I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of entrepreneurs and business owners. What’s the one thing they are all most worried about? Stagnation. It’s no secret that an entrepreneur gets very nervous when their business isn’t growing.
What is a bit less known is that the reasons are usually simple and rooted in one or more of the following 10.
Stop letting these 10 simple, but business killing problems stand in the way or your growth.
1. Talking Without Listening
Everyone is guilty of talking just to be heard sometimes. The problem starts when people stop listening to each other’s opinions, because they have already made up their minds. If your leadership team is spending half their meetings repeating their opinions, your business isn’t growing.
This is a problem I’ve addressed before. The policy I give to people is this:
It works. Why? Because no one likes being compared to a politician. OK kidding. It works, but the real reason is that people repeat themselves when they don’t think their opinion is being heard or considered. When you create an environment in which everyone respectfully listens to and considers the opinions of others, people don’t have to repeat themselves. From there, it’s a glorious cycle of people listening, because all the information is new information.
This isn’t an easy move to make, though. Turns out (and you’ll have to give me the benefit of the doubt here) people love to hear themselves talk and dislike when you ask them to stop, no matter how many times they’ve said the same thing.
2. Analysis Paralysis
“Let’s put this on the back burner.”
I hate that phrase. It’s code for, “I am too scared to make a decision for fear it will be the wrong one.” Everyone is afraid of making the wrong decision. In day to day life, that’s fine. Human beings are hard wired to be cautious, it’s how we survived.
But we aren’t hiding in the tall grass from tigers anymore. We’re in a shark tank. And in a shark tank sitting still is a death sentence.
When an issue facing your leadership team comes to the table you don’t walk away from that conversation until a decision is made. Period. Sometimes that action isn’t fixing the problem right away, but it’s an action. Businesses that sit on decisions don’t grow. It’s better to do something wrong than nothing at all.
If you have a decision that seems too intimidating consider the following smaller actions to get the ball rolling
- Gather more information. Sometimes more data is needed to make the right decision.
- Assign a person on your team to present a plan on a specific date. Maybe it’s too big to solve now. That doesn’t mean it’s too big to solve this month.
3. Democratic System
Democracy is a great thing (usually). It’s so great, in fact, that we have it totally ingrained in our modern culture, it permeates everything from public policy to the board room.
Sorry to say, but democracy isn’t always the solution. Someone has to make a decision. That decisions won’t always be popular.
But, that’s the way a healthy business works. A healthy leadership team thrives on trust and respect. When a decision is made that a team member disagrees with, they still follow through and hold themselves accountable to the outcome. Why? They trust that the person making the decision a) has the company’s best interest in mind and b) is good enough at their job to get that done.
This level of trust isn’t easy to come by. It takes hard work and some uncomfortable conversations. The most important conversations to get this ball rolling are the conversation around GWC™ and the Accountability Chart™.
You’d be amazed how much more your team will respect each other’s decisions after taking the time to make sure that they are 100% satisfied with every person’s job at the table.
4. Bad Meeting Agendas
There is only one thing I hate more than K-pop: boring, useless meetings. When your meetings are a waste of time, your business isn’t growing.
Too many people think a waste of time meeting is just normal. It isn’t, not by a long shot. A waste of time meeting is just the outcome of a poor meeting agenda.
How do you fix it?
Step 1: find a meeting agenda that is focused on accomplishing tasks, not talking about things
Step 2: schedule meetings when and only when something needs to be decided on, never for “informative purposes”
Step 3: follow all the other steps I talk about in this article during those meetings
5. The Low Bar Goals
Sometimes you just want to put one in the “win column.” I get that. I do the same thing. I set a goal that I know for sure I’ll be able to make happen and then give myself a pat on the back for doing it.
Woohoo me. What’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong is that growth comes from challenge. If your goals continue to be ones that you know you’ll reach, your business isn’t going to grow. It’s just going to survive. And survival, in a competitive market, means losing market share piece by piece until you’re dead in the water.
How do you fix it?
Set yourself a 10 year target™. Choose something that is audacious but realistic, a man on the moon speech of a goal.
6. The Sacred Cow
There is no problem harder than this to solve in a board room. If given the option of having to work with a business that had a Sacred Cow problem and work with a business that had a “we slap you in the face to say hello” problem, I would choose the latter 100% of the time.
What’s a sacred cow? A sacred cow is an employee (or employer) that is somehow untouchable. Their mistakes go unaddressed and their failures go unmentioned. They drag the whole business down, because they are a top level decision maker that isn’t accountable for the decisions.
Usually the sacred cow is either a) the boss or b) someone who has been doing the same job for ages and is just too entrenched. Whoever it is, they will ruin your business, guaranteed. A Sacred Cow problem isn’t one that goes away. Quite to the contrary, a Sacred Cow just gets worse as their audacity and “sacredness” keep rising to the point of plain silliness.
Worse, they drive good, hard working talent away from the company, so you can’t just hope they will stay out of your way. This isn’t just theory either. Heck, last week I know a peerless COO that quit a new job because the whole executive leadership team was Sacred Cows.
How do you fix it?
I would direct you towards the article I wrote about it. The short answer, though: fire them.
7. Things Left Unsaid
My friend, Jim Coyle, dropped a pretty funny story on our podcast the other day that really put a point on this problem. It went something like this:
Jim is working with a leadership team from a major manufacturing company, we’re talking thousands of employees. They’ve been working together to implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System® for sometime now. The CFO snags Jim by the water fountain and says, “Can I tell you something about the team in confidentiality?” Jim’s immediate answer is, “Absolutely not.” The guy looks a bit surprised, so Jim continues, “You can tell me, but I will tell the team. Whatever it is, I expect you to bring it up in our session today.”
Total disclosure is the only way to get a business to grow. When you can’t talk about problems, you can’t fix them. When you can’t fix problems, your business isn’t growing.
9. Lack of Accountability
In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, accountability is a watchword of my team and every team I work with.
Now, by accountability I don’t just mean punishment or oversight. I mean the place where leadership and management meet. I mean an organization that has the oversight, the pre-determined measurables, the regular contact / checking in, and the trust to be accountable for their business.
Accountability comes from a team having agreed upon a course of action and the responsibilities of the individuals on the team that will make that course of action a reality. When accountability is present, things get done. When it isn’t, well….you know.
How do I fix it?
There are different paths to accountability. Check out these articles on bringing real accountability into your office.
9. Wrong Person Wrong Chair
Somewhat related to the Sacred Cow syndrome, a Wrong Person Wrong Chair problem comes up when the skills, abilities, and personality of a person don’t match the role they play in the business.
This happens most often when either a) someone is promoted above their ability or b) the business grows beyond them. But, it can also happen when the person just doesn’t fit with the team.
How do you fix it?
Talking about someone’s ability to do their job isn’t easy. It brings up a lot of emotion. That’s why the conversation shouldn’t be about their ability, but rather the seat itself. Maybe the job description needs to be changed, certain tasks shifted around. Hell, maybe the role itself is wrong for your business.
The point is, that this conversation starts with acknowledging an issue with a ROLE not an issue with a PERSON. Take the focus off of their shortcomings and put it on finding the right spot for them.
Of course, if you just hate the heck out of poor Bill in accounting, then yeah, start by attacking him.
Sorry, friend. You may be the problem, especially if you’re the CEO.
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Employee 1 “We have 2 options. I think the second option is best.”
Employee 2 “Me too.”
CEO “I think we should go with the first option.”
Employee 1 “Oh ok…Let’s do that then”
Pretty generic, but I am guessing that hits home. When you are trying to create open and honest conversation with the ever-looming shadow of you writing the paychecks, you are always going to lose a lot of honesty in the shuffle.
I have seen a lot of companies strive for growth. But, growth takes change, and healthy change comes with perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of business owners that are perfectly happy self-implementing EOS®. But that kind of self-awareness is hard to come by.
An outside perspective is a critical piece of bringing objectivity and honesty into the leadership team.
Sometimes that outside perspective is an EOS Implementer, sometimes it’s an executive roundtable.
Need More Help?
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Whittle & Partners is a consulting group that provides EOS™ Implementation in the United States and beyond. We offer in-person and online solutions to fit your business and schedule.Visit our about us page to learn how and why we love bringing Dallas Traction.
Meet the Founder
Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.