Greg Le Tocq is the co-founder of Cloud Savings Company – which owns Vouchercloud. Groupon bought the business for $65m.
Success “at all costs” is one of the most harmful leadership strategies in play today in my opinion. There are too few real-world scenarios where perpetual success correlates with perpetually positive results. Success – achieving a desired outcome – is honed by creative thinking and drifts away from the beaten track. If we don’t experiment and attempt new things, the success achieved is in fact very narrow. Stagnation, after all, is the enemy of creative thinking. Giving your employees permission to develop creative solutions – to attempt things outside of the mould – all comes down to allocating individual responsibility over their projects.
With that in mind, what can business leaders do to actually cultivate a culture of responsibility?
For this strategy to really be successful, it requires a confident leader and a robust hiring strategy from the offset. You’re looking for a combination of courageous and methodical. Ultimately, people who are happy to pick up the ball and run with it, as it were. As a business leader, it should be your prerogative to guide, inspire and ultimately lead.
The often seen culture of putting success on a pedestal – whether implicit or explicitly detailed – encourages employees to play it safe… using the same strategies for lessening results. Einstein once said that “ anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” This couldn’t be more true. A misstep should be expected on untrodden paths. In business terms, this means allocating responsibility on a project by project basis. If one of your employees comes to you with an amazing idea, and you believe they’re capable of taking it on, that’s a fantastic sign. Give the employee the resources they need to succeed and tell them to make it happen.
Many business leaders – particularly with smaller teams – will be tempted to micromanage. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy borne from a desire to see teams succeed. If you micromanage, you’ll wind up with a team that needs to be micromanaged, instead of a team you can trust to do the job well. In short, micromanagement leads to a required hands-on approach, instead of a hands-off one.
One of my favourite interview questions has always been “tell me about a time when you failed”. From this, I look for three things. Honesty in describing something that actually happened, courage to admit to it, and ownership in what they did to fix it. This question is never about showing off bad work – it’s about identifying a problem that was learned from and how it was ultimately overcome.
In a creative industry – a truly creative industry – challenging the standard operating procedure is essential. With the retail sector changing so dramatically on a day to day basis, acknowledging strategies that have not performed as well provides fuel for future undertakings. Just because something has not succeeded does not mean the undertaking itself has no value. Dust it off, identify the areas which have gone well, and take that learning to the next project.
When you trust your employees with important projects and allow them to actually learn, a funny thing happens. People enjoy it. They enjoy the mutual respect, the responsibility, and the opportunity to own something that could improve business outcomes.
In a previous article I touched upon the ‘grow big, grow fast’ mentality. There’s also the ‘fail big, fail fast’ mentality to contend with (ultimately, it seems the key factor aligning the two is speed in all instances.) Neither, in my opinion, should be taken in a vacuum. Instead, companies should grow smart and fail smart.
In everything, there’s a lesson, and failure is one of the greatest teachers of all.