On a recent trip to Silicon Valley where I attended TieCon2015, an event for entrepreneurs, I was struck by two observations: 1) the world is changing faster than ever and the typical shelf life of a product is shrinking at a rapid pace and 2) the single most important ingredient for any business (startup or otherwise) is still its people.
So how do we as entrepreneurs continue to innovate at a rapid pace while keeping their teams engaged? It comes down to two “F” words: faster and flatter, which dictate how to design and run a business today.
Ensure your employees can move fast
Faster is something that the business world has wanted for a while, and the key is to be able to experiment, fail and repeat as fast as you can to vet out new opportunities. This requires a level of comfort in walking through the fog, where the destination is unclear while ensuring that you are the first one to clear the way for others. There is not much time for caution or to wait for someone else to prove the model before you can adopt it. You will be disrupted if you are not proactive and fast enough to do the disrupting.
Provide a flat organizational structure
Thomas L. Friedman has explained in detail The World is Flat when it comes to international business. Now it is time for us as business leaders to see and understand how “flatter” businesses are the future winners, meaning companies don't have a top-down hierarchy. In fact, soon, this might become the only way to run a business. Being a boss or manager is no longer a power position, since information is widely available within the organization. The latest slew of business applications (e.g. Slack) is making everything more transparent.
According to Jack Welch, 65 percent of the employees in corporate America are disengaged. You can never win a game where only 35 percent of your team is playing! (My guess is that the 35 percent engaged are managers yelling at the disengaged 65 percent to perform.)
Businesses are coming around to employing a “customer success” mindset, but can't ignore the ever-important “employee success” mindset. If you expect your employees to take up their work as a passion, you have to treat them with compassion. Give them credit when due. Get excited for their success. Give them benefits that show you care for their well-being and truly make them a part of the business by giving stock.
Turn your people on and get turned on by the success of your people. Instead of sticking to the traditional hierarchical structure, if business leaders are willing to flatten the business and empower our people, they will have the potential to keep their teams more engaged, deliver faster, delight their customers and sustainably grow their businesses.