One of the markers of American culture is the “sticker” on the window of a new car. This document reveals to shoppers a listing of standard equipment and options, plus, of course, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or MSRP.
But what if someone is shopping for an entrepreneur to work for? That may sound silly, but prospective employees do it all the time out here on Main Street. And yes, the money comes into play, but these days, increasingly, it’s the list of “equipment.”
A prospective team member would be justified in expecting the list of entrepreneurial standard equipment to include characteristics like courage, creativity, perseverance and adaptability. Innovative, creative, and visionary are other important line-items. One of the newer expectations increasingly prominent here on the threshold of the third decade of the 21st century is values. What are the values of this prospective entrepreneur/founder/employer? What do this business and its founder stand for?
But there’s one trait that’s historically not itemized on an entrepreneur’s standard equipment list: patience. The reality of Blasingame’s 2nd Law of Small Business – “It’s redundant to say undercapitalized small business” – tends to morph into the extreme of urgency: impatience. Indeed, the cash flow challenges that are markers of the 2nd Law weave a very fine seam between urgency and impatience. Everybody knows that.
When self-directed, impatience is perhaps one of our redeeming entrepreneurial attributes because it’s borne largely from a quest for excellence. Unfortunately, personal excellence to us can look a lot like perfection to others and sound like impatience to employees.
When you think about it, high expectations of our people is understandable: They show up every day, just like us; work hard, just like us; and are dedicated, just like us. Certainly, such evidence of commitment creates the impression that they are … just like us. Since we’re excellent/perfect, why aren’t they? Of course, when they don’t read our minds, unhappy things happen.
The road to business failure is paved with stories of key people who quit because someone mistook commitment for ESP. Entrepreneurs turn down this road when they start getting resignation letters from once-dedicated employees who wish they’d traded up when they checked the sticker on their employer/entrepreneur.
So how do we avoid misdirected impatience? Communication. If we’re going to expect the same excellence from our staff as we do from ourselves, they must have the same information we have. Here are three statements to help attract and keep the best people:
- “What do you need that I haven’t shown or told you?”
- “What do you need from me to make my urgency yours?”
- “When you need something from me to do your job, at that point, I work for you.”
These handy tools won’t lessen your impatience, but it will make that behavior a little more manageable to your team.
In 1776 General George Washington said, “We must make the best of mankind as they are since we cannot have them as we wish.”
Effective communication skills eliminate the need to find employees who are mind readers. Plus, it makes them more productive since they won’t have to spend so much time trying to make us as they wish.
Write this on a rock … Entrepreneurial impatience can be channeled into organizational excellence, but not perfection.