How Business Owners Can Dramatically Improve Their Company Culture By Doing These Three Things With Their Team
Most business leaders (and managers of others) don't realize how their actions and decisions affect other people they work with. When we fail to act decisive, provide clear direction, and bring others along we're going to burn out our team, generate a slew of wasted efforts, and foster unhealthy conflict. We must operate in a healthier way.
Since moving to Atlanta in 2005, I've worked directly with and under the authority of business owners. Over the last three years working with business owners I've realized there are three simple changes they could make to move projects along more effectively while building unity within their teams. It comes down to the following three directives.
- 1 - Act Decisively
- 2 - Provide Clear Direction
- 3 - Bring Us Along
When leaders don't do these things, it requires more time for all of us to get the work done, we're like to spend more time and money to move things forward, and it'll cause unnecessary frustration.
Let's take a deeper dive into the first directive.
1 - Act Decisively
My friend recently was having trouble with his website as a result of his hosting company. I too had issues with that same company so I recommended two terrific hosting options (InMotion Hosting [affiliate] & Siteground). A few days after making my recommendation, I asked him which company he decided to go with, and he said he didn't pick either. He spent too much time comparing the two options so he decided to abandon the project. A lack of decisiveness results in circular activity. We go somewhere, but we go nowhere because all we're doing is going in circles.
There was a company I worked with a decade ago helping out in the warehouse It was a small team and the owner would take us all to lunch. When we left, he'd inevitably ask everyone where they wanted to go to lunch. Lot's of I don't knows, and passive comments soon followed. Since none of them were going to be decisive, I jumped into these conversations with where I wanted to eat. Let's just say we ate where I wanted to go much of the time.
I can recall many times running my business where I found myself in between a rock and a hard place of decision making. I'd do research, talk with others only to realize I was looking for a way out of my situation, not an actual solution to what I was facing. Thanks to reality, I was forced to face and grow through these scenarios. When we get so caught up in analysis paralysis we get stuck. This is what I call a dreamer. We can think and plan, but we have a hard time starting.
It's not until the heat is hot enough (the stick) and the potential (carrot) is appealing enough that we'll make the jump from where we are to where we want to be. When we have trouble making decisions with the small things, we're going to struggle greatly with the big important and hard decisions. Because sometimes, we're faced with two bad decisions and have to pick the better option. If you voted in the last presidential election, you know how this feels.
Feeling and acting in uncertainty can fuel anxiety, so if you struggle to act decisively, here are several questions to help you outgrow this shaky behavior. Unless you'd prefer to let fate decide by the flop of a coin.
- What do you hope/expect to happen after making your decision?
- What will it cost you to make this decision? What will it cost you not to make it?
- If you make the "wrong" decision, what will it cost you?
- How difficult will it be to change course if you picked the wrong direction?
- Do you care more about perfection or progression towards excellence?
- When you look back in a day, week, month, year, or decade, will you regret not acting?
- Are you willing to let what others think of you define the decisions you make?
- Is saving a few bucks worth all the time your spending making a decision?
These questions cover a range of motivations and fears that tend to drive indecisiveness. If any of these questions resonate with you, take a moment and write an answer. While acting decisive puts us in a vulnerable place with other people, it makes life better and moves things along.
2 - Provide Clear Direction
Imagine I came to you seeking to purchase multiple commercial properties and you present me with several options. I proceed to tell you I do not want any of them and provide no feedback as to why not. I also don't provide any feedback on what I am looking for, even after your persistent prodding.
You're now shooting in the dark trying to figure out the next group of properties to present. But no matter how skilled you are, it'd require a string of good luck to land on presenting me the right set of properties. Feedback matters and it matters most from the owner of a company.
There are many business owners who ask of their team to deliver on projects they have no clarity on. And their team does the best job they can to deliver only to fall short time and time again. They'll get a typical response that what they've provided is not right, but the owner can't say why not.
Sometimes these owners are not spending the time to think through their intentions because they're so busy, or they're lazy. Other times, they don't know what they want, and they're not willing to wait and figure it out before they start the project. It's the owners who expect so much, give so little and get so frustrated and angry after the fact the upset me the most.
The key to overcoming and excelling at providing clear direction is answering five questions. Why, where, how, within, and what's at stake are the five questions to help us determine our intent. While we may not have a concise answer to these questions, we should at least answer them when we're asking others to drive our ideas and projects forward.
3 - Bring Us Along
I recently observed a conversation at one of my client's offices with an employee speaking to his superiors. A few weeks prior they had all agreed on a direction for their strategic sales efforts and this sales rep had moved forward from that decision. Unfortunately, the owner decided on a new direction in a follow-up meeting which excluded this employee. They went a different direction, but they failed to communicate this change with the team member who was impacted by this decision. While he was fine with the change, he was frustrated by the lack of communication and the fact that no one brought him along.
I'd love to say this is a rare occurrence with small business owners, but it's quite normal. I recently came up with a game plan with another client for a marketing project. I moved forward only to find out from another team member he decided to move a different direction, and never told me. Again, I didn't have an issue with the change in the decision, but it was frustrating to be left in the dark and to waste my time on something that was canceled.
If you're a business owner, and you make a decision or change your decision, it's your responsibility to disseminate this information to your team and bring them along. If you don't, you'll foster frustration and wasted efforts.
The next time you make a change in direction, think about who will be affected and communicate with them what changed and why. You'll be left with a happy and motivated team instead of a frustrated and angry one.
Practice acting decisively, clarifying expectations, and communicating thoroughly with your team. When you master these three habits, you'll set the foundation for your business, department, and team for years to come.
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