One of the biggest movies from last holiday season was The Greatest Showman. Through moving music and whimsical storytelling, viewers are drawn into the life of P.T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. For all his highs and lows, his ingenious strategies and questionable moral choices, Barnum remains a lesson for all business leaders and entrepreneurs today.
The movie focuses on a particular moment in the life of Barnum, one familiar to all those in business leadership. His operation grows at an unmanageable rate, and he’s faced with the limits of his own efforts. Will Barnum allow the business to wither and fold, cut short by his limitations? Or will he make strategic choices to make room for growth?
As business leaders, we’re often confronted with these same choices. What will we do when we’re confronted with our own limitations? How do we make room for growth?
If you are currently asking yourself these questions, my goal is to offer you practical advice to answer them with confidence. Here are three areas I recommend you grow as soon as possible:
1. Grow your personal leadership
Before we address your options at the organizational level, let’s look at your personal possibilities. Noted author and speaker on leadership, John Maxwell often writes that “leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.” He calls this the Law of the Lid, in that the success of an organization cannot outpace the personal leadership qualities of management. In other words, there’s a “lid” on all potential growth, and the placement of that lid is determined by you, the business leader.
So how can you invest in your own leadership growth? How can you continually raise that “lid” so you can grow your business to new areas of success? Here are just a few ideas:
- Be a lifelong Learning Leader (which I write about here). Go to seminars and management workshops, read books and blogs (like this one), watch online tutorials—whatever works for your learning style.
- Hold yourself accountable. Hire a personal consultant to look over your leadership strategies. Find an honest mentor who will give you feedback. You need someone in your sphere looking at your personal leadership and offering real-life evaluations based on years of experience.
- Learn from your failures…and successes. Both have something to teach you. If you feel like your personal leadership may be inhibiting the exponential growth of your business, look back to when you were a catalyst for success—what was going right? How can you use those specific leadership strengths for the future growth of your business? And look back to your less-than-impressive moments—what went wrong? Are those same things going wrong now in your leadership? As I mentioned in my last post, you don’t want pride to keep you from growth.
Your personal growth as a business leader can only have a positive impact on the growth of the organization as a whole. Don’t neglect this!
2. Grow your connections
Sometimes making room for growth means looking beyond the borders of your business or organization. Building strategic connections can dramatically increase the potential of your business without having to majorly disrupt the current procedures in place. It can be as easy as joining a community group focused on best practices, or networking so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every added layer of organizational infrastructure. Whether you need outside expertise, advice from someone further along, honest feedback or a simple favor, your connections can actually improve your productivity and help you maintain growth.
In the book, Alliance Competence: Maximizing the Value of Your Partnerships, the authors argue that forming alliances, partnerships or connections allow for organizational growth by:
- Shifting focus away from nonessential distractions to the priorities and strengths of your specific business.
- Leveraging the best of what everyone has to offer. True, this involves some information-sharing, but a little sharing can be a good thing if the connection benefits both businesses involved.
- Increasing revenue streams through greater access to broader markets. You don’t just connect with other businesses—you connect with their connections.
If building strategic connections can increase the growth potential of your business, neglecting some connections can inhibit the growth of your company. In fact, it can cause your business to stagnate, or worse, die before it ever really gets going.
Of course, I’m talking about your customers and stakeholders.
Throughout the scaling process, we can easily lose these relationships in the shuffle. Growth is never an excuse to forget those who’ve been supporting that growth all along.
When discussing pitfalls within business meetings, Kelly Byrnes of the Forbes Coaches Council warns, “If more time was spent on internal operations than on customers, your scale may be off. To correct an imbalance, shift focus to customers and minimize internal investments.” It isn’t enough to remember your customers. You need to actively grow those connections.
3. Grow your resources
Throughout The Greatest Showman, Barnum does indeed grow in his personal leadership. He also invests in connections, making them the foundation of his business model. But most importantly, he knows when he must grow his access to outside resources. What Barnum lacked in reputation, connections, and even “high-brow” creativity, he finds in the movie’s Phillip Carlyle. Exponential growth, once an impossibility, is now within reach.
Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time in your week to handle the pressures of growth? Or overwhelmed by the many strategic steps you’ll have to maneuver to accomplish the growth you envision? Or distracted, pulled in every direction at once? You need more hours, more people, more experience, more resources.
If this is you, find yourself a Phillip Carlyle. I wrote about the possibilities of the gig economy here, and I’d love to talk with you about it. So, if you don’t know where to start – we can help. It’s what we do, after all.
I believe you can make room for growth—in your leadership, in your connections, and in your resources. By prioritizing these areas of growth, you’ll be shocked to watch your limitations move out of the way for new influence and success in your business.
Maxwell, John C. “The Law of the Lid.” John Maxwell on Leadership. July 19, 2013. Accessed October 03, 2018. http://blog.johnmaxwell.com/blog/the-law-of-the-lid.
Spekman, Robert E., Lynn A. Isabella, and Thomas C. MacAvoy. Alliance Competence: Maximizing the Value of Your Partnerships. New York: Wiley, 1999.
The Greatest Showman. Directed by Michael Gracey. Performed by Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron. USA: Chernin Entertainment,TSG Entertainment,Twentieth Century Fox, 2017. Film.