When Jeff Talmadge, owner of Talmadge Construction, in Aptos, Calif., participated in a “Circle of Ownership” exercise in which he had to draw a diagram of his work life, the picture took the shape of an ice cream cone (see diagram, right). “I was focusing too hard on one area to the detriment of others,” he says.

This circle diagram shows that there is too much focus on sales manager.
Illustration: Scott Roberts This circle diagram shows that there is too much focus on sales manager.

“Business owners need to function at high performance within multiple areas at the same time,” says Jackie Woodside, Talmadge's business coach in Westborough, Mass. Indeed, as Talmadge was trying to hire a salesperson and was devoting his energy to that, the business was being affected.

Woodside had the remodeler identify six areas important to his success; Talmadge named leadership, vision and mission, marketing and public relations, sales (him), overall company operations, and staff development.

Woodside noted those areas on the outside of a circle, and Talmadge then plotted points somewhere in or on the circle depending on the effort he expends on each item. The more time spent on a particular area, the further from the center the dot is placed. Then the dots are connected.

Ideally, the ensuing diagram shows a balance that feels right to the participant; not necessarily that everything is given top priority but that one area is not being neglected to the detriment of another. “I'm more aware of … not focusing on just one area,” Talmadge says.

To strengthen “vision and mission,” Talmadge now has meetings where employees discuss their past week and what was done well regarding the company's mission. “I want people to feel good about the company and to see that it's something besides money we're working for,” he says. To ensure follow-through, Talmadge has Woodside hold him accountable.