Let’s talk about creating an environment where you achieve results. If you aren’t achieving results, your leadership won’t matter to your business. But it isn’t just about the “business of business” — it is also about people. I’ve been places where relationships didn’t matter. It isn’t pretty or successful in the long term. I vowed relationships would be the nucleus of any company that I had the opportunity to lead.
At Cbeyond, we spend a lot of time on culture and the “how” around “what” we accomplish. It is table stakes for having a successful career here. Don’t mistake my compassion as weakness. It isn’t soft — it drives return on investment. Period. It puts the focus on what is important (i.e., results) and gets us there by developing trust in each other, which drives collaborative growth and shared achievement.
Develop a legacy of trust and partnership. We call it “relationship capital” at Cbeyond.
Build the right team with the right character. Your job is to build the team and then emotionally invest in its members. Like any coach, you own the job of finding the talent and coalescing the players. And once they are on your team — invest. It is a slippery slope to think that the perfect employee is out there and you just haven’t hired them yet. Embrace the 90 percent capability you see in their talent and use sincere “frankness” and coaching to get closer to 100 percent. There’s an exception: Hire for competence; fire for fit. If they aren’t a cultural fit, get them off your team — and quickly.
Encourage vulnerability and avoid a culture of blame. We want teams that are comfortable and confident in their competencies, but we also want them to be self-aware. If we create environments where we assume good of each other, candidly declare the breakdowns and then arrive at a solution together, we create a culture where our employees feel trust, acceptance and support. If you as a leader provide positive regard for your people, they will be able to offer it to each other and to your customers. We call that “making a simple promise to each other.”
The world is a place of abundance and someone doesn’t have to lose for you to win. Benchmark against others — compete against yourself. Think this way and it will change how you lead and fundamentally how your teams interact with each other.
Focus on achievement — not status.
Stamp out bureaucracy. At Cbeyond, we all sit in cubes, we don’t print titles on business cards, and we don’t publish organizational charts. It isn’t just about bureaucracy; it is about having the ability to play as a team. Put the right talent on the proper challenges without regard to rank. When we are not trapped in “status” discussion, we are positioned to make the right decision for both our employees and our business.
Create shared values. Establish metrics, measure your business, create alignment and then celebrate success. For the past 11 years, we have rallied our troops around an essential imperative, our “Year of …” theme where we align our strategic initiatives, departmental objectives and individual MBOs (management by objective). And to make it stick, we share the same bonus objectives — everyone’s incentive compensation is paid on the same metrics. We rise and fall together and together we make decisions, drive priorities and ask the question, “If it doesn’t support our ‘Year of’ theme, should we be doing it?” You must have shared values to create shared success.
Speak in partnership language. Simply put — it is we, not “me” or “I.”
I have one final thought on all of this: Eliminate the rearview mirror. Learn from your experiences and move forward.
Jim Geiger is the founder, chairman, president and CEO of Cbeyond, a company that provides IT and communications services to small businesses throughout the United States and also provided the world’s first 100 percent VoIP local phone network. Learn more at www.cbeyond.net.