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Blog and News

Are You A Hostage In Your Own Company?
11/13/2013 Doug Beckley

Are you being held hostage in your own company?   You know how to identify a hostage – they can’t leave.  If they leave, their business is at risk, their customers vulnerable.  Even if they leave physically, they are still an emotional hostage. The first step in determining if you are a hostage is to calculate (honestly) your work week.  Add up the hours you are physically at work.  Now add the hours spent working while not physically at work – the emails, catch up projects from home and conversations about work.  Last, add the number of hours in your personal life which are spoiled by work - dwelling or stewing about the unhappy customer, the undone project or the problem employee. What is the number?

OK, here is where I make some people mad. An effective leader should not have to work more than 50 hours per week.  Yes, there are exceptions – a startup, new major market or a significant restructure.  But these should be transient in nature.  If you always seem to have a reason for overwork (the latest excuse is the recession) then you need to take a hard look at how you spend your time.

A leader habitually working more than 50 hours per week is doing someone else's job. There are only two reasons for doing someone else's job.  Reason 1: We have too many of the wrong people on the bus.  Reason 2: We have not effectively developed our key people. In either case, we are held hostage to people who can’t, won’t or haven’t been equipped to perform independently and proficiently.

Let’s address Reason 1 first. We all have people in our business that shouldn’t be.  How do you know who they are? Ask yourself two questions.  First, if you were interviewing them for their job, would you hire the person again? Second, if the person told you that they were leaving to move to Paris, would you be secretly relieved?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then we have allowed fear, denial or guilt to be more important than what’s best for the company. 

Fear, Denial or Guilt.  Fear sounds something like, “They are doing OK and it would be a nightmare to try and replace them”.  Denial is the delusion that we can “fix” them – we can modify their job, create little systems or stubbornly manage them to improve.  Guilt is usually based upon our past relationship with them or what would happen to the person if they left.  In all three cases, we are putting these emotions ahead of what is best for the company.  In the end, we are doing a disservice to this person by depriving them of the opportunity to find another place where they could thrive.  Furthermore, when we subordinate the needs of the business to the needs of an individual, we are endangering the very enterprise which allows us to employ them in the first place!

And what about our best performers?  Keeping the wrong people is unfair to all the right people, as they are continually picking up the slack.  Ultimately, morale is impacted and our best people are either dragged down or leave the company.  The wrong people are a pathology which impacts the entire organization.

Freeing ourselves and our organizations from a hostage situation is simple - just not easy.  It requires that we make three changes:

Change One:  Develop a long term talent upgrade plan.  Upgrading talent must be done with discipline, thoughtfulness and fairness (to those that leave and those that remain). It will take time and initially feel uncomfortable but ultimately will become part of your routine and culture.

Change Two: Blow up and rebuild your hiring process.  Most businesses devote far less professionalism and diligence to hiring than they do to the core business.  However, by installing a real hiring system, you can exponentially improve the performance and longevity of your people.

Change Three: Manage less and lead more.  The best performance of their team is unleashed when CEOs and business leaders learn to transition from reactive management to proactive leadership by developing top talent to perform at their potential.

If you wish to discuss how these ideas can be adopted within your company, call Doug Beckley at 379-6524.   The Beckley Group is devoted to helping leaders take complete charge of their company and themselves.