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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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What The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Can Teach MSPs about Leadership

Posted August 17, 2015by David Russell


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image source: http://www.efilmsworld.com/The-Man-from-U-N-C-L-E.html

Sometimes to survive, or even thrive, you have to partner with someone you previously considered a competitor, or at least a contractor when you prefer to assign the work to an employee. How do you do that with the least amount of risk?

One approach can be explored by seeing Warner Brothers Pictures's latest film, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. based on the popular 1960s TV series. I have not yet seen the movie released last Friday, and of course it is more fun than factual, but here’s an opportunity for a humor, violence, and intrigue-packed leadership lesson. Maybe your team could have a lively discussion on how to accelerate your company’s growth after an evening showing!

It’s the height of the Cold War. The story centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin who are forced to put aside longstanding hostilities to team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which of course, is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. 

Sounds in your neighborhood, eh? 

But back to leadership... How do you discern when working with a perceived competitor actually becomes a strategic advantage that has lower risk than going at it alone?


Do What You Do Best

When Tiger Woods went into a slump years ago, before his marital problems, he worked with his coach to build upon his strengths. What about his weaknesses? He worked with his coach to bring them up to a competitive level, but not try to make them strengths. Soon, he was back to winning tournament after tournament again.

In a similar way, I teach leaders to focus on their strengths. Delegate less important tasks and activities you do not enjoy and/or do poorly to competent people.

In The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the super spy networks of Russia and America conclude that their combined strengths are needed to stop the bad guys. Each side has a lot of strengths, and some weaknesses, but working together provides a strategic advantage.

Let me give you an example: What comes first, sales or the staff to deliver the services? Sell too fast and you cannot deliver. Hire too early and your profits evaporate. Each of these options are a costly “Fool’s Choice” that should be avoided. There is an alternative…

Leveraging a service that absorbs custom project work is a low risk, proven opportunity to “put the pedal to the metal” on sales without worrying about risking your consistently positive client experience. You can confidently off-load desktop and server projects and services to a highly-staffed, highly-trained Network Operations Center (NOC), and it's even easier if this service is seamlessly integrated into your RMM platform.

Free from being tasked with common tech work, your people are more available to focus on high-value tasks and strategic growth, while owning your client relationships. 


Team Up for Success

In the movie, Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as Illya Kuryakin. Together they extend their strengths beyond what they can individually do on their own to hunt down a re-emergent Nazi group bent on world domination.

Alone, even as superstars, they would fail. Together, they have more expertise, less risk, higher reliability, more depth, and compounded skills to exceed expectations.

Great leaders understand how to achieve more with others, whether it be employees, vendors, or additional people who can be involved.

Are you better working alone? I doubt it.

How often are you frustrated when someone under your charge keeps repeating a mistake? This is not that employee’s fault. It is yours. You tolerate it, so they repeat it. You hired, managed, developed and retained her/him, so it is your fault. Either you should not have hired the person, managed them more effectively, developed them to do the task reliably, or not retained them.

Stop blaming them. The primary problem is you. That brings us to my final point.


Focus on the Real T.A.R.G.E.T.

Leaders rally their resources to achieve significant results. The focus is on what is most important – the primary problem(s) or objectives, not what seems urgent and/or is emotionally appealing. 

It is written that Jack Nicklaus, the championship golfer, could have someone shoot a gun near him when he was hitting a golf ball and not even flinch. He was so laser-focused on how he wanted to hit the golf ball that he paid no attention to the gunshot. 

I believe in some parts of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie you will see similar calmness… but that’s a movie!

How focused are you on the tasks and relationships that will make the BIG difference for your company?

In The Man From U.N.C.L.E. the czars of Russian and American spy networks combine two superstars to focus on one thing: Finding and destroying a mysterious criminal organization and its nuclear weapons.

The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist… who of course is gorgeous, but DOES NOT DISTRACT THEM?

There are lots of other bad guys in the movie. Many additional people who need help. Certainly there is more evil these two superstars could vanquish if they combined and applied their talents. However, they focus on one objective.

You should too.

We all have multiple war fronts that scream for our attention daily. We also have varying levels of weaknesses that threaten our prosperity, or even survival.

Take a moment to breathe. Remove yourself from battle. Find a place of Sanctuary and consider:

  1. Am I doing what I do best?
  1. Is our company focusing on what we do best, MUCH MORE than anything else? 
  1. Are we productively combining the strengths of our people, partners, and resources? If not, then what coach, consultant, or other third party can help us?
  1. Are the TARGET goals we have really where we should be focusing, or are there better ways to grow faster and more profitably?
  1. There is so much money at risk. What companies, consultants and vendors are my BEST partners moving forward so I maximize my growth and profits while lowering my risks?


Maybe you need a team-bonding event. Watch the movie together! Then, confirm the one universally meaningful objective you can all work together toward meeting.

Contact me if you want my perspective on how to get there, and make sure you check out my last blog post, Are You a Minion or a Leader? Advice for the MSP Business Owner!


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David Russell is the author of Dave’s Charm School of soft skills training, plus CEO & Senior Consultant at MANAGEtoWIN. He’s been called the Leadership Guy for IT entrepreneurs and has spent the better part of his 43 years in business (34 in the computer channel) working with entrepreneurs to help them hire, manage, develop, and retain superstar employees. David’s mission is “No Bad Bosses.” His LEADERSHIP Essentials services and Certified LEADER programs are totally unique, 1:1 transformational learning experiences. Read more of David’s commentary on leadership, hiring, and company culture at the MANAGEtoWIN blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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