A Watchkeeper or a Beekeeper?
In “A Watchmaker or a Beekeeper,” guest blogger Bruce Baker walks you through the main personality types in leadership roles, and how they can impact your business.
Low morale, low profits, lack of employee engagement, high turnover and rampant gossip can be attributed to a company being led by either a Watchmaker or a Beekeeper – care to guess which one is the culprit?
If you guessed Watchmaker, you’re right!
In James Fischer’s book, Navigating the Growth Curve, a Watchkeeper is a person who needs most business components to be predictable – something they can control at all times. They believe that to be effective, the “business machine” must be controlled by its operators. This is their overarching purpose of management – to control the business. They further believe that the machine exists for its builders’ primary purpose: to generate as much money as possible for its owners/stakeholders.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making as much money as possible. Still, it is essential that building an intentional business must be done sustainably over the long term. This includes not profiting at the expense of the company’s employees and stakeholders. The better approach is as you might have guessed by this stage, is being a Beekeeper.
Beekeepers are always mindful and have hindsight and foresight when managing and growing their business. Instead of rejecting or resisting the complexity and chaos that certainty comes with business growth, Beekeepers embrace complexity and, at times, chaos by allowing their teams’ or hive’s intelligence to be the operator instead of themselves exclusively. They appreciate and understand that their business is a living and intelligent organism, and if allowed, will generate far more innovative ideas and sustainable solutions. As a result, the Beekeeper’s business will continually self-organize around its problems and challenges.
When reading the fable in Navigating the Growth Curve, Horace’s recommendation is for Peter to become more like a Beekeeper to capitalize upon his team’s collective intelligence. Peter initially tried very much to control every aspect of his team, causing anger, hostility, and disengagement, leading to a downward spiral that could have been prevented by merely asking for their input.
This is a hard lesson that business owners/leaders can’t seem to learn often enough. Unfortunately, we regularly find far more Watchmakers than Beekeepers primarily due to individuals insisting that they should have all the answers and asking for their employees’ input may put them in a negative light. This is far from the truth! The opposite is true.
There is a Beekeeper in all of us. Still, during our day-to-day challenges as business leaders intending to do the right thing, our Watchmaker tendencies take over more than often without us even realizing it.
The 7-Stages of Growth concepts and programs offered by Workplaces are designed to help leaders predict how complexity will affect them, focus their efforts and resources on the right things at the right time and adapt to their company’s needs as their business grows.
I want to share the first steps in the journey of becoming a Beekeeper referencing the 7 Stages of Growth Model and the Business X-Ray we take our clients through. We emphasize that the only complexity in any business is its people, starting with the business owner during this exercise. The business owner and the leadership team’s ability to embrace this complexity and leverage its power will take the company and team to the next level.
Let me share the initial 4-steps we start within the Business X-ray session that will set you on the course of business growth success.
- Recognize the intelligence of the team by asking its opinion.
As scary as this can be, once you have it behind you, you will be amazed at the results and the amount of ‘anxiety’ it can take off your plate. Most leaders we work with hesitate to ask for their team’s input/feedback. Many reasons come to mind, but the following are the regular reasons we come across:
- How can they possibly know enough about the company to give me advice?
- They’ll use it as a ‘bitch’ session, and I’ve heard enough of that.
- I don’t have time to take their suggestions – I have my issues to deal with.
- If I ask them for their opinion, they’ll expect me to do something with it, and I have enough to do right now.
Leading is all about learning how your company and the team think and feel can only be brought about by asking and engaging.
- Filter out the noise
Noise is only too common in the business world today. Too many things are important, leaving nothing that is truly “important.” There are too many agendas that are not leveraged into concise plans of action, leading to low levels of focus and execution. Once the team’s power is recognized and leveraged (i.e., all voices and their opinions are encouraged), critical issues are brought to the surface and problems are solved. During the Business X-Ray session, key initiatives are identified with detailed action plans ensuring results are achieved.
- Unify the team around the plan
Once the key initiatives from the X-Ray are identified, the work begins. Communicate this information to the rest of the company either through group and individual meetings or the entire company at one time. Ensure that each initiative has a ‘champion’ – someone willing to be the ‘team lead’ on getting to the end goal. A lot of work? You bet, but the rewards are well worth it!
- Implement organic and self-organizing systems reinforcing change
Organic and self-organizing systems include people engaging and achieving results together. This essentially allows the team to put their handprint on solutions and subsequent systems and processes that produce results. Leaders are working less hard and far smarter with less direct supervision, control, and micro-management. Allowing this to happen brings about a path of least resistance which anyone in chaotic environments would strive for.
Practice being a Beekeeper and minimize the amount of time you spend as a Watchmaker. The results will be empowering for not just your team but for you as well.