Is Your Business Sustainable? Answer These 3 Questions.


Some of the best educated, most experienced business leaders I know still drive their business by looking in the rear view mirror.  They look at last month or last quarter or last year and try direct the future of their business based largely on that information.  That might have actually worked when we were dealing with slow moving technology, local instead of global markets and a simpler economic situation with far fewer variables.  We don’t live there anymore.  If you want to know if your business will be successful in the future, ask these three questions.

Are your people accountable?

Change happens fast and people who are connected to the vision of the business and accountable for getting it there adapt much more quickly than those who wait for instructions and then execute what they are told to do.  Organizations need people who solve problems and capture opportunities as they occur and are fully engaged in the work that they do as well as the results that it produces.  Many people think of accountability as something that you do to someone else as in “holding them accountable”.   We can hold others responsible, but that happens after the mistake.  Accountability is what they take to avoid it in the first place.

Are your leaders able to change the game?

Leaders at all levels of the organization are the eyes and ears of the business.  If a challenge occurs or a problem comes up and then has to be filtered up the chain of command, a solution decided upon and then filtered back down, we don’t need leaders, we only need information conduits.  Leaders are able to help teams become more adaptable, more capable, and more successful.  If your leaders can’t do that, your business may survive in the today’s situation but it will crumble under the strain of complexity and bureaucracy when it has to change.

Does your culture cause success?

Culture is a lot of things and described a lot of ways but however you articulate it, it makes more of the decisions in your business than any other component.  People don’t look at the handbook or the memo to see how to operate, they look at the people around them.  If your culture is built so that people who show up engaged on the first day stay that way, and so that people operate with a sense of commitment rather than compliance then you have a shot to weather any shift in the marketplace.  If your culture tells people that the boss has all the answers or that success is about managing your career instead of serving the customer, you’re in for a future that’s more about survival than it is about growth.

Looking at the past outputs of your business is a valuable exercise.  But what drives sustainable success for your organization is what you put into it today, not what you got out of it yesterday.  Accountable people, solid effective leaders and a strong results oriented culture will enable you to thrive no matter what the market or the competitors are doing.   Success is optional but if you can answer yes to these 3 questions, you’ve stacked the deck in your favor.  If not, what you do next to change that, matters more than anything else on your task list.

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