5 Things Charlie Brown Taught Me About Being a Business OwnerThe world's most lovable loser actually has a lot to teach about how to be a better leader.
Ask almost anyone to list their favorite holiday TV specials and the name “Charlie Brown” will likely get mentioned. For more than 50 years, Americans have welcomed Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” gang into their living rooms as the holidays near for an annual viewing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and other seasonal specials such as “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.”
While leaders typically look to stars and success stories for inspiration, leadership expert and learning consultant Kevin Eikenberry said business owners can learn a great deal from “the unsuccessful kite flier and pitcher; the boy who never kicked the football or got the girl.”
Consider these five lessons the world’s most lovable loser can teach small business owners.
Have persistence in the face of failure
A successful leader must have persistence — especially in the face of failure. And, as good ol’ Charlie Brown can attest, failure is just a fact of life.
Whether trying to fly a kite, kick a football or score on the baseball diamond, Charlie Brown’s attempts are almost always unsuccessful. But even when frustrated and discouraged, he always tries again.
“You have to credit his persistence in trying to achieve a goal,” said Eikenberry. “Failure helps us be conscious and intentional about that next step. Do we approach the football again or not?”
Be willing to try something different
While Charlie Brown’s willingness to keep trying is one of his most loved attributes, he rarely learns from his mistakes. Regardless of how many times Lucy pulls the football away at the last minute, he never adjusts his strategy and has someone else hold the ball.
“There’s a difference between being persistent and being blindly persistent,” said Eikenberry. “We must question [Charlie Brown’s] apparent unwillingness to change his approach or learn something new.”
While owners must be resilient and hopeful, he said, it’s just as critical to take an honest look at what’s happening and determine if it’s time to try something different.
“We have to ask ourselves the question about process improvement. If we say to ourselves, ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ we also have to ask ourselves, ‘Is it working?’ If it’s not really working, then maybe we want to change it.”
Show loyalty — even when it’s not reciprocated
Loyalty is another lesson to be learned from the “Peanuts” star. Even when called a “blockhead” by Lucy, teased by classmates and even mocked by his own dog Snoopy, Charlie Brown remains a steadfast friend.
When you’re the boss, not everyone you lead is going to be your friend, said Eikenberry. ”That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be loyal to them. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have faith that they can be successful.”
As a leader, he said, it’s your job to set an example of loyalty for your employees and others around you, regardless if it’s reciprocated or not.
Seek the advice of others — even if you don’t take it
Whether he’s paying Lucy a nickel for her advice or asking for input from Linus and Sally, Charlie Brown seeks feedback from his peers. But he doesn’t always choose to follow their advice.
Eikenberry said small business owners are often afraid to ask for advice because they feel they’ll be expected to take action on whatever they hear.
Instead, seek out as many perspectives as you can and take time to think on the advice without feeling obligated to follow it. “As leaders, remember that people are watching our behaviors closely; so when you ask for input, listen fully, consider carefully and apply appropriately.” he said.
Keep a positive attitude
Eikenberry said another attribute of the character small business owners should emulate is his optimism.
“He is often rejected, disappointed and fails fairly regularly. Sometimes he doesn’t want to leave the house, but eventually he always does. He tries and looks for the best in others. He looks past the problems for something positive to hold on to.”
As a leader, if you can’t stay positive, neither will your team.
“Everyone agrees that attitude is important. It’s never more important than for the leader or for the business owner,” he said. “The reality is, whatever attitude we have is going to be the one that’s going to be prevalent in our business. If you look around your company and don’t see the attitude that you’d like, start looking in the mirror. Chances are, the attitude is largely coming from your lead, whether you realize it or not.”
So this year grab your popcorn, sit down for the annual Charlie Brown special and remember to look for his persistence, loyalty, optimism and see what other lessons you can take away from the “Peanuts” crew.