I’ve recently introduced the metaphor to my readers – and to my peer advisory practice – of Business Advisor as “Business Chef,” combining the best combinations of particular resources for common leadership problems, and serving them up to nourish peers, with my own personal touch.
One of my favorite, most trusted recipes is one I offer to business owners transitioning from entrepreneur to CEO. The key ingredients:
- Growing Pains: Transitioning from an Entrepreneurship to a Professionally Managed Firm (Flamholtz and Randle)
- Leading at the Speed of Growth: Journey from Entrepreneur to CEO (Catlin and Matthews).
The flavors of these two seminal works on managing growth complement each other – though they diverge on the number of steps in the life cycle. Both emphasize the importance of retaining the entrepreneurial spirit that fueled the company through its inception and startup phase. At the same time, leaders have to grow with their businesses.
Flamholtz and Randle write that “the nature of the organization must change,” and Catlin and Matthews reinforce that idea, adding “you must alter your style from seat-of-the-pants, intuitive leadership to a more deliberate approach.”
They both describe, in depth, the characteristics of each phase of growth, as well as provide a roadmap to navigating them and adapting to the changing demands of the organization. Distilling this into usable, actionable insights for businesses saves time, resources, and missteps.Flavoring with the Unexpected
Sometimes unexpected ingredients make the recipe complete (e.g. avocado in fudge brownies (try it!). Let’s add a TED talk by Stanley McChrystal, a four-star general (retired) and Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and the US Forces Afghanistan.
General McChyrstal begins his talk by describing a parachute jump he led at Fort Bragg, NC. A normal Tuesday, just like any other. But it wasn’t. It was September 11, 2001. He says of his leadership, “I’d been successful, but things changed so much that I was going to have to make some significant changes….” General McChrystal tells a rapt audience – with humor – about his changing model of leadership. He had to rely on remote communication, on “reverse mentoring” as young soldiers taught him new techniques, on building consensus and trust.
While his challenges differ greatly from those of growth entrepreneurs, the lesson on leadership applies resoundingly: be willing to change. Adapt to your situation and the new reality. McChrystal knew that which brought him to this stage couldn’t bring him through it. Even the title of his talk – “Listen, Learn – Then Lead” – speaks to the importance of integrating new and different sources of knowledge and experiences.The Secret Ingredient: Action
Of course, the best recipes don’t yield appetizing results unless someone puts them together. Business owners can take these lessons, these actionable insights, and use them to address the challenges they’re facing or pursue the opportunities they see. If a business chef can save them time and money, they can re-direct those valuable resources towards achieving success.