What does it take to succeed?
It’s a question that has the power to captivate just about anybody, whether it be a small business leader, an up-and-coming employee or an Olympic athlete.
Thankfully, we live in a time where information abounds. Small- and big-business leaders are generous with their time, in many cases, and are willing to talk with major publications, blogs and websites to share their story.
We found that while many success stories are inspiring in a rock-star kind of way, there tend to be some pretty serious lessons that underpin all the glamour of big paydays and huge buyouts.
These lessons are like the pumps, belts and tubes under the hood of a car. They don’t look particularly cool and you rarely see them, but they’re what make the vehicle go.
This month we sifted through numerous articles and posts to dig up some of these lessons.
Lesson #1: Big Decisions Require Patience, Not Haste
Growth is huge for startups. Investors want to know how many clients or downloads you have. Reporters want to know how much capital you raised in your last round. Customers want to see social media hype.
When growth is the focus, patience tends to take a back seat to innovation and release deadlines. However, when it comes to the big decisions, don’t be afraid to take a day or two to ponder decisions you don’t feel comfortable making.
Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee, a San Francisco-based API management company, said learning to hit the pause button on a big decision is an essential part of his business philosophy.
“Making important decisions – a defining responsibility of any leader – sometimes requires patience,” he said in a 2015 interview with Fast Company. “If I’m not comfortable with a big decision, I wait a day or two.”
During that time, he said, he gives the decision “the gift of time.” He doesn’t use the extra days to do more research, collect and analyze data or review the positives and negatives of the decision.
“Often, with a little time and patience, the decision will manifest itself clearly,” he said.
Lesson #2: Trust Your Team
When you’re used to running the show – having all the answers, solving all the problems, etc. – your initial instinct is not to let your team work out the issues your product or campaign is facing.
That philosophy may work in specific situations, but if you’re the source of all solutions and answers, you’ll quickly find that your power is limited. But having limitations isn’t a bad thing, said Yee Lee, a startup guru whose recent projects include lending startup Vouch.
His words offer a sharp sting to those of us who’ve become self-reliant.
“It is much harder, but more empowering for your team, to hold your tongue on your own ideas and keep asking questions until your team comes up with the answers themselves,” he said.
Part of trusting your team is making sure you hire trustworthy people. In a 2015 article for Business Insider, contributor Jayson DeMers talked about trustworthiness.
“The first step is to hire trustworthy people – people who are honest, open and self-motivated enough to work for the good of the company,” he said. “But beyond that, it’s your responsibility to create a culture and an atmosphere that encourages both honesty and co-dependence.”
It’s normal for us to struggle with this concept of co-dependence and honesty, but if our manager-employee interactions are viewed in the context of relationship, then “honesty” and “co-dependence” begin to make a lot of sense.
And, as many a wizened platitude attest, relationships are pretty difficult to maintain without trust.
Lesson #3: Keep Calm and Carry On
There’s a scene in the NBC classic The Office where fomenter Dwight Schrute throws a cigarette in a trash can full of paper and lighter fluid in order to test the office’s ability to respond to a fire.
Michael Scott, the hapless boss, responds by saying, “Everybody stay calm.” He repeats the phrase once more, then his tone changes and he screams, “Everybody stay the (bleep) calm!”
Minutes later, Scott abandons all hope as he yells, “Okay, we’re trapped. Everyone for himself!” Chaos ensues.
It’s a hilarious example, no doubt, but it points to the power of a leader to dictate the way his or her team responds to unexpected moments.
Lauren Asilis, president of travel company Travelwise, said part of her company’s success has come through her recognition that steady nerves lead well.
“Although you have to trust people, you must be prepared to expect any kind of negative situation and keep calm and focused on your goal,” Asilis said in an interview with Success.com.