Seven Priorities of High Impact Business Owners

High Impact Business Owners prioritize employee growth to set the conditions for achieving the Vision.

The Seven Priorities of High Impact Business Owners are your keys to leading your business to excellence.

Callout: Unlock Your Team's Potential Your Vision Requires for Success

Your Third Priority is your employees’ growth. It follows your first priority to Define and Communicate Vision. It is closely related to your second priority, Drive Culture.

This article and the following three articles center on your team, your leadership, and your influence.

Callout: High Impact Business Owners unlock the potential in others to create the team the Vision requires for success

We continue to leverage Carly Fiorina’s perspective on leadership. She defines the essence of leadership as: “Seeing possibilities, changing the order of things for the better, and unlocking potential in others.” (From an interview on Catalyst Podcast #503 “How to Unlock Potential in Yourself and Others” 12:35)

Your impact on employee growth has four dimensions:

Callout: Four Dimensions of employee growth: Biuld, Mentor, Mode, Serve

Build, Mentor, Model, Serve are your intentional acts of unlocking every employee’s potential.

Your employees and team are so important that I am dedicating an article to each of the four dimensions.

High Impact Business Owners Prioritize Employee Growth

Mediocre owners assume that their people and teams will take care of themselves. After all, they only “hire A-players.” They believe the HR department should take the lead on “training.” They have no idea that leading and growing employees has four dimensions and that their involvement is essential.

When someone needs guidance, is unsure how to proceed, or stumbles, mediocre owners act surprised. They focus on limitations and blame the employee for being unprepared or for being inadequate.

When mediocre owners fail to Build, Mentor, Model, and Serve, they fail to lead. They fail their employees. Symptoms include a culture of fear, frequent reorganizations, endless politics, and turf building. Consequently the cumulative result shows up in their bottom line.

Mediocre owners believe “they have more important things to do than growing their teams.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Graphic Comparison between mediocre owners and High Impact Busienss Owners found in the text below this picture

In contrast, High Impact Business Owners focus on employee growth. They welcome opportunities to provide resources, guide, and influence their team members. They recognize focusing on growth benefits the employee and enables achieving the Vision.

Skip Prichard, President, and CEO of OCLC says this about leaders’ focus on possibilities: Leaders consistently focus on possibility over limitation.”

High Impact Business Owners prioritize employee growth. As a result, they experience unlocking the potential in others. Individual growth creates the team the Vision requires for success.

Build Your Team

The goal of building is to enable employees to perform at their best for themselves and your company.

You need the right people in the right seats surrounded by the right culture. You also need people capable of accomplishing the Vision.

The "right" people riding a bus, view from the back seats

The “right people” are capable, will learn, and embrace your culture. The “right seats” are the positions that enable your team to achieve the Vision.

Therefore, having the right people in the right seats is essential for achieving the vision.

Jim Collins says “…your best “strategy” is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” (From Jim Collins, Concepts: First Who, Then What)

“Capabilities” is where you begin to unlock each employee’s potential by providing the tools, knowledge, and skills they need. You must provide the training and resources for your employees, so they can pursue the Vision. Further, you must address their current roles and prepare them for future responsibilities.

When your company is small, your focus on employee growth starts with your first hire. As you grow, you hand direct training off to your leadership teams, and they follow the example you set. As you grow more, this may become an activity of your HR team. At no time does your responsibility to unlock the potential of your employees’ diminish.

Callout: "The “right people” are capable, will learn, and embrace your culture."

Employee growth is all about possibilities and creating capabilities. It is your job to find the potential in your employees and then unlock it.

High Impact Business Owners set the conditions for employee success by “seeing the possibilities” and building capabilities.

How to Build Your Team

To Build your team, you focus on individuals, their unique needs and receptivity to growth opportunities.

Each team member will be different. Consequently, the onus is on you to take into account individual capabilities and aspirations to spur growth.

When High Impact Business Owners prioritize employee growth, Building takes several forms. It includes making available tools, classes, trainings, and projects. This is the easiest part of the Build dimension, as it is linked to an employee’s job.

Build can also take the form of new assignments that stretch and strengthen existing capabilities. These can be in preparation for new assignments (seats) or next steps in achieving the Vision.

Photo graph of brick wall at a horizontal angle

Building is providing growth opportunities outside comfort zones. It means allowing for the real possibility that it won’t go well. If failures are anticipated and accepted, then leveraged as learning opportunties, progress is possible. Growth assignments build upon experience and shape competencies for future roles.

Build gets more involved as you consider what your company requires of each employee in the future. Further, add in personal goals, family considerations, plus personal dispositions, and Build gets personal.

Building can mean you work alongside a team member for an extended period. You teach how you do specific tasks, your thought processes, and how you make decisions. As a result, you hand over the reigns and let go, encouraging your team member to make it their own.

Building is “changing the order of things for the better” and closely linked with Mentoring, which we address in the next article.

High Impact Business Owners make Building their employees the priority each persons deserve. They apply the four dimensions of Build, Mentor, Model Serve both for employees’ growth and company success.

A Useful Growth Tool

One of the tools I have developed in the framework I use with High Impact Business Owners is the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants™ (OEQ).

Cover shot of gay Hendrick's book The Bog Leap

The OEQ is a four-quadrant exercise based on my study, adaptation, and application of Gay Hendricks’ book The Big Leap.

The four quadrants of the OEQ divide your activities and priorities into Ineffectiveness; Proficiency; Distinction; and Brilliance. Each one of us operates in all four quadrants to varying degrees. High Impact Business Owners operate in their Distinction and Brilliance Quadrants. In contrast, mediocre business owners operate more in their Ineffectiveness and Proficiency Quadrants.

You realize your potential when you function in your Brilliance Quadrant as much as possible. Operating in the Ineffectiveness Quadrant minimizes potential for you, your employees, and your company. When you function in the higher quadrants, you can choose to lead others to do the same.

I work through the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants with my business owner clients. In the process, I am equipping them to do the same with their direct reports. Their leadership team, in turn, is equipped to engage their teams in the exercise and so on.

Picture of the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants

The OEQ is a highly personal exercise. As a result, to use it with your team members, it requires you to have personal and positive relationships.

It is the first step in determining where you and your employees can best contribute to your company today and in the coming year. The OEQ establishes the next steps for Build, both for yourself and team. Plus, it informs your priorities in the Mentor, Model, and Serve dimensions.

One Owner’s Transformation

One of my clients and I worked through the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants exercise over several conversations.

Hannah’s first OEQ attempt was cursory, as she jotted down a few items the morning we met to begin working on it. So, I reminded her High Impact Business Owners prioritize employee growth, including themselves.

That was enough to get started. So, we talked through each Quadrant, and what types of activities fall into each category. I could see the light bulb come on, and our conversation became animated.

When we parted, Hannah’s assignment was to work through her OEQ in earnest. She was to put it aside and revisit it 3-4 times before our next meeting.

The next time we met, her OEQ worksheet was overflowing with notes. So we went deep.

We reviewed Hannah’s priorities and actions. She added notes to her quadrants and moved some items to new quadrants. The mismatch became obvious. Almost all her priorities fell in the Distinction Quadrant, with a handful in her Brilliance Quadrant. In contrast, Hannah’s activities mostly fell into her Proficiency Quadrant. A few in the her Distinction and Ineffectiveness Quadrants. In addition, none of her activities were in her Brilliance Quadrant.

Combination lock laying on its side

Hannah lamented “My Brilliance Quadrant feels like it’s locked and out of reach. I think about these priorities often, but can never quite get there. I’m disappointed at the end of every day. That alone is exhausting.”

We leveraged these results to re-design her leadership priorities. Hannah set actionable goals to invest energy in her Brilliance Quadrant and cut Ineffectiveness Quadrant activities.

We communicated via texts and short conversations over the next few weeks. Hannah’s light bulb was burning brighter and brighter.

Hannah began “seeing the possibilities” for herself. She “changed the order of things for the better,” and as a result, unlocked her Brilliance Quadrant, and her own potential.

As she worked to shift her activities, more Brilliance Quadrant priorities surfaced. She focused her energies on those. Hannah freed herself of the drudgery of Ineffectiveness Quadrant activities. In addition, she reduced time spent in her Proficiency Quadrant. She realized her Ineffectiveness and Proficiency Quadrants were major time and energy drains.

Hannah reports: “Now, every day is not defined by frustration and feelings of complete inadequacy. Instead, I can wrap up my day and smile knowing I’m doing my best work.”

Her team began to take note of the outward changes in Hannah. She was more focused on activities that are essential for the company. Her joy around the business resurfaced. Subsequently, she began to invest more time in her team members.

One Team’s Transformation

One of Hannah’s growing Brilliance Quadrant activities is Building, Mentoring, Modeling, and Serving. She had devoted scant attention to this priority before we worked together. It was one of those activities that had felt locked out of reach. Carving out time for even one of the four dimensions was difficult until she unlocked her Brilliance Quadrant.

Now that she had experienced the OEQ transformation for herself, she pursued “seeing the possibilities, changing the order of things for the better, and unlocking the potential” in her team.

Photo of a buterfly emerging from its cocoon

Hannah began to work with her team through the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants. Consequently, she discovered that some of her Proficiency and Ineffectiveness activities were Brilliance Quadrants for team members. They welcomed taking on new Brilliance challenges and shedding Ineffectiveness Quadrant activities.

Together, Hannah and her team were able to identify new tools and additional training to help her team perform at its best.

Remember those “right seats” necessary for achieving the vision? Extending the OEQ into Hannah’s team created significant momentum toward the Vision. As a result, the team began making significant changes.

The team re-designed the “right seats” for the company in anticipation of new growth. Subsequently, two team members transitioned into redefined roles aligned with their Brilliance and Distinction Quadrants. Team members also ruthlessly evaluated activities, keeping only those with real value to the company.

The changes resulted in the leadership team being more focused on what mattered for the company. So, like Hannah, their joy around the business magnified.

Each leader has embarked on guiding their teams through the OEQ.

Try the OEQ for Yourself

Think for a moment about Hannah’s experience. She found herself consumed with activities in her business. She discovered her Ineffectiveness and Proficiency Quadrant activities depleted her time and energy.

Photo of a lit match stick

Even though she knew High Impact Business Owners prioritize employee growth, Hannah still had difficulty making it happen.

When she began making changes, she started being the owner her company and team deserves.

She was re-energized and inspired her team to make changes too and they are on fire. As a result, the entire team has taken a quantum leap toward achieving the Vision.

Certainly, you can do the same.

Try the Owner Effectiveness Quadrants Exercise for yourself.

Three Questions for High Impact Business Owners

Grab a pen and some paper. Take your time with these three questions.

1) How do I currently Build my team members?

2) What would be the impact of being able to devote more attention to Building?

3) What are your next best steps to Build your team?

Bonus question: It helps to evaluate your effectiveness at Building from your teams’ perspectives. What would your employees say if asked “How does _______________ Build you and your colleagues?”

These are some of the questions I get to ask when working alongside my clients. We start with a framework designed to identify what your company and teams need in your leadership to accomplish your Vision. As a result, we create new opportunities and unlock potential together.

If this article resonates with you, I encourage you to also read the Introduction, Define and Communicate Vision, and the Drive Culture articles

The next article takes Build to the next level, Mentoring. High Impact Business Owners invest in mentoring their employees to accelerate growth.

Finally, the Build, Mentor, Model, and Serve articles lay the groundwork for your 4th Priority as a High Impact Business Owners: Foster Innovation.

Signature for the article
Callout: Seven Priorities of High Impact Business Owners Series Background

This article is fourth in a series on the Seven Priorities of High Impact Business Owners.

The Seven Priorities reflects work I get to do with clients (identities changed to protect confidentiality). The series is aligned with my main speaking and workshop topic on being the leader you company, team, and family deserve.

The first article introduces the series, the second covers our first Priority: Define and Communicate Vision and the third calls High Impact Business Owners to Drive Culture.

Note: This article was also published on and Medium.

Callout: About the Author

Rick has helped to build and sell a start-up company, then worked in the startup investment industry with Rev1 Ventures for eight years.

Today, Rick advises business owners in rapidly growing companies helping them to be the leader their company, team, and family deserve. He also serves as Entrepreneurship Coach at Denison University and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at The Ohio State University. 

Photo Sources:

Eye: Juliana Coutinho via Flickr:; Bus Riders: Ashley Gerlach via Unsplash; Brick Wall: Rick Coplin; Combination Lock: Nicolas HIPPERT via Unsplash:; Butterfly and Cocoons: Suzanne D. Williams via Unsplash:; Lit Match: Maik Garbade on Unsplash:

Note: The link for The Big Leap is an Amazon affiliate link.



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