The Importance of Awareness
“Do you know what I mean? Seriously, can you believe that happened? To me!?”
My friend Sarah’s voice boomed across the restaurant. Diners turned their heads—some looked at us to see where the noise was coming from, others looked away, annoyed.
I knew I had to finally confront Sarah about her signature characteristic: she talks very loud.
In fact, she talks so loud that no matter what restaurant, networking event or crowded concert you happen to be at, you can always find Sarah.
I gingerly waded into the conversation. “Sarah, you know that your voice carries? Everyone here has heard in graphic detail about your recent knee surgery. More than a few people have left before finishing their meal.”
To my surprise, Sarah acted surprised herself to hear this. Surely someone else had told her that she was a loud talker? I couldn’t possibly be the first.
But I was. I was the first person to make her aware of this fact.
Sarah took my feedback well. And now that she is aware, she is okay if I suggest she tone down the volume sometimes. Her awareness doesn’t change the fact that she is a loud talker—that is part of who she is at her core. In fact, her loud, booming, jovial voice is what attracts many to seek her out at networking events for an introduction. Sarah is always the life of the party. Her new awareness merely lets her better manage her volume and understand the impact it has on others.
Running your business requires a similar need for awareness. Without a deep and clear understanding of your strengths—and your weaknesses—your business will never grow past your greatest deficiency. Achieving awareness isn’t as simple as understanding your most defining characteristics. Awareness is wrapped up in understanding the real reason why:
- You make the decisions you make,
- You are delighted with some parts of your business and completely frustrated with others,
- You continue to make bad decisions around hiring employees,
- You struggle with finding customers, or
- You strike out when trying to attract capital from investors or a loan from a bank.
As part of my radio show, column and the work I do re-engineering companies to overcome their barriers to growth, I have had the unique opportunity to interview and write about thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
As a result of my work, I have found that entrepreneurs and business leaders fall into three distinct categories:
Visionaries: You are in good company with the likes of Sara Blakely, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. The Visionary wants to change the world, has a hundred ideas a day and is tenacious about solving a big problem. Visionaries are easily frustrated and appear to be flighty, but without the visionary, innovation wouldn’t exist.
Implementers: Kat Cole, Tony Hseih and Steve Wozniak are examples of talented implementers. They enjoy working with a team, think strategically about the work environment, and know the key to cultivating a loyal following. Implementers are fulfilled when they lead a team to accomplish a goal or task. They build the processes and procedures others follow, but get bored with the day-in and day-out operations once those processes and procedures are in place.
Operators: You only need to look at your successful local franchise model to find an example of a company founded by an Operator. Truett Cathy, Peter Cancro and David Shakarian perfected their business models, made sure they had positive impact within their own communities, and then took those models to other locations. The operator wants to know the individual customer intimately and make an impact in their lives every day. The Operator is the backbone of the economy that keeps commerce moving.
Companies need a good mix of all three types to be successful and effective business partnerships result from partners with complementary style.
Once you are aware of your own unique entrepreneurial style, and that of your team members, you can build your very best business structure. For example, every Visionary needs an Implementer to help them create the structure to bring their idea to fruition, and an Operator to run the systems that bring the structure to life. A company filled with Implementers and Operators will stagnate and eventually die off when the product or service they sell is made obsolete by the next new thing another company’s Visionary came up with. And so on.
As a leader, you must first build awareness and acceptance about yourself in order to achieve your greatest level of success. From there, understanding the unique abilities of those around you is crucial to creating a successful team.
If you find your business is stuck and not growing, that it requires your day to day attention, or that you can’t seem to get your ideas to come to life, it’s time to take a look inside and discover your own style. Start your awareness there, and you’ll find ways to move forward again.
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