes in your industry?

Competition changes, vendors and suppliers change; setting your strategic plan months in advance can be trouble when it comes time to execute a new product launch or a new program or alliance.

If you haven’t updated and adapted that plan and given your company leaders the ability to shift on the fly in order to achieve those objectives, they’re going to get locked into a program or a certain system that may be completely obsolete and doomed to failure.

Sometimes, if you’re too distant from what’s going on, your tendency is to get in there and throw down an edict. You can’t just say, ‘Just make it happen.’

You’ve got to be able to give them the resources and the management. A good leader shares their vision. You can’t tell people what the business plan was three days ago and expect them to execute that after everything changes. You’ve got to have the flexibility to adapt to the environment you’re in at the time.

Q: What are the keys to getting everybody on board when going through a change?

The first thing is to identify and recognize your early adopters. Get the people who are comfortable with change, who are typically on the leading edge of technology and who want to be because they want to do things faster and better.

The first thing we did was approach those guys and say, ‘You’re going to be our first folks into this platform, and we want you to evangelize it for us. The faster you convert the network, the more quickly we can lower our prices.’

Our franchise owners are sharp. They’re going to figure out the economic benefits compared to the time or the frustration element. And if you can show them the business sense behind it, nine out of 10 of them will say, ‘Yeah, that’s good business sense. Let’s figure out a way to do this.’

Q: What are some pitfalls a leader should try to avoid?

A typical one is not staying connected to what’s happening. You start looking at things at such a strategic level that you aren’t listening to what’s going on at a tactical level. You have to maintain a balance.

I’ve struggled with that at times. You start looking so far down the line and you’re such an agent of change and constant improvement that you don’t celebrate your successes enough.

You’ve got to look your team in the face and say, ‘Hey guys, you did great. Let’s celebrate.’ It could be anything from recognition to a party to just saying thank you.

Also, there are a few books out now that deal with the issue of the overoptimistic leader. When they put together their business plan, they make assumptions of what they want to happen, instead of likely case scenarios. What happens if we’re under revenue by 20 percent? Can you still survive?

I’m such an optimist that I’ll always see the positives in things. I’ll acknowledge the negatives, but a challenge for a good leader is to have someone — if it’s not you, someone around you — who can be a devil’s advocate at times, so they can keep you honest and realistic.

HOW TO REACH: TSS Photography, (678) 740-0800 or www.tssphotography.com