Self-confidence is a great quality, in moderation, but how do you know if you’re doing a good job or making the right decision if the only people you ask are going to tell you what they think you want to hear?
Many a corporate Titanic has hit an iceberg because the crew were too busy telling the Captain what a fine navigator he was or even offering him ice for his drink without daring to mention that he was about to get rather more of it than he bargained for. You’re not likely to hear any truths – especially necessary ones – if those you consult or sound out know their mortgages depend on keeping you happy.
What every great business leader needs – though doesn’t necessarily want – is a Speak-The-Truth-Unto-Power machine, a mirror, mirror on the wall that will tell it like it is without fear or favour.
So, who do you trust?
As the woman or man at the top of your organisation, you may well be the last person to know what’s really going on, as loyal lieutenants conspire to hide any unpleasantnesses from you. Your top tier of management may not be too forthcoming, either, as most of them are likely to be competing for your blessings from on high and jockeying for position in the hope of succeeding you.
They’ve climbed ladder after ladder to get there, and they’re well aware that one wrong word could see them sliding down the biggest snake ever and needing to do more than throw a six to start again.
Even family and friends can be unreliable when it comes to home truths if they’re part of the business or simply don’t want to hurt you.
It may be that you don’t feel you need a sounding-board. After all, a lot of people have made it to the top of some pretty impressive trees without a shred of apparent self-doubt.
But if you don’t feel you have the monopoly on wisdom and might, just might, learn something useful from someone else, you could turn for help, or reassurance, to an outsider.
That’s right: a consultant, a freelance, or an agency. They go by many names (and get called some, too, none of them permissible on our Blog) but the one thing they have in common is that they can help you see yourself and your business as others see you. Warts and all.
Agree a fixed fee that isn’t dependent on whether you’ll like the feedback they offer, give them the right to enquire and challenge, and you’ll either end up with the reassurance that you really are the best thing since sliced bread and don’t need to change a single thing, or, possibly, they will have identified weaknesses in the organisation and can bring new thinking to the table to help you deal with those issues and make your business considerably more successful.
Marketing agencies – or the best ones, anyway – specialise in this sort of thing and hold events they call Brand DNA or Discovery Days or suchlike in which they get to know your business inside-out, analyse it, and come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations for making it better and achieving your goals, with or without their help.
At Chantry Group, the agency I work for, they help the heads of franchised businesses work out the best way to attract the right sort of franchisees rather than thousands of applications from tyre-kickers, fantasists or the hopelessly under-funded.
It works, wonderfully, and I speak from experience – or sort of.
Two decades ago, I went through a not dissimilar process. I wasn’t a business, but Brand Jon McKnight wasn’t doing too well – especially with women.
I’d spent literally half of my life – the entirety of my twenties and thirties – craving female company but failing to find it, and no-one would tell me why. Life was hardly worth living. And then I saw a trailer for a TV programme called Would Like To Meet – a makeover programme in which three experts took someone who was useless at dating, discovered what was wrong, helped him realise it, then gave him the skills and the confidence to go out there and wow the women.
In my case, I was a journalist, happy asking anyone about anything, and completely confident in what I was doing,,, until I put my notebook away at the end of the day.
Then, I was just me. And, as I discovered, my biggest problem was that I didn’t believe in the product.
The three experts – Jay Hunt, Jeremy Milnes and Tracey Cox – spent seven weeks pulling me apart on camera then putting me back together in a hopefully better order.
As someone so notoriously stubborn that mules admire me, I was flabbergasted to find that Jeremy actually changed the way I think.
He became my mirror, mirror on the wall and showed me in a way I couldn’t possibly contradict that I spent almost all of my time in conversation running myself down – something that women, who are generally impressed by confident men, found an absolute turn-off. “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should you expect anyone else to?” he asked.
The scaled lifted from my eyes, I learned how to become self-confident (in moderation!), and I never looked back. Some of my closest friends took part in the BBC2 programme. Why, I wondered, hand’t they told me all that when I was banging on and feeling sorry for myself every time we met, year after year?
They liked me too much to tell me, they said – and that was touching, truly so – but it was also exactly what I didn’t need.
They weren’t sycophants – far from it – but they didn’t want to upset me by pointing out the bloody great elephant in the room that everyone else could see but I remained blissfully unaware of. Jeremy and Jay and Tracey, though, had no such qualms. They had a programme to make and, after checking I was emotionally resilient enough to take the criticism, they let me have it – from both barrels, on numerous cameras. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because, thanks to the BBC licence-fee-payers, I’d been given the gift of seeing myself as others see me.
Once I realised that, and saw what they saw, I was able to change. I stopped running myself down, accepted that I had at least sufficient positive qualities to attract some women, and have never been happier as a result.
And that’s exactly what business owners can expect from one of Chantry Group’s Breakthrough Days – only Chantry, of course, would say it’s completely different. The point is that onlookers do see more of the game and doing other people’s crosswords is easier when you step in and deftly answer nine across when they’ve spent the last three hours tearing their hair out over the other 44 clues.
Companies that go through the Breakthrough process discover a lot about themselves, especially their strengths and weaknesses, but, most importantly, get that rare chance to see themselves as others see them. That’s why they’re prospering while others in the same game keep doing the same-old, same-old and end up with the same-old, same-old results in a world of diminishing returns.
But what’s a dating makeover programme got to do with finding the right franchisees for business clients, you might ask? Everything, actually. The business needs to attract suitors for a long-term relationship – and just as most people on Tinder don’t want any old gonk, those businesses would like to meet the right kind of people… people who want to spend time with them, who share similar dreams and values, who want to throw their lot in with one another.
Just as the way you write your Tinder profile helps determine the sort of replies you can expect, so a Breakthrough Day helps you decide how to position yourself, how to market yourself, how to appeal to just the people you want to attract rather than being chased around all day by crowds of unsuitables.
But unlike my own Breakthrough event in front of three-and-a-half million viewers before it was repeated endlessly around the world, Chantry’s version is discreet, private, and totally confidential.
It’ll tell you what you need to know – whether that’s merely confirming your own hunches or coming as a complete revelation – and it will help you get to where you need to go, with or without the agency’s help. You’ll enjoy it, too. But you don’t need me to tell you that…
Get in touch if you want to explore your very own Breakthrough experience.