How Good Companies Lose Their Way

History is rife with examples of good companies, even great ones, that were excellent right up until they were bad. At least it seems that way. The truth is, they were good right up until the point they slowly began turning away from the principles and practices that made them good. Companies rarely turn from good to bad overnight. It’s a decision here and a tough break there that add up over time. It seems common that when the slide begins it picks up speed until the momentum towards bad becomes hard to stop.

But great companies with great leadership can and do stop that negative momentum. They turn it around and use it to become what they once were or even better.

Good companies can decline for a wide variety of reasons, and the path to failure is often a complex interplay of internal and external factors. Though responsibility most often falls to top leadership it is rarely one person’s fault. Here are some common reasons why otherwise successful or “good” companies lose their way.

• Poor Leadership: Leadership is crucial for the success of any company. Ineffective or unethical leadership can lead to poor decision-making, mismanagement, and a toxic work culture that erodes a company’s foundation. Make no mistake about this fact…company culture begins and ends at the top of an organization. It cannot be delegated to teams or committees. Everything, absolutely everything a top leader says and does has an effect on the culture of an organization. People are always watching and listening. When the words and the actions of leadership are not in sync the people notice. And culture suffers mightily.

Top leaders must also pay close attention to the “sub cultures” within the different departments of their organization. The overall culture within the larger organization may be good but these “sub cultures” can sink an organization too. Culture eats strategy, tactics, and planning for breakfast. If a top leader messes up the culture they have messed up the company. Nothing matters more!

• Market Changes: External factors, such as changes in the competitive landscape, shifts in consumer preferences, or disruptive technologies, can rapidly undermine a company’s position in the market. Failing to adapt to these changes can lead to failure. A common mistake of companies that go from good to bad is an assumption that because they are good they will always be good. It’s an assumption that because they are market leaders they will always be market leaders. You know what they say about assuming and assumptions are a huge factor in companies that lose their way.

• Financial Mismanagement: Poor financial decisions, including excessive debt, overexpansion, or misallocation of resources, can drain a company’s financial health and lead to insolvency. Once again assumptions play a critical role in financial decisions.

• Lack of Strategic Vision: A clear and well-defined strategic vision is essential for long-term success. Without a direction for the future, a company may make ad-hoc decisions that are not aligned with its overall goals. Even big decisions become easy decisions when they are made within the context of an organization’s strategic vision.

• Short-Term Focus: Companies that prioritize short-term profits at the expense of long-term sustainability may make decisions that harm their future prospects. This can include cost-cutting measures that compromise an organization’s talent pool, product quality or investments in research and development. But…profits matter and balancing the need for profits today versus long-term profit down the road is one of top leadership’s biggest challenges. I do not envy them that responsibility.

• Competitive Pressure: Aggressive competition can put pressure on a company’s market share and profit margins. Failing to respond effectively to competition can lead to market share erosion and financial instability. I think this is especially challenging for companies that are market leaders. It’s tempting to say “who cares what the other guys are doing, we’re the market leaders.” While tempting, the fact is that it does matter. It all matters and failing to respond to market conditions has sunk more than one company. If you don’t believe that then think about this one company that we’ll allow to remain nameless…their chief marketing officer once said to me, and I quote, “people will always need film for their cameras.”

• Economic Downturns: Economic recessions and downturns can impact a company’s revenue, access to credit, and consumer spending. Companies without a strong financial cushion or contingency plans may struggle to survive during such times. Economic downturns can be torturous for senior leaders because it may mean letting some of their people go. If you ever find yourself in the role of someone who has been “rightsized” or “downsized” then know that as brutal as it is for you it’s likely been a brutal experience for your senior leaders as well. Put simply, it just sucks, for everybody.

There are a host of other factors that can also come into play. Keeping a business going has always been been a dicey proposition. Lately it’s been a little more dicey than usual. In many cases, it’s not a single factor but a combination of these issues that leads to a company’s decline. Successful companies must remain agile, forward-thinking, and responsive to internal and external changes to mitigate the risk of becoming a “formerly” good company.

How to Retain Key Employees

Turnover is a fact of life for any business or organization. Some level of turnover is even good. With new team members comes fresh perspectives and new ideas. But turnover is also expensive. Depending on your business it can take up to and even over 12 months to bring new team members up to full speed. If you can’t keep them on the team for at least a few years your business will always struggle.

That’s even more true if the people you’re losing are considered “key” employees. These are people in leadership positions who you rely on to help you chart the future course of the company. Key employees may also be those who possess unique skills or expertise that is not easily replaced. When you lose a key employee the “sting” is worse. Losing several key employees in a short period of time can signal serious issues within the organization.

It can be tempting to say that it is mere coincidence that more than one key leader left in the same time frame. It may even be true. But as a leader you better know exactly why you’ve lost a key employee and what you can do to prevent it from happening again.

Retaining your key employees is crucial for maintaining stability and ensuring that your company continues to thrive. If you’ve lost a key leader or employee lately here some areas to focus on as possible reasons.

• Ensure that your employees are fairly compensated for their skills and contributions. Conduct regular salary reviews to stay competitive in the market.

• Provide comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks like flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, and professional development opportunities.

• Recognize and reward your key employees (well actually all employees) for their hard work and accomplishments. This can include bonuses, promotions, or public recognition within the organization.

• Show appreciation through regular feedback and simple gestures like thank-you notes or verbal recognition.

So here is the thing about these first two points. Most key leaders don’t leave for more money. Some do and some always will but most simply don’t. But many of them do leave if they don’t feel recognized and appreciated. You MUST be intentional in providing that recognition and appreciation. If you think your people “just know” how much they mean to you then frankly you deserve to lose them.

• Offer opportunities for growth and advancement within the company. Ensure that employees have a clear path for career progression.

• Provide access to training, mentoring, and skill development programs to help employees enhance their skills and advance their careers.

• Support a healthy work-life balance by encouraging reasonable working hours and providing flexible scheduling options.

• Promote a culture of respecting personal time and vacation days.

• Cultivate a positive work environment with a strong company culture that aligns with your employees’ values and goals.

• Foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the organization.

• Maintain open and honest communication with your employees. Encourage them to share their concerns, ideas, and feedback.

• Address issues promptly and transparently, so employees feel valued and heard.

You’ll likely be surprised how many issues can be resolved through truly open communication. Never assume people know what’s going on just because you do. When in doubt communicate. Then communicate some more.

• Involve employees in decision-making processes when possible. Seek their input on matters that affect their work and the organization.

• Give employees a sense of ownership in their roles and the company’s success.

• Establish mentorship programs to connect key employees with experienced leaders in the organization.

• Invest in leadership development programs to prepare potential future leaders within your organization.

• Conduct regular employee engagement surveys to understand their needs and concerns.

• Act on the feedback received to make improvements and create a better work environment.

• Offer non-monetary incentives like additional vacation days, opportunities to work on exciting projects, or the ability to work remotely.

• Create a fun and engaging workplace through team-building activities and social events.

• Consider offering retention bonuses or stock options to key employees as incentives to stay with the company for a defined period.

• Stay competitive in terms of perks and benefits. Things like on-site daycare, gym memberships, or commuter benefits, can attract and retain top talent.

• Conduct exit interviews with employees who choose to leave. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and address any concerns.

Different employees have different motivations. It’s essential to tailor your retention strategies to individual needs and preferences. Continuously monitor your retention efforts, adapt as necessary, and make employee satisfaction a priority to keep your key employees engaged and loyal to your organization.

Above all know this; if you’re losing multiple key employees you’ll continue to lose key employees until something changes. You may change something and miss the mark but that’s better than standing pat and allowing your losses to mount. Keep changing until you get it right.

How to Stop Being a Micromanager

Almost everyone, except perhaps micromanagers, know that micromanaging is counterproductive. Even some micromanagers realize the damage they do but they just can’t control their urges to turn their people into unthinking robots. This post is written especially for them.

If you’re a leader, you should know that micromanagement hurts your effectiveness and team morale. You are literally holding your people back from their potential. In the process you are limiting the future growth of your organization. In that environment your best people will leave and find someplace where they can use their skills and knowledge. That is unsustainable in today’s business world.

If you’re a micromanager you need to stop, now. If you’re not sure if you’re a micromanager then ask around. Your reputation will precede you. Because no one likes a micromanager, truth be told even micromanagers don’t like micromanagers.

If you want to stop being a micromanager and become a more effective leader, here are some ideas you should begin to put in place today.

• Self-awareness: Recognize the problem. Acknowledge that you tend to micromanage, and understand the negative impact it can have on your team. Self-awareness is the first step towards change.

• Trust your team: Understand that your team members are capable and competent. Trust their skills, judgment, and abilities. Remember that you hired them for a reason, and they can handle their responsibilities.

• Delegate effectively: Delegate tasks and responsibilities clearly, specifying the desired outcomes and expectations. Be clear about what needs to be done, but allow your team members to determine how to accomplish it. Provide them with the autonomy to make decisions within the framework you’ve set.

• Set clear goals: Establish clear and measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your team. When everyone understands the objectives, it’s easier for team members to work independently and make decisions aligned with those goals.

• Communicate openly: Encourage open communication with your team. Let them know they can come to you with questions, concerns, or updates. Regularly check in to offer guidance and support without being overbearing.

• Provide resources and support: Ensure your team has the necessary resources, tools, and training to excel in their roles. Show that you’re there to support them when they need assistance.

• Empower decision-making: Encourage your team to make decisions within their areas of responsibility. This helps them feel more invested in their work and fosters a sense of ownership.

• Avoid micromanaging tasks: Resist the urge to constantly monitor or interfere with how tasks are being performed. Give your team space to execute their responsibilities independently.

• Focus on results, not methods: Instead of getting caught up in how tasks are done, concentrate on the outcomes and whether they align with the established goals and quality standards.

• Provide constructive feedback: Offer feedback that is constructive and supportive. Recognize achievements and offer guidance when improvements are needed. This feedback should be ongoing, not just during annual reviews.

• Step back gradually: Reducing micromanagement is a process. Start by loosening your grip on smaller, less critical tasks. Gradually entrust your team with more significant responsibilities over time.

• Develop your team’s skills: Invest in the growth and development of your team members. Help them acquire the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles. That will also boost your confidence in their abilities.

• Learn to let go: It can be difficult to relinquish control, but it’s essential for becoming a more effective leader. Trust your team to handle their responsibilities and avoid the temptation to step in unless it’s genuinely necessary.

• Seek feedback: Ask your team for feedback on your management style and be open to making changes based on their input. This demonstrates your commitment to improvement and your respect for their perspective.

• Be patient with yourself: Breaking the habit of micromanagement takes time. You may occasionally slip into old patterns, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Recognize those moments and commit to doing better next time.

Micromanagement, like most habits can be a hard habit to break. But it’s essential for the growth and development of your team and your own effectiveness as a leader. As you gradually let go and empower your team, you’ll likely see improvements in morale, productivity, and overall team performance.

You’ll feel more like a leader and you will in fact be truly leading.

Overcoming Human Nature

This is a post that might create a bit of controversy because I’m not a huge believer in the idea of a “fixed” unchangeable human nature. I think too often people use “human nature” as an excuse. They use it to let themselves off the hook. Kind of like when they use the old “the devil made me do it” excuse. They devil may have encouraged you but he can’t make you do anything.

Human nature may mean you’re likely to do something but it doesn’t mean you have to do it. I believe while it’s challenging we can overcome traits, habits and behaviors that may seem to be “human nature.” Overcoming human nature can be a complex and challenging task. That’s because “human nature” is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of behaviors that are inherent to all of us as humans. However, if you’re seeking personal growth and positive change of your human nature, here are some steps and strategies to consider.

• Self-awareness: Start by understanding your own human nature. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, your biases, and your automatic responses. Self-awareness is the first step toward change.

• Define your goals: Clearly define what aspects of your human nature you want to overcome or change. It could be things like procrastination, impulsivity, negative thinking, or a lack of self-discipline.

• Education: Learn about the psychology and biology behind human nature. Understanding why we have certain tendencies can help you find strategies to overcome them.

• Set achievable goals: Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps. This makes change more attainable and less overwhelming.

• Develop self-discipline: Cultivate the ability to control your impulses and stick to your goals. This can be achieved through practice and habit formation.

• Seek support: Surround yourself with people who support your goals and can hold you accountable. A mentor can be huge here, they can provide guidance and encouragement.

• Embrace change: Be open to change and willing to adapt your beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes, our resistance to change is a significant barrier to personal growth.

• Build healthy habits: Replace negative habits with positive ones. For example, if you’re trying to overcome a tendency to be pessimistic, practice gratitude and positive thinking.

• Emotional intelligence: Improve your ability to understand and manage your emotions. This can help you make better decisions and relate to others more effectively.

• Empathy and perspective-taking: Cultivate empathy to better understand others and their perspectives. This can help you overcome biases and improve your relationships.

• Learn from failures: Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Instead, view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Analyze what went wrong and adjust your approach.

• Patience and persistence: Change takes time, and overcoming certain aspects of human nature can be a lifelong journey. Be patient with yourself and stay committed to your goals.

Remember that overcoming aspects of human nature is a highly individualized process. What works for one person may not work for another, so it’s important to find the strategies and approaches that resonate with you and align with your goals. It’s also important to be realistic about what you can change and what you may need to accept as a part of your inherent nature.

And absolutely keep in mind that it’s your human nature you’re working on. Do not think for a moment that you can change another’s person’s human nature. Changing our own human nature is challenging enough. Don’t frustrate yourself trying to change someone else’s. Either accept them for who and what they are or don’t. But don’t waste valuable energy trying to change them.

You might be able to inspire them to change, you might be an encourager for them but if they don’t want to change you’re not going to be able to make them.

Becoming a Listener Who Actually Listens

For many years I sold the Dale Carnegie Course on Effective Communications and Human Relations. Many of the people who enrolled in that course wanted to be better speakers and presenters. I reminded them that there was a lot more to being a better presenter than just speaking well. I often got the sense that they weren’t listening to me.

And that was going to create huge challenges for them in becoming an effective presenter. It would also greatly hinder their chances of being an effective communicator. Here’s the reality in today’s world…most people simply don’t listen. They already know enough. Their mind is already made up. They have no desire to have their thinking muddled up with facts.

So instead of actually communicating with someone they try to “out talk” them. Actual communication requires a great deal of listening. That’s a challenge for people because listening often requires a gap in the conversation. People think that pausing the conversation for a few seconds to linger upon the words of the speaker makes them seem stupid.

That causes people to be thinking about their response before the other person is done speaking. YOU CANNOT FULLY LISTEN TO SOMEONE WHILE YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOUR RESPONSE IS GOING TO BE.

Truly effective communicators are willing to risk looking stupid so that they can actually be smart.

Listening is literally two-thirds of effective communication. So let’s talk about listening.

Being a better listener is a valuable skill that can improve your relationships, communication, and understanding of others. Here are some ideas on how to become a better listener.

• When someone is speaking to you, make a conscious effort to focus on what they are saying.

• Eliminate distractions, put away your phone, and create a quiet, conducive environment for the conversation.

• Eye contact conveys that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.

• It also helps you read the speaker’s non-verbal cues and emotions.

• Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts before responding.

• Interrupting can be seen as disrespectful and disrupts the flow of the conversation.

• Try to understand the speaker’s perspective and emotions.

• Use verbal and non-verbal cues, such as nodding and facial expressions, to show that you are empathetic.

• Position your body in a way that is open and welcoming, signaling your receptiveness to the speaker.

• Avoid crossed arms, which can appear defensive.

• Reflect back what the speaker is saying to confirm your understanding.

• Use phrases like, “So, what I’m hearing is…” or “If I understand correctly…”

• If something is unclear or you need more information, ask open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to elaborate.

• Suspend judgment and preconceived notions about the speaker or their topic.

• Be open to different perspectives and experiences.

• Let the speaker take their time to express themselves fully.

• Avoid rushing the conversation or finishing their sentences.

• Stay in the moment and avoid thinking about your response while the other person is speaking.

• This can help you fully absorb the information and respond more thoughtfully.

• Keep your emotions in check and remain calm during the conversation.

• If you become emotional, it can be challenging to listen effectively.

• After the conversation, follow up on any commitments or promises you made during the discussion.

• This shows that you take the conversation seriously and are reliable.

• Ask for feedback from the speaker on how well you listened.

• Use this feedback to improve your listening skills further.

It is no coincidence that the most successful people are often also the most effective listeners. That success transcends business to positively impact every area of their lives. Becoming a better listener is an ongoing process that requires practice and self-awareness. By consistently applying these ideas, you can improve your listening skills and build stronger, more meaningful relationships with others…in business and in life.

How to Gain Experience

The fastest way to gain experience is to live. By my estimation it will take approximately 3 years to gain approximately 3 years of experience. You can make the process shorter by using someone else’s experience, not your own. But really, nothing beats your personal experience when it comes to making decisions and taking action.

Years ago I wanted to develop a sales course focused on cold calling. I read a lot about it and that got me a fair understanding of the process involved. But as a speaker, relating someone else’s experience can’t hold a candle to sharing your own personal experiences. So I took a part time sales job in an industry where the sales people had to be fierce cold callers. I got beat up, I got beat down, but I learned. I learned first hand what worked and what didn’t. The experiences I was able to talk about while teaching that class were my own and it gave me a ton of credibility.

Experience will do the same for you.

The fact is, gaining experience is crucial for personal and professional growth. You can learn new skills, gain knowledge, and boost your confidence in different areas of life. To gain experience, there really are no shortcuts. However, there is a process to follow so that gaining 3 years of experience doesn’t take longer than 3 years and may take less.

So here it is:

• Determine what areas you want to gain experience in. Whether it’s related to your career, hobbies, personal development, or other interests, having clear goals is essential.

• Start by researching the field or subject you want to gain experience in. Read books, articles, watch videos, and take online courses to build a foundational understanding.

• Connect with people who are experienced in your chosen field. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to meet professionals and experts. Networking can provide opportunities for mentorship and collaboration.

• Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience while giving back to your community or a cause you care about. Nonprofit organizations, charities, and local community groups often need volunteers for various roles.

• Look for internships or apprenticeship programs related to your field of interest. These opportunities provide hands-on experience and may lead to full-time positions.

• Consider part-time jobs or entry-level positions in your chosen field. These positions may not pay as well initially, but they can provide valuable on-the-job experience. That experience could one day prove priceless.

• If applicable, offer your services as a freelancer or consultant in your area of expertise. Freelancing allows you to gain experience, build a portfolio, and potentially earn income.

• Start personal projects or side ventures related to your interests or career goals. These projects allow you to apply your knowledge and skills in a practical way.

• Be open to feedback from mentors, colleagues, or supervisors. Constructive criticism can help you improve and grow in your chosen field.

• Stay updated with the latest trends, technologies, and developments in your field. Continuous learning ensures that your experience remains relevant.

• Keep a record of your experiences, achievements, and skills gained. This can be useful when updating your resume or portfolio.

• Periodically reflect on your experiences and assess how they align with your goals. Adjust your approach if needed to ensure you’re gaining the right kind of experience.

• Gaining experience takes time, and you may encounter setbacks along the way. Stay patient, persistent, and committed to your goals.

• Don’t be discouraged by failures or setbacks. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

• Once you have more experience, you can share what you know by teaching, writing, or mentoring. This can further deepen your understanding and expertise.

• Gaining experience is an ongoing process. You, no matter how hard you try, you cannot create experience, you must undergo it. It’s important to stay motivated, adaptable, and open to new opportunities as you work toward your goals. As you gain experience, you will become more successful in your chosen field.

And here is one of the most interesting things about experience. One day you’ll look around and determine that you may be the most experienced person in the room. That may lead you to believe that at last you have enough experience. But if the experience you’ve acquired over the years is the right experience, that belief won’t last long. You’ll quickly realize that there is no such thing as “enough” experience.

So keep living, life is teaching everyday and if you’re paying attention you’ll never stop gaining valuable experience.

How to Face Financial Uncertainty

Facing financial uncertainty can be challenging and downright scary. But with careful planning and a proactive approach, you can navigate these situations more effectively. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to face financial uncertainty:

• Assess Your Current Financial Situation: Start by taking a close look at your current financial situation. This includes your income, expenses, debts, assets, and savings. Understanding your financial picture is the first step in addressing uncertainty. Be realistic and honest with yourself here. No fudging allowed!

• Create a Budget: Establish a detailed budget that outlines your monthly income and expenses. Be realistic about your spending habits. Prioritize essential expenses like housing, utilities, groceries, and insurance. A budget can help you identify areas where you can cut back if needed. Be very clear on the difference between things you merely want and the things you actually need.

• Build an Emergency Fund: An emergency fund is a critical tool for handling financial uncertainty. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a separate savings account. This fund can provide a financial cushion during unexpected events, such as job loss or medical emergencies. This may seem impossible but it is not. It is hard, it can be very hard but remember, hard and impossible are two different things.

• Reduce Non-Essential Spending: Review your budget for non-essential expenses like dining out, entertainment, or subscriptions. Consider cutting back on these discretionary items. Redirect the money saved toward your emergency fund or paying off high-interest debts. Contrary to what some people think, Starbucks is not essential. If you’re not honest with yourself about what is essential and what isn’t you’re going to struggle with financial uncertainty forever.

• Pay Down High-Interest Debts: High-interest debts, such as credit card balances, can be a financial burden. Focus on paying off these debts as quickly as possible to reduce interest payments and improve your financial stability.

• Diversify Income Sources: Relying solely on one source of income can leave you vulnerable to financial uncertainty. Explore ways to diversify your income, such as taking on a side gig, freelancing, or investing in income-generating assets. The extra money is nice but the reduced stress that comes from financial stability is priceless.

• Review and Update Insurance Coverage: Ensure that you have appropriate insurance. Coverage for your needs, including health, auto, home, and disability insurance. Adequate coverage can protect you from unexpected expenses. The key word here is adequate, do not “over insure,” that’s just wasteful.

• Build Marketable Skills: Continuously invest in your skills and education to enhance your employability or business prospects. The more valuable you are in the job market, the better your chances of finding stable employment or income opportunities. True job security does not come from your employer, it comes from YOUR ability to add value wherever you happen to be working.

• Explore Government Assistance Programs: During times of financial uncertainty, government assistance programs may be available to provide temporary support. Research and apply for programs that you qualify for, such as unemployment benefits or food assistance. There is NO SHAME in using the assistance programs that YOUR tax dollars have supported. It’s all part of using every tool available to support yourself and loved ones.

• Seek Professional Financial Advice: If you’re facing significant financial uncertainty, consider consulting a financial advisor or counselor. They can help you create a personalized plan to navigate your specific situation and provide valuable guidance.

• Stay Calm and Avoid Impulsive Decisions: Fear and anxiety can lead to impulsive financial decisions. Try to stay calm and rational when making financial choices. Consult with trusted friends or family members to get different perspectives on your situation.

• Monitor and Adjust Your Plan: Financial uncertainty is dynamic, and your circumstances may change. Sometimes the can change quickly. Regularly monitor your financial situation, update your budget, and adjust your plan as needed to stay on track toward your financial goals.

Remember that facing financial uncertainty is a common experience. With time, effort, and prudent financial management, you can improve your financial stability and resilience. Stay patient and committed to your financial goals, and seek support when needed. YOU GOT THIS!!!