03/26/2014 01:12 pm ET Updated May 26, 2014

How Our Viewpoint and Self-Identity Shape Our Approach to Business

I completed a business growth course in December provided by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses. The course offered a wonderful opportunity to connect with other small businesses. We immediately recognized that both our stated and hidden opportunities and challenges were the same and that we were all bound through entrepreneurial spirit. It was powerful to see the leadership and determination that shepherded many of these businesses through the great recession. I recognized that my professional identity was bound more by my doctorate in I/O psychology and my work in executive talent development than in being an owner. It created space for me to nurture a lesser expressed part of me. I have no doubt that this self awareness will change how I invest in growing my business in the future.

This same experience was shared by many of my fellow graduates who described themselves as accountants, builders, service providers or manufacturers. They now call themselves business owners. This shift in view represents an expanded, crystallized view of self as leader; and it can change everything. In executive coaching, we focus on how what you observe leads to what you see and don't see. I often give the example of my bird crazy chocolate Labrador Retriever who will miss seeing a rabbit right in her path for the sake of looking in the trees for a bird. When we look at ourselves and our possibilities differently, new options and actions appear. From my perspective, this is a very powerful part of the class.

When leaders become inspirational, organizational architects, they spend their time differently than when they are key workers in their businesses. Rather than working in the business or on pressing customer issues; they spend time working on the business strategy, structure and processes. Putting together a business model that can deliver the highest value to customer's means looking at how processes currently deliver to the client. If you took a blank piece of paper and designed key delivery systems from scratch, are they operating optimally?

People processes are much the same. When it becomes clear what kinds of skills and capacities are required to execute the value added process, a fresh look at the organizational design, key roles and key competencies is needed. Matching the hiring of new people, training of existing staff and performance management that connects people's efforts to goals is strategic talent work. All large organizations periodically review processes and organizational design to continue adapting to the external environment and evolving internal strategy. Many of them have staff to help but the process is essentially the same.

It is enlivening and empowering for leaders of small and mid-size businesses to take on a true leader role and put time and intention to designing their organizations. It is not just for CEO's of Fortune 500 firms but a high value activity for all CEO's. And when you ask a Goldman Sachs program graduate what they do for a living, I own a business should be the answer!

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.