How to Kill a Company

How to Kill a Company

How are you actively ruining your company by minimizing the input of your teammates and actively “unrecruiting” your top talent? Let me count the ways…

Tons of lip service is given to how to build a great company and how to motivate employees. This article is not, explicitly, about those same topics. Today’s post is going to show how bad management can turn into a corporate cancer.

In a traditional business, there is either an implied or explicit hierarchy. Management tomes over the ages spend pages on pages talking about the positive approaches to incent great performance in the attempt to create improvement in company performance (and ideally, increases in results — be they revenue or other). According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, the cost of acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times greater than retaining an existing customer. This concept has been accepted as true for ages. If it’s that hard to acquire a new customer, how hard do you think it is to build trust in a highly competent and highly motivated teammate? What happens when that trust is lost?

Let me shine a light on the many ways that you may be actively destroying your team.

You initially invested in the promise of great performers. When did you stop? More importantly, why?

In my experience with both large companies like Microsoft to small entrepreneurial startups, one of the first signs of a toxic growth in a company is the explicit ignorance of how attitude directly impacts performance. Malignant executives and managers prattle on about compensation and perks but they dance around the core concepts of respect and trust. Regardless of the size of the company, there seems to be an underlying belief that the employees are the most important asset the company has. Despite this maxim, which is echoed by all of the leading thought leaders in the industry and in all industries, it is astonishing to me how completely ignored this truth is. The result is a corporate cancer that eats away at your enterprise from the inside out.

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you know that I am a staunch and ardent supporter of Ken Blanchard’s situational leadership models. I find much of the conflict that exists in the workplace, though not limited to the workplace, can be attributed to managers not understanding the situational development level of their teammates and, as a result, using the wrong management style. Oftentimes in classes and training, this is couched in the auspices of a “supervisor-subordinate” model. For the sake of this post, I ignore that model.

This article is really about what I think more managers should focus on, which is a peer-to-peer model of management. When you truly empower teammates by delegating, you run the risk of an even more insidious fate than if you had chosen to do all of the work yourself. When you claim to delegate but instead chose to apply a directive model, you create a workplace cancer. By explicitly betraying your highly competent and highly motivated teammates, you betray their trust. There are many areas of mismanagement and poor team development that I would consider tough for an individual to self-diagnose. Noticing that you leverage a directive style is not one of them. Historically this style has been called micromanagement, but by any other name is still one of the most damning trait of any leader. It’s obvious manor and relative simplicity to address amplifies the impact it will have on your highest performers first, and on everyone in your organization eventually. Just like any cancer, it will metastasize to other organs if left unchecked.

Trust, as you’ve heard (well, read) me talk about ad nauseam, is really all we have. You betray it at your own risk with very little reward, and I have seen little evidence that suggests managers have the ability to win it back after it has been lost.