It’s Leadership, Not Magic

I’ve read countless articles on how to build a “winning culture” in the workplace. You’d think magic was a critical ingredient of the recipe. But I’m here to tell you, as someone fortunate enough to have been a member of several winning cultures, it doesn’t take magic.

Winning culture at the workplace, if I may say so, is merely good leadership. Good leaders set good examples, they motivate, they inspire, they hold people accountable for their actions. Most of all, good leaders instill a workplace mentality of togetherness, one where caring about your co-workers is on equal, if not greater, footing than caring about numero uno. And that, essentially, is the cryptic message from in the numerous articles I was referring to at the beginning of this post.

Expecting to build a winning culture with poor leadership is the same as expecting Lake Michigan to freeze over in mid July, which is also spoken from personal experience (dare I mention I’ve also been a member of several losing cultures!). As a side note, there is a silver lining to experiencing a losing culture, which is the beginning of a burning desire to find and contribute to a winning culture, not to mention, a deep appreciation to be a part of it. 

Nevertheless, for entrepreneurs leadership starts by looking in the mirror and setting the right example for your own support group /work force. Your company’s growth will eventually bring leaders to the surface among your rank and file, following the examples you sent trickling down from top to bottom. That, friends, is when winning culture blossoms, and only then is when the magic can begin… 

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The application of statistical analysis in professional baseball, known as sabermetrics, has noticeably changed the way the game is played the last decade. Whether or not those changes have been for the better remains a common rift among baseball fans.

It’s a wormhole debate for seamheads (like me), but I have no intention of diving into it for this post. I will say there’s little friction against sabermetrics on my end, only a word of caution to my baseball brethren to recognize statistics don’t tell the whole story–and that goes for entrepreneurship, too. As long as commerce and baseball are run by people there will always be a human element to the game; work ethic, determination and other intangibles that simply can’t be calculated. Thus, to get the whole picture you need light from both sides.

“People commonly use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post; for support rather than illumination.”– Mark Twain

We already know statistical data provides loads of information to better position a defense on the diamond or a business in the market, but statistics can also be used to twist narratives into misleading directions, as Mike Templeman explains in his article on Entrepreneur.com “When You Focus on Failure Statistics, You May End Up One.”

It’s an article well worth reading, especially if someone’s ever given you the line about your new business having an 80-percent chance of failing.

Heed Margaret Mead

It’s rare for an entrepreneur to begin the journey with more than a handful of people at the ready, and in most cases it’s likely two or three people. Painting your vision for others to see, feel and empathize with your passion isn’t the hard part–it’s getting their commitment to go to work for your cause.

Make no mistake, accomplishing your grand vision–and your vision should be grand–will almost certainly require the help of dozens of people, if not hundreds. But the lion’s share of your work can be achieved with the small group you set out with on Day 1. In the land of entrepreneurship, you don’t need nine players on the diamond to field a team.

On a recent visit to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, I saw a quotation (it’s painted on a wall inside the Reptile House) from Margaret Mead , the cultural anthropologist and best-selling author (Coming of Age in Samoa, 1928).

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

And indeed, it’s the only thing that ever will.