When the smoke detector goes off in your home with the first sign of smoke, you have enough time to get out of the house safely, call 9-1-1, and prevent the worst damage. In the business world, there are equally alarming smoke detectors – glaring signs that should force you to innovate, reinvent and dare to be different. Without taking this plunge, your company is on the fast track toward becoming obsolete, courtesy of some entrepreneur out there, forging the bullet that will ultimately kill your company. It’s your fault if you ignore these obvious signs, only to stand aside watching your corporate empire crumble to ashes in the blaze.
A large and active “bitch and moan” club. Unfulfilled employees tend to point out every miniscule flaw. As their leader make a suggestion toward action: instead of complaining about all the things that are wrong, do something to improve the situation. Put the ball in their court and give them a chance to affect the outcome.
Overuse of the word “they” and underuse of the word “we.” There should be no barriers – a company needs to act as a united group. If the first response from team “A” is, “oh well they’re supposed to be handling that over at team B,” while in the meantime, a potential client hasn’t heard back from anyone at your firm, I don’t blame them for choosing your competitor.
The ideas that get backing are only from the top. When this becomes the case at your business, it’s abundantly clear that there’s an erroneous focus on who is right, rather than what is right. The best ideas should get backed – period.
People say “no” before they say “yes.” Negativity breeds negativity, but thankfully the same is true for positive action being taken. Encourage team members to exhaust all possibilities to try and find ways to make suggestions work, before responding to anyone (internally or externally) negatively.
There is little urgency for anything. In corporate life, “slow and steady” doesn’t win the race. “Slow and steady” gets put out of business by someone who has out-hustled you. Work smarter, faster, and better than your competition – enough said.
People defend the past and traditions are respected. Blindly following the way of the past ignores the fact that you have to solve today’s problems in new ways. There’s a serious downside to traditions: the world’s best leaders shun them as true advocates for constant change.
Management tries to protect their product or service from being commoditized. No matter how hard you try to shield your way of doing things from becoming a commodity, it will happen. You might as well be on the forefront of the next wave, rather than being on the tail end, clawing to catch up after the fact.
Everything is overcomplicated. The now-cliché saying from Ross Perot couldn’t be any more perfect here. “If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” If there’s a rational solution to a problem that you can implement, do it. As a company’s leader, empower your team members to do so; the companies that force them into complicated processes to do every single little thing just frustrate everyone and keep your customers waiting.
The answer to most challenges is a new rule or process. Let’s say there’s a typo in one document that reaches a client. The management issues a statement that going forward, every document leaving the company must be reviewed by two people outside the team crafting each one. Well-intentioned, but certainly illogical. At some point, employees will become overrun with processes for things that make no sense if they weren’t around for the rules’ beginnings. Nothing clarifies like clarity – keep it simple and straightforward.
Risk taking is punished. That’s playing it safe, which is the riskiest move of all. Dare to be different and reap the benefit.
When your smoke detector goes off in your house, you grab your kids and run to the front lawn immediately. If any of these smoke signals is prevalent throughout your business, it’s time to get out the white board and make some changes.