mary barra - great leader

Never Stop Learning…

One of the biggest takeaways from this article is to never stop learning. Learn from some of the most successful people in business and life.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Though there is a lot of talk about the moral superiority of the road-less-traveled, often the best path to take is the one that’s already been blazed.

To help you avoid having to break your own trail as you build your business, I’ve brought together some key points of advice from business leaders who’ve walked the path you’re on right now.

Mary Barra – CEO, General Motors

The current CEO of General Motors, and the highest ranking woman in the automotive industry, emphasizes the need to make educated decisions.

Mary Barra is known for her collaborative approach, often using a town-hall meeting format to collect information and opinions from her teams. She says it’s important to surround yourself with experts, so that every decision is as informed as possible.

No one person has all the answers.

However, all that input is only good as long as it’s driving the decision making process forward.
Mary Barra stresses the importance of taking the decision making reigns when your team struggles to reach a consensus. “At the end of the day, the decision has to be made. If we don’t have complete unanimity, I have no qualms about making it.”

So, gather as much information from the most qualified people that you can. But ultimately, an imperfect decision is better than making no decision.

Jeff Bezos – Founder, Amazon

Every year, Jeff Bezos writes a letter to Amazon shareholders. In his letter he offers advice, and some insight into how Amazon will look in the future. If you’ve read a few of these annual letters you’ll notice something:

His advice is repetitive.

Sure, he makes some tweaks based on current conditions, but this repetition underscores that Jeff Bezos has built a strategy around business constants. Amazon has been doing three things since day one: offering a wide selection, offering low prices, and delivering products fast.

Jeff Bezos says that it’s important to develop a strategy based things that won’t change. In Amazon’s case, they’ve attacked three predictable aspects of any consumer base (constant customer demands: selection, low prices, and convenience).

You want to be able to capitalize on getting really good at what you do. The only way to do that is to become an expert at executing a strategy that’s got the sort of rock solid foundation that will make it viable in the extreme long-term.

Brad Smith – CEO, Intuit

Brad Smith says that the way you treat your team is paramount. “…you need to remove barriers to innovation and get out of the way.”

As the enterpreneur at the helm of a team, directing the ship is just as important as leaving the sailors to work the ropes. Once you’ve built your hotshot team, it then becomes critical to “empower top talent.”
Once you’ve found people with the same sort of passion, hustle, and drive (something I call the “PhD”) that you have, turn them loose so they can get to work.

Tim Cook – CEO, Apple

When Tim Cook took over the lead role at Apple, many expected a continuation of the Steve Jobs dictatorship.

However, what we’ve seen from Tim Cook so far is a very tempered version of Steve Jobs’ Apple. Cook added his own dash of democracy to Apple’s leadership table.

Economic experts argue that Apple is more fundamentally sound now than it ever was under Jobs. Tim Cook says that a person can “only do a few things great.”

This has been Cook’s approach since he took the CEO position. Apple has shifted its focus away from innovation, and put more company resources into existing product, fostering new business relations, and improving employee relationships.

The takeaway here being that you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t let your business, or your leadership style get too lopsided. If you find yourself struggling, it’s a good time to step back, and take a good big picture look, and see if you’ve been in the depths of tunnel vision.

Howard Shultz – CEO, Starbucks

When Howard Shultz first tried to become part of the Starbucks organization, he applied for a job. He was turned down. Howard Shultz pursued a position with Starbucks for a year.

He believed he could make something great out of the company.

Determination is key in any entrepreneurial venture. No matter how good your idea is, there are going to be setbacks, and even failures. The thing about determination is that it creates opportunities.

Even in the face of failure, determination can create opportunity for success. Now, there’s no sense insisting on persevering with a bad idea. This is why the biggest advantage of determination is the opportunity that it presents.

A determined person recognizes a failed idea as an opportunity to work in a different direction with the confidence that they’re that much closer to finding a successful idea.

Howard Shultz sums up his philosophy about persevering like this: “I am convinced that most people can achieve their dreams and beyond if they have the determination to keep trying.”

Each of these business leaders is part of a massive team. But their ideas and philosophies scale perfectly to work for growing teams like the one you’ve built. And the focus is to never stop learning and to continue to better ourselves.

If you recall my Secret to Creating a High-Performing Team and the Five Steps to Scaling a Sales Team, you’ll notice that the qualities these business leaders exemplify mesh perfectly with the process of building and scaling your business.

You’ve built a team and surrounded yourself with people who have the ‘PhD’ to help you make more informed decisions. The team you’ve created will make you more decisive as an entrepreneur and a leader.

The vision you started your business with is your north star, the guiding beacon for your ship. With consistent corrections to the course you’ve set, you’ll be able to guide your team to success.

Helping out when you can, while still letting your team handle the things they’re best at gives your team members opportunities to shine. Being involved without interfering empowers your team members to do their best work.

In the process of scaling your sales team, you’ve made sure to bring on team members that work well with the team you’ve already got in place. Just by the simple process of evaluation and integration, you’ve brought the sort of balance to your team that creates efficiency.

Then there’s determination. This is the quality that makes it possible to put all these together, and create something successful, even when things get rocky. There’s no recipe for success that works on the first try, one-hundred percent of the time, so no recipe for success is complete without determination.

The ideas from these business leaders fit perfectly into the process of building a business, because they’ve built businesses before. These crumbs of advice can show you the trail they’ve blazed.

How do you plan on putting these ideas to use in your business?