— June 19, 2018
As your business grows, so do its needs for talent and skill. But, over time, your business’s needs may outpace the skills of your founding and core employees, and your very success can become a barrier to scaling and continuing success.
The needs of every growing business will vary, but after working with privately held and family-owned businesses for 30 years, I’ve seen certain patterns come up again and again. If your employees aren’t also growing, your business may start to suffer from operational bottlenecks, cross-functional conflicts and repeated mistakes or bad decisions, even from smart, committed people.
Recognizing these danger signs will help you know when you need to provide skill training and development for your current employees, work on re-engaging them in the requirements of your growing business or whether it’s time to consider adding new roles and expertise to the mix. Here are seven developments that should trigger your special attention:
You wonder why you’re the only one who seems to be looking outward.
You’re still excited by learning, ideating and doing blue-sky thinking, but the others are mostly concerned about getting their work done. Team members seem less aware of what’s going on with specific competitors or the marketplace in general. As the number of transactions or accounts increases, employees can start to feel ground down by volume, and no longer have the emotional energy or drive to do more thoughtful, creative work.
You notice that there are more mistakes being made.
They could be errors in customer service or bobbles in managing supplier relationships, but they seem to be more frequent. Even worse, from time to time team members seem to be making the same mistakes over again or violating the same standards more than once. Verify whether your quality controls are in place and being used, or whether they’re being ignored or downplayed because people feel they just don’t have time anymore.
You hear that employees are feeling stressed out and anxious.
Some employees seem more short-tempered, and others seem to almost be in hiding. Apparently, some feel like they’ve given too much and don’t have any more to give; they’re going through the motions but their negativity is starting to affect the environment.
You worry that new initiatives and processes aren’t taking hold quickly enough.
Everyone agrees that there are new things that need to get done, like cost accounting, content marketing or benefits administration, but no one on staff has specific experience in the area. The people who try to figure out these functions may be making good efforts, but they make a lot of rookie mistakes and also keep putting the new thing aside to tend to their regular function.
You see evidence of both overperforming and underperforming.
It’s not surprising if some people settle into a comfortable kind of rut, doing — and expecting — the same thing every day and not looking for more. But, in addition to those folks, you’re aware of others who perform “heroics,” going above and beyond, struggling to make things work, almost dragging other people along because they’re desperately trying to cover too many business needs and don’t want to look like slackers or ask for help.
You observe that some employees are jockeying for status instead of looking for the next big accomplishment.
They’re trying to impress you and win you over, not just with their innovations or results, but with stories and explanations that are meant to show you how much they contribute and why they deserve extra attention. Notice whether they’re concerned that others have more skill in necessary areas than they do, or whether they’re trying to stay close to you as you start to add more team members.
You realize that conflicts are proliferating and persisting.
What used to feel like a healthy give and take that faded quickly now seems to recur more frequently and involve the same people and issues with regularity. Check to see if the conflicts arise because people are being stretched beyond their actual knowledge and capacities.
If you’ve already been aware of more than a couple of these problems, it’s probably time to take stock and do a thoughtful assessment of your staff’s strengths and lacks — and make some decisions about what you need to change so you can move forward successfully.