Control what you can

Small business owners soon learn that there are many things they cannot control.  They cannot control the nation’s economy; they can’t control the price of fuel; they can’t control the changing buying habits of their customers; they can’t control decisions their vendors make.  We could easily make a list of things we can’t control that would fill sheets of paper, but there is one thing we can control, and yet many small business owners ignore that thing.  They can control the quality of their people, especially those who are in positions of leadership.  Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, in their excellent book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, insists this is so important it is the one thing that small business owners should not delegate to anyone else in the company.

It is critical to have the right team members in your company, but just as important is making sure they are in the right places, especially if they are leaders in your organization.  For various reasons, small business owners often struggle with people placement.  We fail to recognize changes that may be taking place and how some of our current leaders struggle to adjust to those changes.  Soon the area of their responsibility begins to struggle as well.  Even if we recognize that this is the direct result of a leadership failure in that department we often fail to respond quickly to that failure.  More often than not this is a lack of courage on the part of the owner or a sense of misguided loyalty.  In my book Mistakes I stated that we can become too loyal to our employees, and that can cause us major problems. The question we must keep asking ourselves of our leaders is are they still able to get the job done?  If the answer is no, we have to find out if there is something we can do to help them improve.  They may need additional training.  They may need additional personal to assist them.  For the sake of the company, they may need to be moved to a different position in the company.  As a last result, they may have to leave the company for a position better suited to their skills.  What you cannot do is allow them to continue to create problems for your business.

Annual reviews do not happen quick enough to highlight these types of issues.  As a small business owner you need regular times with your leadership to determine if there are problems that have not reached you yet.  Even in the smallest of companies there are often things going on behind the scenes that the owner hasn’t been informed about, and these kinds of secrets have the ability to cause you real problems.  A small business owner must meet with his or her top leaders at least weekly to make sure everyone is informed of what is going on in the company.  These leaders should be instructed to inform the owner if they foresee potential problems for the company as well as any current issues.  Along with the problems they highlight, they should know that they are also expected to present at least 2-3 ways to respond to those problems.  No leader in an organization should be allowed to present a problem without having thought through it well enough that he or she has identified some possible ways to respond to it.  People who make a habit of doing that are obviously not the ones you want in leadership positions.

Bossidy and Charan offer some excellent advice around the issue how to best use the people in your organization in the book mentioned above.

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