Leaders are reactive, not proactive.

Number of Buns Sold…

The objective of every business owner should be to do as little managing and as much leading as possible. We think good leaders should be highly proactive. In some ways that shows they aren’t really leaders, but managers. What’s the difference?

Leading vs. Managing
In short, managers are proactive, and great leaders are, in some very important ways, reactive.

Managers take the responsibility to go out on the shop floor with a clipboard and watch what everyone is doing, count the productivity cycles, carefully measure the waste, write it all on the clipboard, transfer it to a highly detailed spreadsheet, analyze it all, and come up with ways to improve the whole process.

That’s great management, but questionable leadership.

Number of Buns Sold
A leader does it quite differently. The founder of Wendy’s hamburgers, Dave Thomas, didn’t do any of that. Instead he was given one number every day to react to – number of buns sold. From the one number he could tell how many hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, Frosties, and soft drinks had been sold that day, and what the profits per bun were. Dave Thomas did not go looking for any of this – it all came and found him, and all he had to do was react to it.

I’m sure Dave Thomas was very involved in setting up the systems and metrics that would get him his bun number every day. But from then on all he had to do was react. The responsibility for all the clip board stuff and for getting him the report was all on someone else’s plate. That allowed Dave to focus on the strategic parts of his business.

Great leaders set up environments where all the important things come and find them. Managers put themselves right in the middle of the process.

If you are a business owner you need to figure out how to stop managing and start leading, and you need to start doing it as early in your business as you can. That’s going to be hard for the control freaks, or those who find their self-worth in being indispensable, or those who have trained their clients to think they have to work directly with the owner, or – etc.

Distributive Management
Think of work as laser beams. A leader’s job is to carry a mirror and deflect as many of those beams to someone else as possible. To do this, it’s not as simple as just assigning it to the next guy. It might take a lot of proactive work to set up the process, system, or report to make sure that the information will come find you going forward.

Successful business owners learn to lead as quickly as possible, and are constantly figuring out how they can get others to do the things they are doing. They are extremely proactive in figuring out how to get the business to come find them, instead of having to go get involved.

Business owners who stay on the treadmill are heavily involved in every detail, think that being responsible is having the company revolve around them, and they take being endlessly “proactive” as a badge of honor.

What is your “number of buns sold”, and how do you set up your business to feed those few important things to you? When you figure out how to stop managing and start leading you’ll have a better business and a lot more time to focus on the strategic development of your business. And that will make running a business a lot more fun.

Be very proactive in setting up a business to which you can be highly reactive. That’s the difference between a manager and a leader.