Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
More often than not I am contacted because small businesses to even multi-billion dollar firms are facing organizational productivity issues measured either by sales (new revenue) to actual works results. However, believe it or not, in the majority of these cases the real problem is ineffective leadership. The inability to increase sales to a lack of engaged employees are symptoms of this far more serious problem and I will add often ignored one.
For example, a small business owner has stagnant sales for the last six months. During the fact finding conversation, the following is revealed:
• No strategic plan
• No enforced accountability specific to the sales team
• Limited productivity metrics such as sales to close ratio; annual touches per existing clients; contacts per qualified prospect; etc.
The reason for lack luster sales may have something to do with the sales skills of the sales team, but overall the driving force is the absence of effective leadership at the executive level. In some cases, the sales teams are driving the agenda and not the small business owners to C Suite executives.
Then there is the large organization where a high performing manager is brought in to shake things up. However in that process, she has her hands tied by her direct report. Her boss has:
• No strategic plan
• Does not understand how to delegate
• Communicates mixed messages to other employees
• Keeps moving the goal post specific to current goals (reactive behavior)
What happens is the high performing manager’s effective leadership is greatly reduced because of the lack of leadership one level above her. The high performing manager is then viewed as not performing even though she is doing her best given the situation.
In the book Fail-Safe Leadership by Linda Martin and Dr. David Mutchler not only identified the reasons for ineffective leadership, but offered some very practical solutions that can be implemented to correcting the real problems facing organizations.
At the beginning of the book, the authors provided a quick checklist of symptoms posing as organizational problems including:
• Lack of personal accountability
• Chronically sagging sales
• Unacceptable results
• Can’t do attitudes
• Communication problems
• High employee turnover
• Time management problems
What the authors stressed was “if any of these conditions exist in your company, this does not mean you, the reader, are an ineffective leader. It simply means that your company has leadership problems.”
Towards the end of the book, the authors returned to treating the symptoms previously mentioned. For example, lack of personal accountability could be improved by having a shared goal achievement process where everyone knows WHO does WHAT by WHEN.
High employee turnover can be reversed in a results based effective leadership culture. Again, it is important to have shared goals that have been well communicated, documented and monitored.
Peter Drucker who is considered to be one of the most well known management and leadership experts said “Leadership is about results.” Later in his career he modified that definition to “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard and the building of a person’s personality beyond its normal limits.”
What Drucker was implying is that it is up to the small business owners to C Suite executives to lead forward with a focus on results while simultaneously providing a way to unlock the innate potential within each individual.
So of you have lagging sales to under performing employees, have instituted some sales training or some other solutions and find yourself back at square one, then maybe it is time to start at the top with executive leadership development for the C Suite Team or for yourself as the small business owner.
P.S. Shout Out To: IES Inc. of Gary Indiana for environmental engineering and The Duneland Group of Chesterton for industrial engineering.