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Your Move — A Martial-Arts Approach

“Your Move — A Martial-Arts Approach”

Get out of your comfort zone to grow your company — and yourself.

Dan MillerDan MillerWhen I began to study Songahm tae kwon do last year, I was amazed to discover its numerous links to business.

Structure. Each class begins and ends with an oath, an espousing of values, and participants address each other as either “Madam” or “Sir.” This made me realize how important it is for companies to have a protocol for communications — so that people know where they stand and how to communicate within the organization and with customers.

Positive reinforcement. Author Aubrey Daniels speaks about positive-reinforcement systems in the workplace and how they motivate employees to give more. Initially I didn’t fully understand the theory, but now I get it! It’s all about belts.

In tae kwon do, there are 10 belts, each representing a new goal in which you learn prescribed forms and defenses. It’s a reward system that exists to motivate. You must work through all the belts to earn your black belt (which signifies the highest degree of proficiency), and there are no shortcuts.

In business, the head of an organization defines not only vision and strategy, but also tactics — the steps required for a company to reach its goals. If done right, a positive incentive system (bonuses, options, equity, trips) can help establish a path that’s visible to employees. Everyone knows what he or she needs to do … and that there are no shortcuts.

Continuous learning. Most adults have reached a level of expertise in at least a few areas of our lives. Those areas tend to become the “comfort zones” in which we operate; we’ve reached a level of competency that we can count on.

When I started tae kwon do, I was completely incompetent at it. In fact, the white belt signifies “pure and without knowledge” — the point is, you don’t know what you don’t know. Yet I was excited to begin. I’m now midway to earning my black belt. My abilities have increased, but I still have a long way to go.

As an entrepreneur, I remember not only the excitement of starting my company, but also the uncomfortable feeling of beginning something new and being out of my “comfort zone.” To become a good leader and manager, there was much to learn — and no quick way to acquire that knowledge. Every day I had to dedicate myself to getting better at my business, and as I did so, I moved toward a higher level of competency.

Growth-oriented business owners often find themselves in uncharted waters. It’s a constant learning process as you evolve both your vision for the company and your skills as an entrepreneur.

Bottom line: Stick to it. Embrace the process as you move from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence — and expect to repeat the cycle.

Writer: Dan Miller is managing director of BizTank, a Sarasota, Fla.-based firm that assists emerging companies with strategy and capital formation. dan@biztank.com

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