There’s an old Greek saying that says, ‘The fish rots from the head down’.
The more time I spend advising business owners, the more I witness that the actions and attitudes of the business owner (the head of the fish) impact every part of the business operations.
Small business owners are typically strong on the technical aspects of their business but rarely received any formal training on business skills. Often I discover, ‘they don’t know what they don’t know’. They don’t know why it’s so hard to find good people and keep them or they don’t know why employees aren’t as motivated as they should be. They often aim at nothing and hit it with surprising accuracy. There may have been a time when the business was a lot better but they don’t know what changed.
The bad news is the solution is generally found at the top, the business owner – the head of the fish! Perhaps the leader lacks a vision for the business or perhaps the leader has a vision but isn’t sharing it with key employees. Perhaps the leader needs help strengthening his leadership skills or perhaps the leader is sending out “vibes” that are different from his communicated words.
The good news is a problem known is a problem half-solved. Just having clarity of vision (where the company will be at a certain time in the future, what it will be and how others will see it) will improve the probability of achieving the vision and better leadership follows directly.
When you think of all the challenges in your business, how many relate to employee communication issues? How many issues result from the misalignment of multiple owners?
Taking ownership of the problems
When we say, ‘the fish rots from the head down’ we’re really saying the business owner owns the problems. As the owner, you may think the employees are unproductive. Most likely you hired them, inherited them or gave them a job because they are family or friend, instead of assessing the benefit they would bring to your business.
You may have customers that pay too slowly or consume too many of your resources – but this may be a result of poor or non-existent customer selection criteria.
Maybe the business is so reliant on you that you can’t take a vacation. This may be because you haven’t taken the time to develop good systems and procedures or train employees to do things your way.
Time for Clarity
As humbling as it may be, if the above discussion hits a nerve, it is time to get some clarity. It’s time for the ‘head of the fish’, the leader to clarify what the vision for the business is.
What is your vision for your business? Is it clear and well communicated? Is it written down?
If you would like to work on some visioning, my next post will provide some structure to the visioning process.
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