You hired a strategic consultant to help make some much-needed changes in your company. Now, it is time to get the ball rolling.
While your head might be ready to make those adjustments, your heart might be throwing a bit of a tantrum. Constructive criticism can be difficult to digest when you feel protective of the teams and systems you have worked so hard to put in place. Even if the recommended changes are completely rational, some might surprise you while others insult you.
But after the initial sting, you will soon realize that being open to criticism makes you a stronger leader. Deep down, you know that you hired a consultant because your business is not reaching its full potential. In order to implement the changes that will encourage your business to grow and thrive, you need to open yourself up, listen, and really take part in tough conversations.
Find the Silver Lining
Let us take a look at some of the toughest pills that a strategic consultant might prescribe you and consider why (and how) you should swallow them with a smile.
1. “You need to revamp your team.”
Criticisms about your team can be the hardest ones to accept. You might love the members of your team like family. They have stuck with you through good times and bad and have helped you build your company from the ground up.
But in many cases, personal attachments to team members can blind leaders from seeing the dysfunctions that are actually holding the company in a rut.
It is important to look clearly at the skills and experience of your team members. Ask yourself, “Who do I need today to take my company to the next level?” Goodbyes are always hard, but it is better to say them now than after your business has collapsed.
2. “You need to pivot your product strategy.”
Many leaders founded their companies based on a great idea. Subsequently, they are so married to this idea that they avoid revising their product strategy when necessary.
The saddest thing I have witnessed is when founders realize this strategy problem too late. For example, we once had a client come to us with Google-sized aspirations, but the company had been hemorrhaging cash for the past several quarters. Unfortunately, it was far too late to make the crucial changes in the product strategy.
To avoid this dreadful situation, do not delay. Instead, complete the tough work now to ensure your business model is healthy.
3. “You need to focus.”
Many entrepreneurs have so many ideas on the drawing board that they struggle to properly execute any of them. The ideas might be phenomenal, but without focus, they will never graduate from the brainstorm stage into a living product. The office will forever be a maze of half-finished plans and good intentions — and frustrations for everyone.
If your strategic consultant comes to you with this criticism, do not start backpedaling with excuses. Instead, go against your natural instincts and thank them.
While being told to focus might make you initially feel constrained and less entrepreneurial, that discomfort will soon ease once you see what a little focus does to your chosen idea. Move forward by pinning down what this focus looks like for your company, and then keep tabs on new ideas and ventures so they do not go astray.
4. “You need more structure.”
Sometimes, observing how a company operates is like watching kids play soccer. Everyone is running for the ball, and no one is executing against a clearly defined role. The result is a messy game in which goals are random and someone is bound to get hurt.
A lack of structure in a company can be just as damaging as a bad idea. When departments are not communicating or collaborating, everyone moves forward without a clear purpose.
If this is the problem your team faces, there are many ways you can start bringing structure into your operations. From regular conversations between teammates to clear, shared documentation, adding structure helps team members stay accountable by giving them distinctly defined roles, priorities, and goals.
Know in your head — and heart — why you are inviting a strategic consultant into your company, and understand what your goals are for the process. If you really want to push your company to new heights, you need to be willing to embrace and find value in these tough conversations.