Leadership Coaching 101: The worst business mistake you could make

Recently, Look’s Office Manager, Heather, and I had an engaging conversation about risk management in business. She is an incredibly competent person and has progressed in our company from receptionist to bookkeeper to office manager. She is one of those super-competent, smart, loyal people who never makes mistakes. In the past, Heather’s job was to keep us out of trouble—now her job requires making decisions to do activities that we have never done before—without any guarantee of success.
Naturally, Heather is concerned about the prospect of failure. I realized that I needed to challenge her perception of failure in business, by asking her to tell me what was the worst thing I could do that would destroy our business.

Is going bankrupt the worst thing?

I asked her, and she said yes. The worst thing would be to bankrupt the business. While bankruptcy is always a possibility, I don’t think it’s a probable one. For Look to go bankrupt, we would need to make one enormous mistake, or many small mistakes. However, our management team consists of five very competent individuals. Even if I was to do something that damaging, they would stop me. Furthermore, our management team reports to an advisory board that is served by four of our clients. They would intervene if we were collectively heading in the wrong direction.

Therefore, bankruptcy is very unlikely. We have a system to prevent catastrophic mistakes made by any individual (mainly me).

So, what is the worst thing?

I explained to Heather that the worst thing we could do would be to keep doing what everyone else is doing. Often, new leaders stop taking risks and put the business on cruise control to keep it safe. However, in business “cruise control” means you are falling behind! Competitors will innovate, pass, and surpass you. What makes things even more complicated is that companies with a “cruise control culture” have a hard time turning it off. The innovators and leaders are probably all gone (or keeping quiet), and the only people who are left are the ones who don’t know how to take and manage risk. Thus, the company is destined to die a slow and agonizing business death.

In the past few years, we’ve seen many companies who went from being innovative leaders of their industries to being irrelevant. When they had success had peaked, their management turned on the cruise control (Air Canada, Nortel, and Blackberry all come to mind). Coasting into irrelevancy doesn’t just happen to huge corporations. How many businesses do you know that are held back by a proud and aging owner, or the third generation family business that is slowly and safely going out of business?

It is much easier to go out of business by avoiding risks than failing at trying something new.

How does leadership coaching create a culture of innovation?

For you to foster a culture of innovation, there needs to be a good structure. Look has been in business since 2004, and we have never been more innovative than we are now. For example, in 2014, we turned our business model upside down and changed our industry category from being an ad agency to being a marketing consultancy. How? By building a solid management model. Our model consists of leaders, managers, and doers. Without any one of these three functional groups, the model would fall apart. Our Leadership coaching helps to position our clients to reap the benefits of change.

Does your business need an innovation boost?

The innovation model that Zlatan and our management team have developed in Look is a result of 11 years or research, business courses, seminars, and trial and error. Throughout that time Zlatan has helped Look, and our clients, develop cultures of innovation and accountability. Want to see some proof? Check out the results we have acheived.

Zlatan’s program, Helping Employees Think Like Owners, has revolutionized the way we do business.

If you, your company, or your staff would benefit from Helping Employees Think Like Owners, have Zlatan speak at your next team-building event.

  1. Shane Foster 25/02/2016, 11:00:39 AM

    wish I had listened to you more closely and acted more aggressively on the information you gave me when you did!

    • Zlatan Fazlagić 25/02/2016, 11:01:09 AM

      Good to hear from you Shane. As I aluded in the post there are no business mistakes that we cannot recover from. Some lessons are more expensive than others but all of them amount to the knowledge that we get to apply in the future. Everything you learn will help you with your new venture.

Tell us what you think.