As an entrepreneur, you work in a high-stakes environment — you receive all the glory when your company flies high and all the blame when it hits a patch of turbulence. This pressure to perform can lead you to develop habits that end up hurting your chances for success.
And the habits most likely to cause problems often are the very ones often associated with strong leadership.
Here, three of these deceiving habits and how you can nix them for good.
1. You know everything
When you need to make decisions in uncertain times, the pressure to have all the answers might lead you to rely too much on history and not realize that you need a new game plan. You think you already know everything.
This tendency toward self-reliance undermines your team. When you know everything, there’s no reason to engage others in conversation. Your team members become bystanders, and that makes it harder for them to share essential information and input, much less rally around your goals.
With a know-it-all approach, you also lack the humility to change course when you’re off track. When Ron Johnson left Apple and became CEO of JCPenney, he went in with a bold and dramatic change in strategy — exactly what the company needed.
However, his strategy was largely based on what had worked in another industry with a very different customer profile. The changes didn’t resonate with JCPenney customers, and Johnson left the company after less than 17 months as CEO. Today, JCPenney is rebounding. Had Johnson listened to more input, he might have been successful in his turnaround attempt.
People closest to the front lines often have the most valuable insights. The best way to break a command-and-control mindset is to focus less on having all the answers and more on listening to these people. You always have the final say, but your front-line workers might suggest options you’d never have considered. They’ll feel much more involved in a new strategy or initiative when they are able to contribute.
2. You overvalue data in decision-making
You can track and measure nearly everything today, so it’s tempting to want to collect every data point and to address every uncertainty before you act. But too much data can be paralyzing. And waiting until you have the perfect answer might mean missing the chance to stay ahead of a changing market.
A classic example is Blockbuster, which waited too long to address the threat of streaming video. By the time the company decided to act, it was too late. Blockbuster went from being an industry leader to a has-been, and it couldn’t recover.
Data should act as a guide — not your only input. In addition to data, use informed intuition, insights and wise judgment. Be willing to let solutions evolve as you learn more. When you move swiftly, you can adjust your strategy as new information emerges.
3. You focus on ‘wowing’ more than collaboration
I once sat through an hour-long acquisition presentation in which two senior leaders shared numerous slides and concluded with upbeat, positive music. They walked away thinking they’d nailed it.
But over time, it became clear they’d only nailed a performance and not truly engaged their audience. Employees had felt more like spectators than important contributors. They didn’t feel the company recognized or valued their involvement.
The most compelling presentations capitalize on the power of human interaction and involve the audience. Scrap the idea of a “perfect” presentation, and don’t try to perform an act. Instead, speak with your audience and promote discussion. By doing this, you’ll reap the benefits of collaboration and allow others to see how they can contribute to meaningful change.
When starting out, you might feel the urge to know all the answers, rely too heavily on data to make decisions and communicate your vision flawlessly. But these habits can lead to costly setbacks. The best entrepreneurs approach every situation with a learning mindset.
Be an incrementalist and listen. Forget the search for the perfect answer, and be comfortable with collaboration.