Make Up Your Mind!

Friday, November 29, 2013

One of the most pervasive problems in small-business ownership is… 

The owner!  

I have worked for six small businesses in my life, so far. In all but one, the trend was the same.  The multiple mounting responsibilities and pressures of the business surround business owners like hungry wolves. As a result, they cannot sit still long enough to think clearly and accurately about their next move. So they gather what little information they have, and they do something which injects a small dose of poison into their business.  They make a decision.

There's nothing wrong with a long as it is a solid decision.  However, for many business owners, a solid decision is merely an illusion based on a perception, which itself is dictated by their business environment.  More often than not, their business environment creates a felt-need to make a decision without enough information.  When decisions are made too quickly, they do not produce the hoped-for results. 

To make matters worse, after a decision is made, many business owners will suddenly, and without warning, change their mind again...and in a different direction. Depending on the owner, this pattern may repeat itself several times a year, month, or even week.  The business environment they ultimately foster creates a constant sense of urgency because the owners have unwittingly nurtured a constant sense of instability among their employees.  In short, their employees have been trained, fostered, and nurtured to see their workplace and their role in the business as unstable.  They never quite know what to expect from week to week at work.  

If you're a business owner, deep inside of you, you know full well that what you are doing is not the best way to lead your people.  But you feel like a prisoner to the hungry wolves that you have fostered and nurtured. These wolves come in two kinds.  They are people and they are your emotions.  

When it comes to the people in your organization, they are the way they are largely because of how you lead. A good business owner will take responsibility for this and come to embrace this fact. They came to you as golden retrievers, easy to lead, loyal and playful.  Now they are ravenous wolves, drooling with frustration, and ravaged with a hunger for stability.  

When it comes to emotions, they are reflections of real business needs which make those wolves hungry.  I believe it's more often than not the perception and subsequent feelings about those business needs that make them only seem like hungry wolves ready to tear us limb from limb. I would submit that most of the time it is those perceptions and emotions that drive business owners to make rash, sudden, and constantly-changing decisions to redirect.

Meanwhile, the employees of that business (the ones business owners perceive as hungry wolves) feel very much like they are sitting in the last seat of a roller coaster. With every sudden change and shift in direction, they are jerked around, back-and-forth, and wonder when it will all come to a stop. They end each week at work looking forward to a mental and emotional chiropractic visit in the form of a stiff drink, hard party, or the predictable fantasy of their favorite TV series on DVR!

For business owners who like the idea of driving their business by the numbers, this is the one area that should convert them from an emotionally-led business model. If these business owners new how much money was wasted in employee un-productivity they would be absolutely shocked. This seems to be the one area and most small businesses where money is wasted, and profits are lost.  Stop and think for just a moment about how this works. If you were an owner, insert your self into this scenario and discover if the results are true for you. 
  • You feel like your employees are not producing or performing the way they ought to. 
  • You find yourself having to clean up behind them, picking up the pieces. Normally, this takes the shape of customer service complaints about products, invoices, lack of quality service, etc.
  • Over the days and weeks, these issues begin to mount up more and more until you feel like you are the one surrounded by hungry wolves. Each one is nipping away at your sanity, personal productivity, and performance as the owner and manager of your business.
  • In one of many moments of desperation, you secretly devise the plan of the century which will fix everything. Or at least you think it will! You scratch a few notes on a Post-it. You quickly jot down what needs to be done and who should do it. Or perhaps you do not even make it this far! 
  • You then individually visit each person at inconvenient and unteachable moments throughout the day to communicate to them their new direction. 
  • Somehow though, they do not seem to be able to implement your incredible genius.
  • With the new and sudden shift in direction for these employees, unintended consequences are set into motion. Their new direction is at conflict with their previous direction, causing them internal confusion. And because you are a business owner who is more than likely led by your emotions, they are afraid to tell you about their internal conflict and confusion. 
  • So they continue working with a little productivity, and without a clear bull's-eye at which to aim their efforts.
  • The problems keep mounting as each employee's "new" direction, at conflict with their "old" direction, exponentially multiplies. And by the time you notice that everyone's old and new directions have become at odds with each other, like more wolves gathered around you to eat you for lunch, you retreat again into your office, slam the door, and another moment of genius Begins to be born. And the cycle has begun again, and will continue..until something stops.
It is during this entire cycle that productivity and profits are lost. Without accuracy and clarity of direction for your employees, they will be so mentally and emotionally worn out from your emotion-driven decision-making, that they will have actually had very little productive time.  But as an owner with this blind spot, you then blame it all on the employees, whom you believe do not listen to you, do not follow instructions, and may not actually be capable of performing their duties.

Remember this well: people will follow a clear direction, and trust the leadership of owners whom they believe can think carefully, implement well, manage patiently. Otherwise, they will come to work, do the best they can with the plate of insanity you are feeding them, collect their check, and go home. Meanwhile, your business will not flourish, profits will dwindle, and you will go home angry at employees whom you secretly believe are idiots.

If you are looking for a solution to this madness, leadership excellence can be applied right now...starting with yourself.

About the Author: Rob is a follower of Jesus at Jubilee Church.  From there he pursues Jesus' mission at Revive Consignment as the Business & Operations Development Director, as well as at Jubilee Church of Atlanta, in Woodstock, GA. From there he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 20 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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