Stage 4, Professional, is a stage of growth that trips up many CEOs and one of the top five challenges states that the Organization Needs to Understand How the Company will Grow in the Future. For Stage 4, this challenge needs to have a bigger light shining on it for this reason:
A CEO is hiring professional managers who EXPECT that the company has an intentional plan for growth. The reality is most don’t.
Think about asking your CEOs to articulate their plan for growth and then take it to the next level. Ensure that they share that plan with the entire company. And insist that they do it often.
This challenge of understanding how a company will grow creates more obstacles than any of the other challenges of growth. Clarity of purpose and a clear perspective of what the company does should be at the forefront of the leader’s communication with employees as often as possible. Any confusion or uncertainty as to exactly what the company does, what it delivers, to whom and why needs to be addressed and explained now!
In this chapter of my Stage 4 book, Managing the Managers: How to Accelerate Growth Through People and Processes with 35 – 57 Employees, I identify three exercises your CEOs can implement that will help them with this challenge.
Exercise #1: IDENTIFY TALENT AND SKILLS NEEDED TODAY FOR FUTURE GROWTH
The talent and skills you need as a Stage 4 company are different than what you needed when you had 10 employees. Have you fundamentally and intentionally changed your recruiting and hiring practices and/or your interviewing processes from when you had fewer employees? Are you assuming that the same skills and talent that got you where you are now will take you to the next level? To answer that question, you need to know where you are going as a company. CEOs should ask their managers and managers should ask their staff :
• Can you describe the company’s core competencies?
• What business are we in?
Leaders may be shocked when people respond by listing what they do for the company and further shocked to realize that the company’s core competency and purpose is lost on most employees.
Engage your entire company to answer four critical questions:
1. Are we keeping up with our growth? Why or why not?
2. Do we encourage self-directed learning and support people learning new skills and gaining new knowledge to remain valuable assets?
3. Do we know what new skills and knowledge we want people to acquire and why?
4. Are we setting aside resources to help people learn new skills?
By first understanding where the company is going and then by addressing what skills and talents the company needs to get there, a CEO is better positioned to make good hiring decisions. Leaders need to make it a point to tap into the intelligence of the organization on a regular basis. Find out how employees view the company, the leadership of the company, its customer service, its products, the culture, the core values, what skills they feel the company needs and how they feel they are helping the company stay ahead of the competition.
Exercise #2: STOP LETTING GROWTH BECOME A SIX-LETTER WORD
Growth is scarier for employees than it likely is for a CEO or an entrepreneur. To help your organization understand how growth will impact the company, start by helping employees understand how growth will impact them. You have to break down the challenges of growth in a way that each and every person in your company gets. In order to engage employees in your growth plan, they have to see how they fit into that future.
Leaders should not assume that just because they know something, their employees know it as well. Don’t assume managers are taking the critical messages back to their teams and sharing that information with their employees. Despite our best intentions, our messaging can still backfire.
Consider the following:
You say: We’re pursuing new opportunities. Employee thinks: Here we go again!
You say: We’re all in this together. Employee thinks: She has no clue what I do!
You say: According to our strategic plan … Employee thinks: I have no clue what she does!
You say: This will be a win-win for everyone! Employee thinks: I’m tired of not getting paid what I’m worth!
You say: I just need you to get on board! Employee thinks: Can’t she see I’m working all the time?
You say: We’re taking the company to the next level. Employee thinks: How big do we have to get?
Growth quickly becomes a six-letter word that drives employees to shut down, deny and disengage. I refer to this reaction as growth trauma: when the very act of growing puts so much pressure on the organization that no one sees the impact until it is much too late. If no one talks about the changes that are coming, growth trauma will impact all aspects of your organization. It occurs slowly and builds to a crescendo when good employees walk out the door because they are frustrated, burned out, or angry because they keep working harder with no end in sight.
Symptoms of growth trauma:
• Low voltage (energy)
• High staff turnover
• Prevalent gossip
• Drop in sales and profits
• Growing customer service problems
• Loss of confidence and trust
Healing growth trauma in your organization starts with creating open dialogue and ends with helping people see the value they bring to the organization.
Exercise #3: BE INTENTIONAL AND INSPIRATIONAL IN YOUR COMMUNICATIONS
I love this definition of communication: To transmit information, thoughts or feelings … … so that they are satisfactorily received or understood. And what I particularly enjoy is the last part that talks about those communications being satisfactorily received or understood.
How often do you, as the leader of an organization, ask this question after delivering your monthly financial report, or talk about the new contract you just landed? “How many of you understood what I just said?”
In a culture where people are encouraged to speak their mind, share their thoughts openly and ask inquiring questions, you may get a good showing of hands. It’s not the people who raise their hands that should impress you. It’s the people that don’t raise their hands that you need to follow up with.
In a culture where asking questions, challenging beliefs and stirring up the status quo isn’t the norm, all hands will go up because people will be afraid and ashamed to admit otherwise. The challenge isn’t transmitting information, thoughts or feelings. The challenge is how satisfactorily received or understood they are. This quote by Margaret Miller says it all: “Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.”
How many monologues are you having every day in your organization? Are you willing to take your communications to a whole new level and challenge your managers and employees to do the same? Make a commitment to be more intentional and inspirational about your communications. Don’t assume people know something and never assume they don’t want to know something. Find out what your employees care about. What do they want to know more about? What information do they feel is missing that if they knew more, they could make better decisions?
Start by asking: What needs to be communicated? Who needs to know what, when?
By simply helping employees better understand the “business of running a business,” they become more engaged in helping the company reach its goals. If they see a direct correlation between what they do every day and how the company improves profitability, they will start thinking more as a shareholder, not just an employee.
Each of my stage of growth books identifies the five critical challenges a CEO faces as he/she grows their organization. We have the knowledge and the model that will absolutely provide our CEOs with the insight they need to not only manage their growth but define it and then communicate it to the entire organization. The Stages of Growth X-Ray and Zeroing in on Your Company’s Profit Zone will improve an organization’s understanding of growth, improve engagement, increase performance and ultimately improve their bottom line.
What are your plans to share these stage of growth resources with your CEOs and when will you be delivering your next X-Ray or Profit Zone program?
Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!