The underrated art of Objectivity
Do you find it hard to be objective about your own business?
Most people do. It’s very difficult to be objective about something that you’re close to or perhaps have a bias towards (unconsciously or otherwise).
If you’ve been running your own business for some time, you may begin to recognise areas where, perhaps, you could be a little more analytical or outspoken about their performance. However, depending upon your personal levels of Emotional Intelligence perhaps you find it hard to call these areas out or to demand performance improvements.
Welcome to the world of objectivity, or rather (in most cases) a lack thereof.
If you try to be objective about something that you don’t particularly care about or are not mentally ‘invested’ in, then it’s actually pretty easy. That’s because you don’t have to worry about the consequences about your objective views. Your opinions, of course, are just that, opinions, and they may not be correct for any number of reasons, however, you have no problem with providing them.
Why is it, then, that we find it so hard to be objective about something that we already understand very well? Our own businesses.
The answers lie in our willingness (or not as the case may be) to set ourselves apart from the business, and those within it, so that we can consider and evaluate things at face value. This is far easier said than done, but for most businesses to thrive, it’s an absolute necessity.
During the early days of your business growth, nothing seems the same from one week to the next. While you’re growing and still trying to find your business ‘rhythm’ objectivity is the last thing on your mind. Most things executed are short-term tactical responses aimed at a combination of month to month survival and/or modest growth over time.
However, when you get to a certain size (20-30 people is usually a good indication) your operational mode needs to be predominantly strategic with tactical support (and if you need help with this please read my blog ‘Do small businesses need a Strategy?’). And, around this time you’ll need to learn and implement the ability to become internally focussed and objective about every aspect of your business.
Which side are you on?
When I talk to businesses about objectivity there is a perception that it’s associated with a ‘coldness’ or even a sense of uncaring. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Also, being objective about something means looking at it in a light that allows you to ‘do the right thing’ in the context of either helping to make it better or to see if the business can perform better without it. You see, objectivity doesn’t really have a dark side; it’s simply a state of mind that allows you to, perhaps, make better informed decisions by decreasing the emotional response to a situation and increasing the case for empirical evidence.
When you run a business you’ll quickly start to understand that this objective ‘state’ is a complicated one to remain in for any extended duration of time. The reason for this is that, as owners who are also people (!), we want to show empathy and emotion towards our work colleagues as it helps them to understand our values as well as beliefs in terms of their ability to deliver in the workplace. This, in turn, once we’ve shown our ‘human’ side, makes it all the harder to be objective when needed.
Although this is difficult, as your business begins to grow, surprisingly it can become easier to be more objective. This is because, when you run a larger business, it’s not possible for you to know everyone that works for you very well. When this starts to occur you begin to look at the performance of the ‘job role’ or the team itself and not the individuals that perform in it. As you don’t know them, and because of that, you can be more objective about it.
Also, as you become larger, your business starts to become separated into teams or departments, most or all of which are managed by independent managers. This also aids objectivity because it means that you’re one-step removed from many of your staff most of the time. This can lead to a feeling of ‘aloofness’ in your business that you don’t really want, but it is worth remembering that in order to evaluate performance objectively you can’t be too close to the subject matter or it just won’t work.
This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of running a business and always trying to do the what’s best. It’s also one of the reasons why being a CEO is considered to be a very lonely thing to do. Perhaps you can see why now?
Objectivity is an art form. In my opinion it’s nothing to really worry about when your business is young but as it grows you need to find a way to be objective at all costs. People won’t always like the outcomes of objective discussions, but they’ll respect the integrity you’ll bring to always trying to do the ‘right thing’.