There is a saying: “There are three kinds of people; those who watch things happen, those who make things happen, and those who don’t know what’s happening.
Depending upon what ‘kind’ of person you are talking about, there is a question that can easily relate to business growth: Are you a dreamer or a doer? The answer to that question is, obviously, up to the individual. In order to grow your business, you need to develop an action oriented skill set.
One of the richest people in the world gave some advice in a recent interview with writer/author Marcel Schwantes. Bill Gates, the iconic co-founder of Microsoft, gave some tips to Schwantes that are very straight forward, yet very meaningful, when it comes to business growth. From Gates’ perspective, thinking and doing are far more important than just tinkering around and dreaming about what might be or what could have been. There is an ancient saying “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Big tasks can be broken down into many smaller tasks.
Gates has said many times, “No matter how hard you work in life, there will always be times where things don’t go your way, perhaps through no fault of your own. Things that you cannot control. You will get knocked down, but you need to be able to stand up. Life isn’t fair. It’s a test, a game, a risk. If you fall down and don’t bother getting back up, you don’t deserve to be successful. Winners know that life isn’t fair and they will keep getting back up until they’ve made it.”
The key to all of the points made by Gates is quite simply this: do something. Here are four more observations that serve to separate the doers from the dreamers:
Be Curious: If you are curious, quite simply, you are on the way to acquiring knowledge. Schwantes went on to report “Gates has maintained an incredible appetite for curiosity and learning things over the years. In an interview with The New York Times, Gates said he reads up to 50 books each year: ‘It’s one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid.’”
Curiosity is a universal characteristic with children. Unfortunately, as each person grows older, research supports the fact that they become more self-conscious which tends to dampen curiosity in favor of appearing more ‘knowing’ and self-confident. The key for growth as a thinker is to encourage curiosity by asking others questions such as “What if…” or “How might we…” as a way of getting others to open up.
Empower Others: Give them a framework that will allow them to be in control of their job while giving them an opportunity to establish goals and achieve them. They should not have to come to you for direction, but feel empowered to try new things. The key to empowerment is to be clear in the definition of the framework they are expected to follow. For example, an employee could be empowered to resolve a customer issue below a specific amount. In his interview, Gates goes on to say “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
Delegate Weaknesses: Gates admits delegation was a hard thing for him to do, but he eventually learned to do it. As Schwantes stated, “He knew his obsession with programming wasn’t sustainable if the company was to scale, so he had to consciously trust other people’s ability to write software. As Microsoft grew, so did his management responsibilities. Gates soon realized that he had to learn to delegate his weaknesses —like managing the people side of the business—to other people’s strengths.” Having a multi-talented team contributes to the growth of most businesses.
Prioritize: Again, Gates summarizes the point quite well. “No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time. There are only 24 hours in a day. Warren [Buffett] has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings.” Schwantes goes on to say, “This takes focusing intently on what is essential for you and your business, and blocking out distracting ideas, information, and opinions. The question to always ask in the course of your day is: ‘Is this important right now?’” To truly understand how valuable your time is, start by assessing your meetings.