Thursday, July 25, 2013

Personal Business Maturity

Guest post from Jim DuBreuil:
If you Google the term, “business maturity,” you will find lots of discussions about the emergence of social networks to drive new business.  You’ll also see information about how a line of business “matures” when you implement an effective model, focus on the right priorities and execute rigorously.

But I submit to you that understanding your own personal business maturity can yield significant insight into why you succeed or fail to be viewed as a leader.  What I mean by personal business maturity is one’s ability to manage adversity and change with poise and professionalism regardless of circumstances.  It’s more than just “making lemonade out of lemons.”  It’s an attribute of leaders that realize when times are most frustrating and difficult, that’s precisely when they need to show others how calm and deliberate they can be.  Managing yourself and others when turmoil is present is difficult enough.  But when you also exhibit and model behavior that takes emotion out of the situation, you are leading your team to a place where better decisions can be made and encouraging more focus on how to succeed under the given circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with managers responding to change by “towing the company line” and helping others to do the same.  True leaders know when to push back and how far so they can make the best of the situation.  When this is recognized by the troops, it illustrates how savvy the leader is and it helps to calm the environment even more.

Personal business maturity cannot actually be taught, but it can certainly be learned.  It may look and feel differently based on the organization or work environment you’re in.  However, if you are not seeking to improve your own maturity given your circumstances, surroundings and influences, you may just miss a great opportunity to improve your own credibility within that environment.   

I once managed a department with seasoned veterans who possessed exceptional technical skills and a history of success in the company.  This was an internal support function at a headquarters location and one person on the team had spent years supporting customers, enjoying many of the benefits of working “in the field” such as bonuses, recognition events, golf outings with clients, etc.  The excitement in our environment paled in comparison and he seemed less than enthusiastic about applying his skills.  Did he leave the field and come to headquarters to “retire on the job?”  Was he forced out of the good life to make room for younger, less expensive resources?  It really didn’t matter to me.  I just needed his best work.  I gave him some time to pout then we sat down to review his performance plan which was chocked full of challenges, but nothing he couldn’t handle.

I doubt that he was intimidated by my authoritative demeanor or that his inhibitions melted away because of my charismatic management style.  But he did accept the responsibilities graciously and immediately; no drama or complaints.  His obvious business maturity had disappeared only briefly, and his professionalism now reigned, which made me extremely happy.

Personal business maturity has absolutely nothing to do with age or longevity in an organization.  I have observed 30 year veterans of a company that held high level positions, who still complained outwardly about changes they didn’t agree with.  When you’ve been around an organization for that long, you really should know how to cope with the inevitable changes.  Sometimes, pushing back or becoming the squeaky wheel is not negative and may even be respected by people.  But the person who is tagged as the constant complainer is rarely viewed as a mature leader.

I have also witnessed a new manager in his twenties offer to take a task from the director because he recognized that the executive’s time was more valuable than his own.  As a leader, you never have to agree with decisions or who will be affected, but the mature professional is cognizant of how their reaction will be perceived and how others will view that response.

When decisions have been made, leaders do their best to embrace changes and find ways to help others adapt as well.  They put forth an authentic effort to achieve success because they respect the authority above them to make such decisions.  They illustrate respect for their employees and peers by providing open and honest communication about the rationale for decisions made to ensure teams are operating with facts and not rumor or misinterpretations.  Finally, real leaders also respect themselves and go to great lengths to assess and improve their own behavior.  Some of the best workers I’ve known practiced a much tougher evaluation of their own job performance than any manager they worked for.  

If you want to truly be viewed as a leader in your organization, be genuine. Just as outside the workplace, sometimes you encounter situations that make you cringe and you say nothing because it will hurt others or make a bad state of affairs even worse.  It’s not that difficult to build maturity if you operate intelligently and with sincerity.  When you conduct yourself with integrity others will recognize it as a sign of maturity.

Above all, don’t take yourself too seriously.  You may want to show your team and management how your personal business maturity makes you a great leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake, laugh along with others and learn how to improve yourself whether you are 28 or 68, have 2 years in the business or 32.  Continuing to improve your business maturity may never stop and even though it helps to make you a more valuable resource on the job, as recognized by peers and management alike, it is truly a personal achievement to be viewed this way.  Learn to increase your maturity in all environments and you will enjoy something no one can criticize or take away from you; the personal satisfaction that comes with improving yourself through initiative and intelligent effort.

About the Author:
Jim DuBreuil's business career began in 1979 at IBM and he has built a history of successful experiences in both large and small businesses. At Disney Worldwide Services, Cap Gemini America and other companies, he has held a variety of management and executive jobs. As a practitioner and consultant, he has achieved results using effective leadership by example, extraordinary people management, strong communication skills, and a solid understanding of information technology and analytics to meet business objectives.

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