In a previous blog, I asked the question if your leadership style was more like a Watchmaker or Beekeeper. If your company is experiencing low morale, low profits, lack of staff engagement, high turnover, or rampant gossip – this all can be attributed to a company being led by a Watchmaker.

Beekeepers are more likely to let the intelligence of the team or ‘hive’ to be the operator instead of themselves. They understand that their business is a living intelligent thing and if allowed, it will come up with far more ideas and solutions than they ever could. The beekeepers business will continually self-organize around and through its problems and challenges.

The 7 Stages of Growth Model that The Vantage Group utilizes carries this concept to another level in determining that a leader’s ability to manage the complexity of their organization is challenged by the addition of human beings. Therefore, recognizing the impact the human intelligence of your organization can have on your company’s success is paramount.

So, how do you become a Beekeeper if you think you are more of a Watchmaker and you genuinely want to change?

The first two steps discussed were around recognizing the intelligence of your organization by asking its opinion, and filtering out the noise in your organization by utilizing a business X-Ray™ and identifying 5 key initiatives to solve. The final 2 steps will be examined in today’s blog.

3. Unify the team around a plan that shows short term wins

Once the key initiatives from the X-Ray are identified, the work begins. This information should be distributed to the company either through division meetings or the entire company at one time.

Each initiative should have a ‘champion’ – someone willing to be the ‘team lead’ on getting to completion. For instance, let’s say one of the initiatives is ‘identify core values’. This initiative addresses a concern that employees aren’t sure what behaviors are acceptable, what behaviors aren’t acceptable and why all decisions have to come from the CEO. Helping employees understand what they can and can’t do allows decisions to be made throughout the organization.

A lot of work? You bet. But the rewards are well worth it. Take the example of a company with 100 employees, a Stage 6 company that was hit hard by the downturn that hit in March, 2000. Hemorrhaging money in January 2001 and already having laid off 30% of their staff, their Assessment results came back with huge concerns about the financial stability of the company. A series of classes engineered by the CFO and the CEO to educate the company on how to read a Cash Flow statement, a P & L Statement, a Balance Sheet and a Budget, netted immediate results.

Each department was challenged to come up with ‘expenditure’ savings. When they found ways to save money, the teams were rewarded with lunch gift certificates, a massage therapist was brought in for a half day to give out free massages, a picnic was organized so people could celebrate.

Short term wins are critical in getting plans implemented and completed. The outcome was the company was at breakeven in three months and making a profit in six months. The more important win was that the entire staff was now completely engaged in helping the company make money and helping the company keep money. They were a much more educated group who began to understand the nuances of cash flow vs. profit and leads generated equal revenue. Their attention shifted from ‘why am I paying so much in medical insurance’ to ‘how many new leads did our last sales campaign net us?’

There is nothing easy about running a company. And getting more input will always cause more work to be generated. But the rewards are worth it. A company with 100 people understanding how to drive profit to the bottom line is a much more dynamic vision than 2 – 3 people struggling to maintain control.

4. Put in place natural systems and mechanisms that reinforce self-organizing behavior and work the changes over 9 – 12 months.

Natural systems include how people interact together, how work gets done in the absence of sound processes, how teams ebb and flow, how trust gets established and broken. These natural systems are occurrences in your company that you really have no control over. People are human beings before they are employees, husbands, wives or managers.

Left alone, these natural systems find the ‘route of least resistance’. Recognizing that all companies have these natural systems is important. Helping harness these natural systems into more intentional systems and mechanisms is how growth is managed in successful companies.

Mechanisms focus and change behavior. Concepts like ‘open book management’ as outlined in the above example is a mechanism. By implementing this mechanism, the company fundamentally changes how people did their jobs and how they perceived their impact on the company’s bottom line.

Another powerful mechanism includes ‘performance management’ systems that force, yes force, managers and employees to have weekly or monthly dialogues based on a fine tuned set of issues and expectations that get to the heart of how well the employee is performing and how well the manager is managing.

Having a ‘decision making template’ for your company is another mechanism that will encourage your staff to take a more definitive role in the running of your company. A mechanism that teaches your staff how to make good decisions is the best empowering tool you can introduce.

Watchmakers pull in control when bad decisions are made that adversely affect the company. Beekeepers teach their staff how to make good decisions so they can release the brain damaging exercise called ‘second guessing’ that demotivates employees and causes employees to become ‘robots’ who simply carry out orders. You will work a lot harder as a Watchmaker than you will as a Beekeeper.

Mechanisms are critical tools for Beekeepers to utilize in order to create an intentional enterprise.

Practice being a Beekeeper and minimize the amount of time you spend as a Watchmaker. The results will be empowering for your staff and rewarding for you, the leader. To find out more about how The Vantage Group can help you be the leader your company needs at its current stage of growth, visit our website at for more information and download a free position paper on the current stage of growth of your company.


The 7 Stages of Growth Enterprise Development Model was developed by James Fischer. The 7 Stages of Growth are based on a six year study of successful entrepreneurial companies in the Front Range of Colorado and Silicon Valley in California and interviews with over 650 CEOs to understand and decipher the patterns, the behavior and the characteristics of growth in entrepreneurial enterprises.