Doing More with Less – Beware the Superman Complex

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

The life of a business leader is busy to say the least.  Perhaps hectic is a better description for some.  Without a doubt though running a serious enterprise of any size requires business leaders to engage in myriad activities and at varying levels of involvement.  However, as a business leader you only have so much time and energy.  Therefore, it is imperative you direct your time and energy to getting the results you want and not just completing activities.

Some business leaders attempt to do it all (they have the Superman complex) and those that do typically fail.  So be realistic about what you can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do and determine how you can best avoid the Superman complex by recognizing and practicing the following tips:

1. You Can’t do it All

Running a business requires a variety of skills and few business leaders are experts at all of them.  However, to compete in a challenging marketplace your company must be highly effective at a few essentials, e.g. sales, marketing, operations, finance, service, etc.  Therefore you need to be brutally honest with yourself and determine what you should be doing and what someone else should be doing to make your company excellent.  For example if you’re OK at operations but really love and excel at finance – stay the heck out of operations!  Do what you do best, nothing else.  Develop a sense of what excellence is in every part of your business and then bring in the experts to help you.

2. You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are

You wouldn’t be running a successful business if you weren’t a cut above the average.  Congratulations!  But skill, talent, and know-how require continuous improvement.  Business and economic conditions are changing rapidly, bodies of knowledge on most topics are expanding exponentially, and more and more people (read: competitors) are getting, well, smarter.  As a business leader you must stay abreast of your industry and your personal specialty.  So set some annual goals to do so.  For example, for your industry or specialty: attend at least two leading edge workshops or seminars per year; read at least four books; and give at least three informative presentations.  That’s the minimum just to stay current.  If you really want to expand your knowledge conduct a research project or teach a class.

3. People Really Do Want to Help

If you can handle another analogy – don’t be the Lone Ranger.  There are plenty of excellent people in your world that have or could have a keen interest in your success.  If you know such people now, write their names on a list and then identify their specific skills or points of view that would be beneficial for you to tap into.  Send them an example of something you are working on and attach a post-it note with a specific question or simply a request for “what do you think?”  You will be amazed at the feedback which often sets up an opportunity for continued collaboration.  Just make sure you provide an opportunity to reciprocate.  If you don’t know such people, contact a university professor, association director, maybe a local business owner.  You’ll again be amazed at the response and the good feedback.  There’s plenty of help out there, if you just ask.

4. Even Superman Takes a Vacation.

No matter how busy you are or how confident you are about meeting the demands of running your business, you must take time for yourself – to recharge your batteries and clean out your head trash.  There’s a positive correlation between the amount of free time business leaders make for themselves and their success, the more the better. So try it.  At the beginning of next month, select a couple free days for the month (not weekends or holidays) and block them out on your calendar.  Use these days to do something outside of your business, something you really enjoy doing and find rejuvenating.  Be sure to use the entire day for yourself and do not conduct any business, none!  At the end of the month, evaluate how these free days affected you and your business for the month.  I believe you’ll discover that your business can do just fine without you for a couple days, and you’ll feel renewed as well. And if you apply the other tips listed here, you may just start taking a few more.


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