by Hennie Vorster
on 17 October 2014

aligning mike1Meet Mike, a 42 year old entrepreneur and successful business owner.  Mike is often asked by young entrepreneurs to tell his story of success - lessons he loves to share!

A career in the making...
Mike did what all respectable matriculants of his era did - he went to study. At that stage he had no idea what he was good at or even interested in, nor what his passion was.   So he chose a study field based on what his parents and friends suggested.

During his last year of studies, he put his CV out in the market.   He was invited for interviews and got a job offer, which he took immediately as a great opportunity to earn his first salary cheque.  From this point on his career life became quite predictable.   If he worked hard and did his job well, he was promoted to the next position.  And so Mike ascended the corporate ladder, never stopping to take stock of his career experience.

Is this as good as it gets?

A niggling little voice became louder and louder until it shouted in his head most days: “IS THIS IT? THERE MUST BE MORE?!” Although he was “doing well” according to most i.e. paying the bond, driving the luxury car and had perfect kids in private schools, he was not content.

He questioned if he really made a difference, or if he was fully living his life. He was hearing disturbing words like passion, purpose, and meaning in conversations all around.   Mike became exceedingly broody, restless and irritable. People commented that it must be a midlife crisis looming on the horizon...

The turning point

One day he knew that he was going to have to address the issue and he decided that enough was enough! He enlisted the help of a Coach who asked the right questions to help him think “possibility”. Mike examined his real strengths, his interests, career values and slowly but surely a personal vision materialised. After a while he was excited to announce that he was going to start his own business!  He had a great product and knew enough people that he could network with to build his business.

It took about two years for his business to take off.  A time in which his Coach often reminded him that “money follows passion”.  He stuck to it and after two years he was not only making a profit, he was at last experiencing real job satisfaction.    For the first time in his career he got into bed every night knowing that although the day was tough, he loved every minute of it!

The wheels come off

Mike’s business grew.  He appointed more and more people to accommodate all the sales.   His business was going places!   And then…just as he was thinking that he had it all under control,  suddenly his dream became wobbly... In fact it felt as if his business was reeling out of control, and his dream was running like sand through his hands.

Although his team was doing well,   it seemed as if there was no vision - no real understanding of his initial dream or the picture that he had for the future of his company.   The consequences were clear: low morale, negativity, low energy and very little of the “spark” that characterised his business at the start.  One morning Mike woke up and realised that he has re-created his old working place where people did what they had to without any real interest or passion.  Mike did what worked for him the last time and enlisted the help of his business coach again!

After examining his company’s culture and strategy, as well as taking stock of the people on “his bus”, he realised - the problem was  alignment... His staff was out of alignment with his vision, his mission, and his values for the company.  His coach helped him to see that to take his business to the next level he would have to realise that it was no longer “his business” anymore, but the collective business of the employees of the company.  It was time to find a collective purpose and values for the company.

The importance of alignment

Mike learnt that the starting point of every company who wants to be great is to enlist the hearts and minds of its people! Through Coaching he became aware of the truth that if you help your people to align their personal values and goals to that of the company, the consequences are an energetic, motivated and highly committed workforce.

Now everyone worked towards the same dream, pushing for the outcomes needed to get the company there!  And where needed people were recruited and developed in alignment with this overall objective and culture. According to Jim Collins in his business book  “Good to Great”, getting and keeping the right people on the bus and in the right seats is what makes for successful organisations.

Happily ever after...

Mike’s story has a happy ending. It doesn’t mean he never had challenges going forward, but he knew exactly how to deal with them.

In recent writings it was clear that the following 5 elements are the most important in defining effective leaders and great companies:

  • Strategy
  • Execution
  • Talent Management
  • Human Capital Development
  • Leadership Proficiency

Every company needs alignment between strategy, performance, people development and leadership practice.  How does your company measure up? What does your story look like?

Article by: Hennie Vorster

Executive and Business Coach


Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cell: 083 564 8266