12 Most Irrefutable Laws of Business Heresy

12 Most Irrefutable Laws of Business Heresy

The more business leaders I talk to in my career, the more I’ve learned to cringe at the follow-the-lemming mentality steering most companies. Want spectacular results in business? Find out where everyone else is going – and run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction!

I hope you enjoy this page ripped straight from the business heretic’s playbook. Just remember, if you find yourself agreeing with all 12 items below, you probably need to read it again.

1. If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong

Mother Nature was pretty smart when she designed serotonin, that wonderful brain chemical that rewards us for doing something pleasurable and hooks us so we want to do it again. If your work isn’t pleasurable on some profoundly basic level, guess what? It’s going to seem too much like a chore, and you’ll resent it. Love your work. Make it feel like play.

2. The most important question in business: Who does it serve?

If it serves your people, do it. If it serves your customers, do it. If it serves your stockholders, your bureaucracy, or your own selfish needs? Think long and hard before you do it. Care for your people and customers, and reap the rewards. It’s the irrefutable Zen of business.

3. The most important word in any language: Because

People want to know why. Give them a reason, and they’ll do anything you ask. Don’t, and they won’t. …At least not very well, or for very long.

4. The leader steers the culture – the culture steers the company

The most effective leader in the world can probably only manage ten people herself. In the Twentieth Century, the way around that was to build a hierarchy – a whole pyramid of Mini Me’s to rule in her absence. We know better now. Build a culture instead. Your culture will run your business better than a bureaucracy ever could.

5. You aren’t a leader till you put your job on the line for your people

Seriously. This is the test.

6. As often as possible, ask, “Is it fair to all concerned?”

You’d have to be completely tone-deaf to miss the great hue crossing the earth recently: “That’s not fair!” Injustice has brought down governments, and it will certainly bring your company down as well. Work the word “Fair” into all of your conversations and decisions. Watch the magic it inspires!

7. Act with certainty – just please, laugh at yourself all the while

I crack up whenever I watch a self-important leader take himself too seriously. It’s like this, folks: we have to act on the knowledge we have. That knowledge will never be even remotely complete. So we’re going to err – all the time. But it’s okay, because so will everyone else. Look in the mirror, have a chuckle, and get back to work.

8. Don’t compete on price, just… don’t

You know who competes on price successfully? Walmart. Ryan Air. And… okay, two companies, in all the world. Let your competitor compete on price. You compete on quality, at a fair price. If for no other advice on this list, you’ll thank me for this.

9. You haven’t mastered your job till you can make it look easy

A lot of successful people hate this one – because it challenges their entire self-image. I am not saying be a slacker: I would never say anything of the sort! I am convinced, however, that if you aren’t in control of your own calendar and of your mood, you have yet to master what you do. Serenity is the ultimate sign of mastery.

10. Surround yourself with diverse opinions

Who tells you when your baby is ugly? Next time you want to fire someone for their audacity, give that person a bonus instead. In the words of one sage, “If you and I always agree, one of us is redundant.” Drop the sycophants and promote the obstreperous.

11. Pay = Respect. Respect your people

There are all sorts of very worthwhile places to save your organization money. Pay is not one of them. If you want the best talent, you have to pay for it. (And if you don’t want the best talent… what are you thinking?)

12. Invert your pyramid

The people on the front lines run your company. Everyone else supports them in doing that, or distracts them instead. Take this from management-retreat platitude to real life by living it. Reward leaders for enabling their team to stay in production mode. Remember: Customer facing? Important. Company-facing? Not.

13. Always give more than you promised

I promised you 12 tips and gave you 13. What do you do for your customers and your people? Never just fulfill a contract. Exceed it!

We are experiencing an unprecedented change in how business gets done – something most self-styled gurus haven’t caught on to yet. So forget the gurus. Business heresy may at times be a lonely path, but you know what? It’s a lot more satisfying to be right and alone than to go extinct with the rest of the dinosaurs of the 20th Century.

Featured image courtesy of Yasin Hassan – ياسين حسن licensed via creative commons.

Ted Coiné

http://www.tedcoine.com/

Ted Coiné is the business heretic at the helm of the Catalyst blog. Author and speaker, futurist, and happily-former CEO, Ted is currently writing his third book, Catalyst, about how business will be done in this exciting new century. Follow him on Twitter and join the conversation on #leadbiz.

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74 comments
CH_Native
CH_Native

@PaulBiedermann @tedcoine amen!

suchimishra
suchimishra

Hello Ted,

Just WOW ! Thank you for sharing all the golden rules of leadership and management in one place - have added this to my favourites, and am sure will keep coming back to this one, again and again.

Thanks,

Suchitra

twitter : @suchimishra

HRMargo
HRMargo

I really love this. If you aren't having fun, you are doing it wrong indeed. I agree with every point. Kudos Ted. Well done.

stevencpotter
stevencpotter

Ted,

Great post. I would suggest only one improvement: Change #6 from, "Is it fair to all concerned?" to "Is it sustainable?".

The concept of "fair to all" is a good start. And although the implications of insuring "fairness to all" are vast, they are easy for most people to understand.

The greater challenge is, I think, to raise the awareness of the moral and ethical roots of fairness, and to expand the frame of reference from "my life" or "my generation" to "ALL PEOPLE FOR ALL TIME".

This is where the concept of sustainability brings it all together. The Wikipedia has a great article on the topic as well as a simple graphic which shows the overlapping relationships of the social, economic and environmental sectors. Here's the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sustainable_development.svg

Businesses by the droves are flocking to portray themselves as champions of sustainability, but when you really look at the details, the vast majority are resource guzzling monsters which can only be reined in by a more enlightened consumer; by people who not only shop "green", but "green forever".

@stevencpotter

jshpmn
jshpmn

Hi Ted, This is excellent! I'm a consultant in writing my first book---focusing almost exclusively on culture. Your comments hits the nail on the head. Many thanks, Scott

wadvisor
wadvisor

Great post Ted

#11 for some reason is a struggle with US business. They wonder why they struggle with performance. I have seen that sometimes many people are promised results and dont deliver hence making the business owner very suspicious and angry (one of my current retainers is exactly that). The previous consultant was being paid great money for 12 months and didnt deliver a single result! So now we are clearing all the mess of the previous person.

#12 hits home all the time. I would add one small comment to this. As part of the compensation for non customer facing people, they should have some stake to support customer facing folks. If non customer facing people are compensated to support customer facing people, there are major results. As a result non customer facing people would be much more motivated to go out of their way to help bring results for rainmakers. Financial Services struggle big time with this simple concept in this country. I worked with a small financial services firm 5 years ago in CA and assigned 8% of the sales people commission to 3 behind the scenes support people. The production of the sales guy jumped 68% (in the next 6 months) because rainmaker was freed up from dealing with paper work issues. Many more examples of this exist when structured correctly.

Love your #8. We have also talked about it in our previous posts. Wonder why people still struggle with this.

#4 is vital. Thank you for bringing this up!

#1 #1 and more #1. Should I say it one more item? Your #1 again :)

Thanks for keeping all of us in line :)

Some awesome stuff.

JamesUrbati
JamesUrbati

@irafialkow I'm going to be quoting from that article all day. How are things up in Palm Beach Gardens?

Murad_J
Murad_J

@tedcoine I smiled when I read the 12 Most.... and really hope two of my former employers (small business owners) READ this list! Awesome!

LeadToday
LeadToday

Some of the very best leadership insights on Twitter come from @tedcoine - follow this leader to learn and grow! #FF

pamelamaeross
pamelamaeross

Great post Ted! I love all 13 of your 12 most - and the fact that you were so passionate about it that you couldn't pare down to 12 :).

One thing I would add is that a lot of them are symbiotic with each other - if you have one but not the other, your success will be limited. For example, I think #11 needs #6. People need fair pay. If it's not fair, it's a demotivator. However, I think motivation through money is only short-lived for most. It's #1, 4, 10, and 12 that keep people engaged and motivated to follow you in the longterm.

I agree with #8 as well - your price needs to be competitive but you can't beat your competitors in the long-run by cutting price. They will eventually do the same. Focus on what you actually do better than them, that they can't beat you at, and show the value of that in your offering.

Finally, I love #2 and #12. Serve your people, and they will serve your customers. In the long run, most employees will only treat your customers as well as you treat them. And those that are inherently customer-focused will leave eventually if you don't treat them well.

@starbucker was right - you truly nailed it! Thanks,

Pam

paigeworthy
paigeworthy

I was a casualty of the traditionalist's answer to #10. Though I may have walked a line between obstreperous and insubordinate ;)

Asharwood
Asharwood

@paigeworthy @12most he's says give more on 13, but how should I believe any of it when I'm baffled by the fact that you can't count :)

MikeLehrOZA
MikeLehrOZA

Great job on this list, Ted. #1 is definitely my favorite. I found it thought provoking. #10 is definitely another favorite. No point surrounding yourself with "yes" people. #5 would definitely improve morale in any company. Thank you for this.

shawmu
shawmu

@tedcoine Ted, hear that sound? That's the crowd going wild. Raucous cries of "We want more! We want more!" I'm a major fan of #5. I'd love to see more leaders put their butts on the line for their people and what they believe. Nicely done, my brother-from-another-mother!

Shawn

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

I love the 10th one but feel its the one most leaders and professionals are scared of. Why? Because a different opinion means that someone else may be chosen to lead the project. Their idea may be implemented in place of yours. I like to think that we all work on teams but sometimes the players dont play by team rules and the people who diversify often get taken out for sticking out.

westfallonline
westfallonline

Ted, this entire list is pure gold, but #3 really resonates with me. An author I really respect is Simon Sinek, and he wrote a book called "Start with Why" - really a terrific read. But once you start with why, you have to move to "because" - because is what captures the hearts and minds. And, yes, bravo - you have to be willing to put yourself on the line for your people. I'd comment more on #8 but don't want to pay the price. Thanks for a great post, I think you are living #9.

KevinWGrossman
KevinWGrossman

While I'm all about this hearsy, the tyranny of business past, present and future will make buckets of cash at the expense of many of your points.

Thankfully, I've been working in, with and around folks who skip along the lonely path as you do.

Amen.

pollyeloquent
pollyeloquent

@tedcoine Always love 2 learn new words.I'm trying 2 teach my kids that 1 can be oststreperous & gracious.I fail at this,but work I @ it.

MeghanMBiro
MeghanMBiro

Love the Culture! you are creating with today's post Ted.

Thanks for being you. #1 it truly starts from here and continues on. This should be the very first question - How happy does this make me? AKA How fun it this? Bravo.

judgewebb
judgewebb

@ranchroad Favorite part of the work day - the news hour! What can I learn today!!

PeepWise
PeepWise

@tedcoine Its a great 12 Most Ted - I made it mandatory reading for our whole staff!!

tedcoine
tedcoine

@HRMargo Thanks Margo - that first one is indeed my favorite, in life as well as business.

tedcoine
tedcoine

@stevencpotter Thanks Steven - that's a great point that does, indeed, improve my own.

I got that phrase, "Is it fair to all concerned?" from Rotary International's 4-Way Test. One of the ways to judge any decision you make in business (though I'm sure many would argue with me, in all of life) is to ask that question first. The idea was earth-shaking in the 1930s when it was introduced in a corporate setting (before being adopted by Rotary). Unfortunately, it is still earth-shaking and nearly unheard of today, too.

tedcoine
tedcoine

@jshpmn Scott, that's great! I'd love to read it when it comes out - let me know!

irafialkow
irafialkow

@JamesUrbati What a great article! All good on the north end of PB county - assume south end is just as good!

tedcoine
tedcoine

@pamelamaeross@starbucker You're right Pamela, these principles are most certainly interrelated, and adding each strengthens the whole fabric of your leadership style and your company.

Taking the intricately tied issues of fairness and respectful pay among all those you (so kindly) mentioned, it's important to recognize that pay is a very weak motivational tool - but sub-standard pay is a powerful demotivator. Think of it as a threshold issue: without attractive pay, you'll have trouble recruiting talented employees and keeping those few you do manage to get. Lack of pay will kill your company, but good pay isn't enough to make it.

tedcoine
tedcoine

@paigeworthy You know what, Paige? There's no such thing as insubordination, because there are no superiors and subordinates: only people. You're better off without them!

tedcoine
tedcoine

@MikeLehrOZA Thanks so much, Mike! I guess I could have boiled this all down to one law: "Do the right thing. It's more profitable." ...But then they wouldn't have invited me to contribute to 12 Most :)

tedcoine
tedcoine

@shawmu Awesome - that means an awful lot coming from you, Shawn. I'll have more for you in 2 weeks, when I post on the 12 Most unCEOs. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to your next contribution to this terrific new space.

tedcoine
tedcoine

@C_Pappas It's true - that happens all the time in organizations, and it's always dysfunctional. As the economy continues to pull itself out of the doldrums, more and more of the most talented employees will flee unhealthy environments like you describe. Would you want to be stuck with the leftovers? Not with my investments, please!

tedcoine
tedcoine

@westfallonline Chris, I can't wait to check out Simon's book! Thanks for the tip - and for the kind words!

tedcoine
tedcoine

@KevinWGrossman While we will always have 20th-Century leaders, Kevin, we're at the shores of a sea change in how business is done. That lonely path we're on? Savvy business leaders are making it less and less lonely all the time. You just can't compete with good karma. "Don't be evil" is more than just a slogan: it's a prescription for profit, too.

tedcoine
tedcoine

@UpwardlyMe That's awesome, thanks for the feedback. I never know what will take off and what will flop till I hit Post.

shawmu
shawmu

@tedcoine I'm queuing up the next one as I type this. Indeed this space is terrific. Dan and Sean have started something that is connecting with people and with such a range of topics, too. Great writing, too.

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