The Monkey’s Wrench

business strategyIt’s been four months since marketing started working with that super-expensive design firm in San Francisco on that “rebranding initiative” they talked me into. I never really understood what was wrong with the logo that we have, and I certainly don’t understand why we are spending 50K on a new one. My brother did the first one, and it has a special place in my heart. I’m thinking I’m going to ask them just to use a variation of the old logo and stop the bleed on the budget. I’ll like it and that’s what matters.

Sarah is the problem; I’ve known it all along. I seem to be the only one who thinks so, but I am looking at it from the business perspective, and I think that Doug is being too soft on her because he hired her, and he likes her. She’s not the right person for the job, and I think the whole lean strategy failed because of her. Everyone else thinks it’s because I didn’t give them enough budget, but they’re wrong. If he doesn’t let her go by Friday, I’m just going to do it myself and let him know on Monday.

I don’t care what Sales says—we do not need a customer relationship management system. CRM, CRM—it’s all I ever hear about from them anymore. Apparently, it’s another trendy software platform they think is going to magically increase our sales tenfold. I’ve heard what it costs to implement one of those things, and there is no way I’m forking over that kind of cash when they can use a spreadsheet like I always did.

It’s our culture. We have a problem with our culture. We need to invest in some fun stuff, like ping-pong tables, and we need to hire an HR person to make sure that people are having fun here. Our culture needs to be more fun; it’s the only way we are going to win the Best Places to Work award. I think I’ll just go ahead and buy a couple of ping-pong tables, and we can put them in the lobby. That way our visiting clients can see how much fun we are having.

We need more capital. We’re not growing because we don’t have a treasure chest of money. I should go find some angel investors or private-equity money. Money will solve everything, and with investors on board, we’ll have all of that great outside advice to help us create a winning strategy. People will love it, and we’ll get so much great press.


Sound familiar? It’s because these are some of the many random thoughts that swim aimlessly through a lot of leaders’ heads during long, sleepless nights. And sometimes they act on these wayward thoughts, which more often than not then turn into giant monkey wrenches in an otherwise perfectly managed situation or a well-planned strategy.

Look, leadership can be a lonely job, and if you’re a leader who believes that you, and only you, should have all the answers, or who needs to be the fixer or the solver of all the problems—it is lonely. But if you can look at your organization from the highest altitude possible, you’ll see that there are solutions all around you. You just have to give them the space they need to come into focus.

Building a business and creating a strategy for the success of that business is a team effort that requires a wide range of talent and skills. Many entrepreneurs begin their foray into business wearing multiple hats, and they do what they need to do in order to get something off the ground. But this is not how great businesses are built, and certainly not how they thrive. Great businesses with winning strategies happen when you build a reliable team of talented people who are (a) in positions that play to their strengths, and (b) are allowed to do the jobs that you hired them to do.

Your job as a leader is not to make sure they are doing things the way you want them to; it’s to make sure you’ve hired the right people and that they are contributing great ideas that you hadn’t thought of, or maybe would never think of. This is a fundamental difference in an approach to management that many leaders miss entirely because they are convinced that it is indeed their job to have all the answers.

If you’re a leader, ask yourself how comfortable you are answering “I don’t know” to a question from one of your employees. If it makes you uncomfortable, then you have to ask yourself if you might need to work on your own skills of empowering others. The truth is, you don’t have all the answers and that’s why you hired them. Practice the art of empowerment by challenging those around you to bring great ideas and strategies to you, and then practice your restraint by not throwing monkey wrenches in their plans.

Great things happen when great leaders see that their job is to clear the runway for their team. You want your people to fly, not to drive planes around on the ground. And to do so, you need the view from the control tower. If you’re running the airport from the tarmac, you’re probably going to get hit by one of your own planes.

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