Momentum Podcast: 152
You Can't Lead Through An App
by Alex Charfen
Remember a few years ago after Apple introduced the app store and just about anything any moment say you would get the reply “there's an app for that!”
The funny thing was that there really was an app for just about everything. Want to sell something or buy something, there's an app for that. Want to relocate to a place you never been, there's an app for that. It was funny to get around about how there was an app for just about everything except…
It doesn't matter how hard you try, or how well you have learn the software you are using, you cannot lead people through an app.
Leadership is a contact sport and it requires proximity to your people. You have to spend time with them, get to know them, understand them and then you can lead them.
Far too many entrepreneurs today are trying to lead their companies through a software program.
This just isn't how it works.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Chafen, and this is The Momentum Podcast made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.
Sure we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny. We define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how.
While the rest of the world strives for average, and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few, who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly, the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consist, positive, human evolution, and we always will be.
You can't lead through an app. You know the conversation that happens a few years ago, where there was a joke, "There's an app for that." No matter what anybody said people would say, "Oh, there's an app for that."
"I want to find farmers in my area that are looking to date."
"There's an app for that."
"I want to buy used carpet from somebody pulling it out of their house."
"There's an app for that."
I want to buy whatever or do whatever. There's an app for it.
One of the challenges is I think that that became the mentality of far too many entrepreneurs. Whenever you need something, you should find an app, find a system, find something that you can put it in. And one of the biggest challenges is entrepreneurs today are trying to lead their teams through apps. And if you are in this position, I'm not judging you. I just want you to think about it, because I realize there are some amazing organizational products on the market today. Trello. Asana. Basecamp. I could go on and on. There's a lot of different applications, software programs, that will allow you to put together information in a way so that you can understand where it is. Honestly, most of those programs confuse the crap out of me, but I know that for a lot of entrepreneurs those help.
Here's the challenge. It doesn't matter what app you have. It does not replace your ability to lead. It does not replace your functional leadership, because project management, which is what those software programs allow you to do, is not leadership.
In fact, in my coaching program, I work with entrepreneurs who have businesses that are over a million dollars. And one of the things we do when we first start is we figure out what technology they are using, how are they meeting with their team, how are they talking. And so often one of the biggest deficits to the interaction that entrepreneurs have with their team is that there isn't any, if it doesn't go through an app. It's crazy how often these days I talk to an entrepreneur that almost 100% of their communication with their team is through one of the platforms I just discussed with you.
And here's the challenge with that. You can't lead, and grow, and motivate, and understand your team, if you are communicating with them through a platform. It's the very definition of turning people into process and using them as tools, which in a way every entrepreneur must do. Let's get over it. We have to that. We have to use people as process. We have to put people in place to help us, or we put a process in place. But if we start treating people like process, if we start treating people like part of the system, our companies are doomed. Your business will have a very hard time.
It doesn't matter how much you've grown it today. If you are leading through a software application, if you are communicating exclusively through a software application, if most of what your team hears from you is from a project management tool, you are going to stifle your growth. And you're going to hit a point where you can't grow anymore, because true leadership requires you to be proximal to the people you're leading. Tree Leadership requires you to actually communicate to the people you're leading. And true leadership, transformational leadership, requires you to understand the people that you are leading. And I want to make it clear, that doesn't mean everyone in your company. That doesn't mean you need to have a first name basis with everyone who ever works with you and understand their wife's name, their kids' names, but it absolutely means that you better have a team of people within your organization those closest to you who you know well.
The people on my executive team, the people who are around me making my company grow, I want to know everything there is to know about them. I want to know about their personal lives. I want to know what's going on with them. I want to know what their dreams are, what their hopes are. I want to know where they're struggling, what's going on for them right now that's giving them a hard time. I want to know where they feel exposure, where they feel upset. I want to help them through those things, because I own all of them. They're on my executive team, and they're going to affect me.
There's two ways to look at it. You can ignore all that stuff, pretend it's not there, and have massive exposure, or you can talk through those things with the people that work with you and help them through it and understand when they need additional support. Understand when their lives are such that you need to give them more, help them more, support them more, so that you don't have the exposure. And none of that can be done through an app.
In fact, if you want to lead people, one of the most important things you can do is to talk to them, connect with them, be present with them, have targeted interactions where they have an understanding of what they need to do and why they need to be there. Sit down with them in those meetings and explain to them what's going on. Listen to them. Let them contribute. Let them be not just part of the team, but part of the growth of the organization. And if you do that, your people will never go anywhere. Your people will be with you. They will help you grow your business. They will create momentum with you. They will be excited with you. But the day you start treating people like process is the day that you start losing them. Because at that point, all someone else has to do is offer them the same amount or more money than you are and treat them well. Talk to them. Recognize them as human beings, and they're out of there. But if you built a relationship with someone, if you've helped them grow, if you've helped them overcome where they've struggled, if you've helped them become who they are in their position, they won't even listen to recruiters.
I know. My teams are high visibility. They get recruited constantly. At one point in our organization we had a filter program that showed us where most email was coming from. And the amount of email our team was getting from recruiters and headhunters was crazy, but nobody was leaving because we lead people. We talked to people. We understood who was on our team, and we made sure they were getting what they needed out of their positions and in their lives so that they felt like they were in momentum, because that kept our company in momentum. And there's no way I could have done it through a software program.
And one of the biggest challenges today is that entrepreneurs are software dependent to grow companies. Every business I've ever grown has been on paper and in spreadsheets and in documents. I've never used an app to grow a company. I've never used one of these platforms to actually make it work. And I've grown more than one multi-million dollar company. I was just trying to think of what number it is to say multimillion dollars, it's probably over a dozen. And Cadey and I have taken four companies to over 10 million. And I've taken one to over 250. And 100% of those were on paper, on spreadsheets, in documents.
My first company, these apps weren't even around. I ran it through spreadsheets, fax machines, which some of you won't even know what that is, and sending disks back and forth internationally so that we would all have the same information and data, and we still grew it, grew our people, grew the organization, had wild success for our clients without any apps.
So, one of the things that I think every entrepreneur today need to recognize is that these programs should be supportive. These programs should back you up, but these programs should never ever be the primary means of communication that you have with your team, because it literally makes people into process. And when people feel like they are part of a machine, they have no connection to your organization. They have no emotional reason to be there. They have no psychological reason to be there other than getting paid and filling a role. But when you connect with people, and you make them feel like they are part of a team, you become part of what gives them momentum in their lives. You become part of what's helping them grow in their lives. You become part of who they are becoming, and people wont' leave you.
So if you've been managing through an app, if you've been communicating primarily through one of these platforms, I want you to think about just how damaging and just how difficult that really is for the people you're working with. And I want you to consider, if you really need all that stuff. Most of my clients run multimillion dollar businesses on spreadsheets. I show 'em how to do it how we do. You know any one of those software programs, there's an incredible burden to just figuring out how to use it, not just for you, but for everyone coming into your company. If you want to change a process in one of those, on paper it takes about ten seconds. In one of those platforms, you have to know how to do it. Those become as much of a trap as they do a resource or tool.
So be careful with how you use those, because the entire technology burden for a team member at Apple Computer is the following. And this comes from my cousin, Eric, who works at Apple. And I bring this up all the time, because Apple Computer is one of the most, if not the most, powerful company in the world. They innovate at a level most other organization don't even understand. Apple has completely changed our view of so many different industries, and so many different markets that it's hard to quantify all of them. They've changed music, and movies, computers, and phones, and tablets, and I could keep going. And here's the entire technology burden for a person sitting at a desk at Apple. They need to know how to use Messages. Yeah, they text messages on your iPhone. That's one. They need to know how to use Keynote Online, the presentation software. That's where they keep all their notes. That's where they keep everything that is going on in any of their projects. They have to know how to use email. That would be Apple Mail. And then the last one is, they have to know how to use a product, I believe it's called Convergence, but it's essentially a wiki that goes online. Four programs is the total technology burden that Apple Computer uses to put out the most technologically advanced and game changing hardware in the world today.
Yet, I go into entrepreneurial companies, and the average entrepreneurial million dollar organization I encounter is running on anywhere from 3 to as many as 10 or 12 different apps and program and software systems that everyone in the business has to learn how to use. If this is how you've been leading your company, if it's working for you, then keep doing it. If you are using one of these platforms and it's gotten you efficiency, and it's helping you, then don't stop.
But if you are using one of these platforms, and you feel a little detached from your people, or if you've been trying to use one of these, and it's not working out how you want, or if you've been trying to create momentum in your company, and it's just not there. Step away from the computer. Connect with your people. Talk to them. Find out what they need. Find out where they're blocked. Find out where they feel they can't create momentum and help them resolve that. You will see everything in your business shift the day that your people understand you see them as more than process.
You simply can not lead through an app. You can manage. You can organize. You can systemize, but you can't become a leader. Because transformational leadership requires you to show your team clear outcomes that are easy to understand and impossible to misunderstand. It requires you to coach your team and along the way in the pursuit of those outcomes so that there's no possible way that they can fail cause they have you in their corner. And then you help them achieve those outcomes so that you get leveraged results. That is transformational leadership. And that simply can't happen through a project management system. So, if you've been trying to lead your team and you're ready to take things to the next level, understand you might be organized or managing or systemizing in an application, but leadership is a contact sport.
You have to get in contact with your team, talk to them, spend time with them, understand what they need, and you will see your business explode. If you're ready to grow your business, if you have a company that is a million dollars plus and what to see just how far you can take it, if you know the opportunity you've created is far greater than what you're showing, I wanna work with you. I'm ready to help you grow that business and take it to the level that you want to take it in the clearest, easiest, simplest way so that you don't feel like your giving up yourself in the process. Reach out to us. I'd love to talk to you, and remember when it comes to leadership, there is not an app for that.