Four ways you create what you do not like in your company

July 2, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 9 Comments

Leaders have this innate ability to see all the little things that are wrong in their companies. Call it a blessing or a curse, leaders see what many employees do not. From employees taking shortcuts and not following the system or rules, to lackluster customer service, dress code issues, bad attitudes, and poor follow through, it all shows up like blips on your leadership radar. It’s all the little stuff drives you crazy. And just when you think you’ve fixed one issue, another one pops up in its place. What’s that all about?

Your job is to be working on the big stuff that drives growth, performance and profits, so when your leadership radar screen gets overrun with little-stuff blips, you do what many frustrated leaders do – you hold a meeting. You prepare for the meeting by writing bullet after bullet of little stuff that needs to stop and go away. Just writing them down seems to relieve the frustration because for some strange and mystical reason, you believe that firing off each bullet in the meeting will kill off the unacceptable behaviors and performance. Guess that’s why they call them bullets.

So here’s the big enlightenment: you, fearless leader, create or enable most of the blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy. Here are six ways you do it along with strategies to sweep all those annoying blips off your leadership radar:

  1. Bullet meetings don’t work. Firing off bullet after bullet of “things” your team must stop or start doing is an exercise in futility. You felt good building the list, but as you fire each one off at your employees, you see and feel the funk building in the room. You see them putting up their shields, mentally checking out and praying the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” will end soon. When the last bullet is finally fired, everyone is demoralized. Way to go fearless leader.
    THE CURE: Every bullet represents a missing or poorly designed system. Every bullet represents a breakdown at some level in leadership accountability. Peel back the layers and address the cause because every bullet on your list is a symptom of a problem. Find and fix the problem.
  2. What’s the vision? Company cultures get contaminated with negative behavior and indifference (I don’t care thinking) when the vision of the company becomes blurred or lost. All that funky stuff and blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy is actually your company trying to grab your attention and get you to engage. Your company is in pain when your culture is contaminated. That pain shows up in poor performance, sluggish sales, rising costs and cash-flow challenges. You can read the pain factor on your performance and financial reports.
    THE CURE: Rather than holding a “bullet meeting” that beats your team down even more, hold a “vision meeting” to speak humbly, openly and honestly about where the company is at and where it’s going. Empowering visions give teams something to fight for. Empowering visions turn average teams into champions because they “believe” the destination is worthy of their best efforts. Take the bullets out of your machine gun and lock it away. Hold up your empowering vision that you believe in and share it with your team. That’s no-compromise leadership.
  3. Clarify what needs to get done. Now that you’ve got the vision out there for all to see and feel, it’s time to detail and clarify what needs to be done to achieve the vision. What systems need rebuilding or reintroducing? What policies need to be revisited? How will information flow freely to every nook and cranny of the company? What does it look like for your company to play like a level ten rather than the level five or six its been stuck in?
    THE CURE: I just led an all-staff meeting at a magnificent upscale spa. Prior to the meeting, the leader handed me her two and a half pages of bullets to pepper her team with. I put the list down and asked the leader to trust me to lead the meeting. I started with an update on the progress the company has made in the seven months we’ve been working together. I also openly discussed the challenges and setbacks. I talked about the company’s potential, where it’s going and how everyone can and will win. The team opened up. They shared their pride and frustrations. We did address a few bullets and resolved them quickly. The meeting ended with everyone feeling empowered and proud – and ready to fight for that next level. It was awesome. No bullets were actually fired.
  4. Employees want to be heard. Information flow must flow both ways. When it only flows from management (I chose not to say, “leadership”), those on the receiving end eventually feel pummeled, beaten, unappreciated, disrespected and taken advantage of. You can’t get the best out of people when resentment replaces company pride and teamwork.
    THE CURE: People want and need to have their voices and concerns heard. I mean really heard through intense listening without distractions. I mean being present, engaged and making eye contact. No mobile phones or peeking at the latest text message that just buzzed you. Take notes. After listening, use clarifying statements like, “So I want to really understand you, you’re concerned about ____________ and how that is creating challenges in delivering extraordinary customer experiences. Am I correct?” Intense listening and allowing your employees to be heard is a powerful leadership tool. Just be sure deliver what you promise to fix.

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Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership , Teamwork

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  1. Thank you Neil I am grateful for your ability to get it and put into words the actions that help salon/spsas grow their business. I have down sized to studio salon for me but continue to read and follow your business practices because I know they work. I am chairperson to a
    commitee that belongs to The Gemeral
    Federation of Womens Clubs and will put
    intp practice many of your strategies.

  2. Thank you Michaela,
    I do appreciate your kind words and trust in the information I/Strategies provides.

    Perhaps your Women’s Club would consider having me as a speaker at an upcoming event.

    Wishing you much success,
    – Neil

  3. WOW . . . This posting did for me exactly what the cures prescribed
    look to do around the challenges outlined . . .

    Offered me a chunk of self-talk embracing the same feeling as said “cures” . . . It
    really does start with us as leaders . . .

    One of your best !

  4. Neil,

    Your Monday morning wake up, sounds like a recent meeting I just attended, where we used your “cures” to a tee. Thank you for your recent visit and No Compromise leadership !!


  5. All I want to say is after 2nd month on team based pay some staff felt u
    Demotivated , the sin reason was they hadn’t yet see the team based bonus t,hat I had told them would come at or after month 3. So sure enough as of June 26-12 when I finally got the may P & L statement , May was the first non Christmas month in nearly 2 years where a $7000 net profit was made. The owner how’ve.erhad cancelled the coaching program from strategies at the start of may and June 12 was the re introduction of commissions. If the accountant had been on the ball to get us the P & L say by June 5-12 this fiasco could have been avoided. Now I have been terminated as a manager June 1. That’s like Stanley cup finals your team is loosing by 3 games but you win the 4th game and instead of giving it time to see if you can win the next 3 and win the serie , the owner fires you as a coach. I would have liked to see this program in place for June July and August. I think we had just turned it around. As they say patience is a virtue.

  6. This blog is so on point – I had to smile to myself recalling my “bullet” meetings. I have a staff meeting coming up and I’m going to do my best to share the vision and not shoot anyone! 🙂

  7. Loved your blog on ways we create what we don’t want.

    I am starting to see payoffs by communicating vision and No Compromise principles to my staff. They are starting to look up and ahead instead of being so focused on the little petty stuff!

  8. Boy howdy I have SHOT some bullets over the years! This really hit home. I have moved away from bullet shooting for well over a year and half now but will use some of these idea’s to even better our communication. My challenge is the Employees want to be heard. I am a good listener and am excellent at repeating back what I have heard to clarify the challenge. Unfortunately as an owner I cannot always give my employees what they want. My staff feels unheard if I do not bend to there commands. How do I differentiate between true honest request to grow our team/business and individual bulling?

  9. Hi LaVonna,
    If your staff feels unheard if you don’t bend to their demands, you have a vision, leadership and culture issue you need to address. Your statement describes a “them against you” situation. You may be the owner, but you actually represent and speak for the company. You need to reconnect with the vision of your company and articulate that vision to your team. (Notice I said “team” and not “employees”?) Your team needs to understand the NEEDS of the company and how their requests are evaluated against those needs. If the answer is “no” then it’s no because the company can’t agree to it. Employees can act like kids when they don’t get their way. All you can do is help them understand the reasons for your decisions.
    This is complicated stuff to explain and something we address in leadership coaching all the time. I would urge you to give Strategies a call and explore how our approach to leadership coaching can help you build a stronger team and company.
    – Neil


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