Thursday, 18 March 2010 16:55

Recipe for Disaster, With Revisions

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So you wonder how some small businesses are weathering this economic debacle? Poorly, especially in regard to their human capital. Remember when the catch-phrase was “Our employees are our most valuable asset”? Many of the best small businesses embraced that ideal, and walked the talk. In the good old days (the 80s and 90s) it was easy. A true measure of a company is what it does when the going gets rough. The lesser companies have dropped their commitment to employees curb-side now that these painfully tough years are upon them. I encourage you to read the following as a cautionary tale, as a recipe for what not to do in these tough economic times.

I have been observing closely a small family-run business. This firm is not a client, and in my professional judgment, would rue any coaching from outsiders. Why am I so certain about that? As times have gotten tougher on its bottom line, anyone not related by blood –even long-term and faithful employees – have become villains. I watch from the sidelines as they both randomly and systematically employ the following “management” techniques:

1. DRY UP – standard and usual communication to employees, including any managers not in the family. Withhold important info that helps others serve the company’s clients because of a lack of trust in the staff.
2. DEMONIZE – good employees for the smallest misdeeds. Assume that no one is working, everyone is taking advantage. Overreact to any suggestions or input. Paranoia becomes the norm. There isn’t enough CYA in the world to keep individuals safe in this environment.
3. DEFLECT – any suggestions and assume any feedback is criticism. Shoot the messenger and publicly invite others in the company to the execution. Then wonder why the requests for “more effort, more commitment, more engagement” go unanswered.
4. DEMORALIZE – the workforce at all levels by painting a gloom and doom picture – every day, about every thing. Ask for greater sacrifice from all, then continue to arrive late, leave early. Refuse even small raises, cut salaries for management, while continuing to spend frivolously and visibly in the corporate offices.
5. DENY – ownership, culpability or involvement in anything negative that occurs in the company. Scape goat the responsibility to a lower level of management, because you can. Steal credit from them for anything that does go well.

I paint a grim picture. Sad to say, it’s all true. Not a fabrication and not an exaggeration. I marvel at this approach, by relatively intelligent people, as it is almost perfectly the antithesis of what defines good leadership and management. How great is their fear, their negativity, their hopelessness that they stoop to these tactics?

Our responses to adversity are the true test of our character. If I could coach this management team, where would I start? I would challenge them to:

1. LEAD instead of micro-managing
2. SHARE the good times and bad
3. COMMUICATE the information that will bring other employees to the table
4. TRUST the goodwill and intentions of their workforce
5. INNOVATE and try something different
6. REWARD people in creative ways for their efforts, their ideas and their continued energy.

In short, tough times like these call for LEADERS who will not shrink, but who will GO BIG – first and foremost for their people. With a dedicated, committed workforce – one that is treated fairly and with respect – the leadership can enter the work world fray with a great army on its side.

My family, with our family business being a farm, believes that you reap what you sow. A fancier term for this is self-fulfilling prophecy. Treating your employees like bums… makes bums. How long will this company last using these tactics? I’ll keep you posted. Do I hold much hope for the company’s sustainability? I’m hoping the last one out remembers to turn off the lights.

For more info about this topic, register for your free report: LEADING NOW: How to Stand Out as a Leader in these Unusual Times. Comments welcomed always!

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 August 2010 16:57
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