There comes a time when no amount of effort can prevent an industry from failing. I, myself, have been privy to such industry failures. I’ve been around. I’ve… seen things. And I’ve put together a watch list for any CEOs who wonder why they and their fellow competitors are flailing. This isn’t something that ever happens to them. It begins with them. From the inside out. Of course, they don’t believe that.
Which brings us to…
Sunny point number one: Denial
Oh boy oh boy oh boy is this the nutty nucleus for all that follows. The “it can’t happen to us” Monday morning meeting meditation. The “we’re not like the others” mantra. Say it as many times as you like, guess what, no enlightenment for you. And no new clients, either. The dirt always knows the root of the problem. So if you constantly wash your hands, and pretend everything’s clean, then “denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a mudslide in your office.
Sunny point number two: Blame
This one’s tricky. Because you don’t blame the employee causing the problem, you blame the employee for bringing up the problem. This may very well be the CEO’s greatest superpower. It’s this ability to consider what’s wrong about their company as something wrong with them, personally. This causes a trickle down effect which creates an erosion at the very foundation of your company. Department heads are the first to fall victim to this phenomena. They’ll do everything they can to keep said problems away from their boss. Even the simplest of problems will be ignored. Rather than encouraging your employees to remain critical, you take it as criticism, and you wonder why quality and continued business have taken major hits.
Sunny point number three: Poor quality
You’d think this was an easy one, but no. Quality is apparently subjective. And in the words of one local CEO, “We’re not here to win awards.” Instead of listening to your most qualified employees and creating a new standard of excellence, one with consistent rules and streamlined guidelines, you defer to those who professionally keep you in the dark. You take the word of the office drone who’s scared to lose their job. And relish in the comfort they provide you. Anyone who posses a light and illuminates what the other doesn’t is quickly extinguished.
It’s crucial you listen to the employees with the most experience at your company. Remember, you can’t do what they can. Plus, they either have or will do it longer than you ever attempted, if you attempted. And if you marginalize this group, you will inevitably squeeze your margins.
Sunny point number four: Morale
This can be quite deceptive. We can start with company photos. Not one employee wants to do these. If you are making your employees take these, you are abusing your power. No potential client hands out work based on these photos. Really, it’s a sure fire way not only to alienate your workers, but insult your client’s intelligence. It’s a dubious practice which must be outlawed.
Sure, some folk like a uniform to wear everyday. They don’t have to put something new together five mornings a week. I don’t think these are the employees you’re looking for. If your company is not a franchise, your clients will consider your uniform practice as a form of Orwellian control. They will then seek out the company who encourages individuality over conformity.
Impose too many arbitrary rules, take too many liberties with your authority, demonstrate a complete lack of self awareness, and your staff becomes a seething, writhing, boss bashing, one eyed monster of resentment and complacency.
Oh! And saying “thank you” wouldn’t kill you. But those Mexican Monday Employee Celebration tacos will.
Sunny point number five: HR Departments
Human Resource departments have lost their humanity. Their altruistic beginnings were there to support and guide any and all employees. Really, they were there to hire and train personnel. But now they’ve devolved into a police state. One that scolds and fires employees rather than forgives and teaches. These departments don’t fire warning shots, they’re quick to stab you in the back under flickering fluorescent lights.
Sunny point number six: Hiring
Something that can instantly breed a needless tension amongst your long time employees is bringing in unqualified personnel. If any potential new employee can’t perform at least two other positions within your company, do not, I repeat, do not hire this individual.
Family. Family, family, family is a no no no. Unless you’re a mom and pop shop. For the more corporate of you, if you plan to hire family, keep them working remote. No one likes to pull up and see the HR person is driving a new Audi, parking in their own spot while you continue to pay for parking in used car you still haven’t paid off. And certainly don’t put them in any role responsible for employee welfare i.e. HR. You will never receive an accurate portrayal of the goings on in your company because no employee will communicate anything honestly. Their only mission will be not to lose their job and/or get their co-worker fired before they are. Getting people fired is a way showing loyalty.
Sunny point number seven: Firing
If you’re too quick to fire an employee, you’ll be just as quick to losing profits. Essentially, what you’re doing, is diminishing your ability for growth. Constantly training and retraining. Work with what you have, with who you have, until it’s an impossibility.
Don’t make someone quitting pay for it. You both may need each other down the road.
Sunny point number eight: Professionalism
If someone took the time to email you, you email them back. And in a timely fashion. And don’t just reply with your own agenda or a copy/paste attitude. Address whatever concerns or attacks one by one. Everyone deserves your attention. Even those you may consider don’t have your best interests at heart.
Sunny point number nine: Changes
Making a lot of changes really means you’re spiraling out of control. There’s nothing wrong keeping the same fire lit as long as it still burns as bright. Implementing a series of new protocols should be strictly forbidden. Evolve slowly. Preserve your core. Fertilize incentives. Don’t move people around too much.
Sunny point number ten: Know Your Stuff
If you run a milk company, you better be able to milk a cow. Nobody respects a boss who can’t do what they can. And without respect, your employees won’t respect your business. They’ll just work. They won’t build. And you want builders. You want your employees to believe in a magic. It can’t feel like a trick.
…when several companies in the same industry succumb to the same type of injuries as the others, a shift occurs, and an industry begins to decay. And just because your doors are open doesn’t mean you’re not closed. A confusion grows. You say to yourself, “I’ve been doing this forever.” But just because you’ve been doing something a long time doesn’t mean you’re good at it. So, take heed you ignorant, arrogant industries…
“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”