Get your stuff together

Leadership
Leadership

For most who travel through Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, we see a sign as we exit airport security identifying the “Recombobulation Area.”

We probably take that sign for granted. Perhaps we shouldn’t.

First, a little history. Recombobulation is somewhat of a made-up word, wryly invented by Barry Bateman, Mitchell International’s now-retired director.

Cool. But what does that have to do with business, or anything else for that matter?

Well, whenever I see this quirky, homespun sign, it reminds me it’s time to get my s*%t together. You, too. And this is the perfect time to do it! The economy is better now than it has been in the past 10 years. Wisconsin unemployment has dropped to less than 3.5 percent. Interest rates are still low. C’mon now! Let’s ALL recombobulate!

Here’s a handy checklist:

1. Take care of your team.

First, make sure you have a team. Patrick Lencioni, a marquee business book author and consultant, was in town recently for TEC’s (now known as Vistage) 60th anniversary celebration, Inspirational Leadership 2017. He packed his presentation with substance and inspiration for the more than 600 attendees.

He concluded with a quick review of his latest book, “The Ideal Team Player.” Most CEOs will recite: “Our most important assets are our people.” But unfortunately, that CEO promise is too often not the reality.

Given the low unemployment rate, plus the growing economy, we’d better take care of our “A” and “B+” players with challenging work, excellent professional development and appropriate compensation. Move those “B-” and below players on to another career—someplace else, that is.

2. Know your strategy.

I have a practice called “corporate anthropology.” I administer and then interpret organizational analysis and design personality assessments. I also conduct one-to-one interviews with an organization’s entire executive team. The first question I always ask is: “What’s the strategy of your organization?”

Amazingly, less than 35 percent of leadership team members I’ve interviewed over the past decade give the same answer as their CEO. That’s correct: 35 percent of the leaders. And it’s not uncommon for the CEO to say, “We don’t have a strategy.” Let’s go folks. It’s strategy recombobulation time!

3. Get an advisory board and a peer group.

Things are moving faster than ever before. None of us can stay on top of everything. The best we can do is get an outside perspective from a variety of people. Obviously, as a Vistage chair, I believe every business owner/operator ought to be in a Vistage group.

But most CEOs should also have a true outsider advisory board. Boards and Vistage groups have two very different purposes (a topic for another column), but both can provide critical insight into employees, markets, the economy and the future.

4. Take care of yourself.

Given the improvements in the business climate, yet a lingering fear of a 2008 rerun, I see too many CEOs today doing double or triple duty. As a result, their waistlines are expanding, lack of sleep is common, and their overall health is at significant risk.

In any airport recombobulation area, whether so named or not, you’ll usually see a table or two and someplace to sit. Sometimes you’re forced to take a little extra time to look around you and ensure you have everything you need for your trip, particularly when your carry-ons have had the dubious honor of being selected for search.

How many people rush through their recombobulation even if they aren’t running late for their flights? How many people leave important stuff—cell phones, wallets, laptops, even briefcases—behind in their haste to move on? Then they look back and wonder, “How could I have done that?”

So take some time to recombobulate your business, your relationships, your life… then, enjoy the journey!

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As a serial entrepreneur, business and community leader since 1983, John Howman has led a variety of businesses, from technology to consumer products companies. He leads two groups for Vistage, a professional development group of CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at JHowman@AlliedCG.com.

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