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Leaders MUST think outside of the box to be their best. That’s what the writers at Illumination Entertainment have done with the new Minions movie, in theaters on July 10th.

After two blockbuster hits with Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2, they have brilliantly turned the tables on storytelling and made the supporting cast the HEROES of their new film. This is a great strategy that you can apply directly in your business.

It’s easy to follow the same, comfortable path every day. If your business doesn’t seem totally broken, you don’t fix it. But you and I both know it’s not that simple. The business landscape changes every day and you need to be constantly improving to stay competitive, or even better, to lead the charge! With this in mind, effective leaders know that growth is critical, stagnant sales and profits are unacceptable, and flexibility is often the key to success.

How can you stay ahead of the curve? Lead and inspire.


The movie is about the minions’ search for a despicable leader to serve, and what happens when they find a leader. Make no mistake - the despicable leaders are the main stars, while the minions do what they do best: Make us laugh with hilarious antics and stupidity. And that’s the brilliant part. The writers motivate us to attend the movie with a fun group of supporting characters, the minions, but they aren’t the obvious heroes. The writers allow the minions to lead without making them the leaders.

If you like movies then you know that too often we see two versions of the cheap spin-off or crappy sequel: (1) Either the supporting cast from the previous movie fails to carry a story without the main character or (2) Hollywood just piggy-backs on an earlier success with a lackluster script and a star actor who’s thinking “I really should have taken that other offer.” It’s unfortunately too common and understandable. Where do you focus the camera? Who should be in the spotlight? Do you have the right plan and is it being properly executed? After you’ve had success it can be difficult to understand what’s best to do next. 

Leaders make Hollywood’s common mistake every day. Either they make themselves the “star” of their company (too much spotlight) or they neglect to inspire their people (too little spotlight). Employees feel overshadowed or un-empowered by micro managers, poor delegators, and inconsistent communicators. These “bad bosses” are driven by the business instead of taking their organization to the next level.

In contrast, effective leaders strike a healthy balance of serving and leading their organization.

What does this look like in the fastest growing, most profitable I.T. entrepreneurs? Quite simply, they fully engage employees and make them the “stars” of their company. They provide an environment where their people are self-motivated to do their best by communicating objectives and regularly holding people accountable.

Rather than let their schedule overwhelm them, these leaders control their schedule to make leadership their top priority. They are role models of sincerely enthusiastic, positive work ethic. They make themselves available for feedback and accept evidence-based changes. As a result, everyone in their organization takes full ownership for providing the best possible experience for clients, and they are recognized and rewarded for doing so. 

When your people are allowed to lead without having to be the leader it produces striking results.

Two quick examples: Look at Alvarez Technology Group or BrightGauge. These companies practice 3strands Leadership. Rather than hide their employees or worry about recruiters contacting them, they promote their employees as stars on their websites.


Meaningful Work

Minions work hard for their leaders because they like the challenge of being despicable. It’s their calling in life – for some reason they landed on earth as ever-young minions, henchmen, servants to despicable villains. However, despite their goofiness and stupidity, they don’t just work for anyone. They don’t worship a fish or a cow, they only serve the best – for instance, a Tyrannosaurus Rex! The Minions want to work for the biggest and the baddest. They yearn to be inspired.

In a similar way, your employees need to be inspired. According to Gallup, about 67% of your employees are not engaged at work. That is 2 out of 3 people at your company who are NOT “involved in, enthusiastic about, or committed to (your) work and workplace.” Also, about 17% of that 67% are “actively disengaged”, i.e. the “who cares?” group. If you have 15 employees, and 10 of them could be more productive, how much is it costing you each year to keep them?

Let’s do the math: Assume that each employee produces $100,000 per year of revenue on average, at 100% engagement. Also, let’s assume the percentage of employee engagement is proportional to revenue production and the average un-engaged employee is only 75% engaged. The result is dismal! With 10 employees at 75% your company is missing out on $250,000 in revenue EVERY YEAR. In this conservative estimate, that’s 16% of yearly revenue.

The effect on your profits is likely worse. Your unengaged employees are killing the growth of your company.

I see it all the time. For instance, an I.T. entrepreneur contacted me last week because his employees are being poached. He thought his people were loyal. I knew if we had discussed how much time he is spending each week on company culture and inspiring his people it would be minimal, if any time at all. He is a great guy, but even “great people” sometimes forget to pay attention to the needs of their employees.

As leaders, how do you avoid these problems? How can you inspire loyalty AND excellence? The typical habits of I.T. entrepreneurs are to complain about employee poor performance, inconsistently try to train or motivate employees, and be so consumed with their own “stuff” that they never invest adequate time to be a truly effective leader.

The result is each year you miss out on substantial profits.

THE QUESTION: How much more time has to pass before you make a different decision?

Your employees want you to be a great, 3strands LEADER because they cannot improve without you. Instead of worrying about the problem, own it. Get them engaged by engaging them. Schedule some time each week to work on your company culture. Take a stroll around the office. Listen to workplace conversations. Take employees out to lunch and ask them if they’re happy. What do they think your company does well? Listen as they complain without skewering anyone. Be a safe place for them to air their feelings, even when they do it poorly. What is holding them back from doing their best?

But beware… your employee feedback is critical for your turnaround, but if they knew how to lead your organization they would be doing it. You need to engage a consultant, coach, or mentor who has been there, done that in your business. This must be someone who has proven systems you can implement to support your turnaround. 

For example, Rex Frank of Sea Level Ops is a master at the service delivery side of your business. Stuart Crawford of Ulistic is a master marketer. I do some sales coaching, but my primary focus is leadership – training and certifying leaders in all positions of a managed service provider or other small-midsize business. Find people who know your business and will help you achieve specific, measurable improvements.

Don’t be discouraged if your business is not as healthy as you thought. Employee engagement has always been a crux of the workplace. Employees are your most costly assets. Your primary responsibility as a leader is to maximize the ROI of these assets, not keep up with your to-do list. It’s easy to measure individual productivity in a factory or an assembly line. It’s much harder in cubicle-land, with Facebook, Twitter, and a whole world of distraction at every employee’s fingertips.

Be a 3strands Leader who knows how and when to leap ahead of the competition by thinking outside-of-the-box. And join me this weekend at the new Minions movie, for the laughs and inspiration.

Are you a minion, or the best leader you can be? 

The decision is yours.