This is Challenge #18. Too often CEOs take for granted that the company will grow. And all too often the employees are the ones who feel the brunt of that growth every day. This challenge shows up in Stage 4 as the company is developing into a larger entity with new and emerging managers.

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!

The talent and skills a company needs as a Stage 4 company are different than what was needed when there were only 10 employees. You need to ask your CEOs:

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, a CEO needs to know where the company is going. 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.

Up until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By World War II, it doubled every twenty-five years. Today our knowledge is doubling every 12 – 18 months. Th is just under-scores the need to be aware of what knowledge, skills, talent and information the business needs to ensure it doesn’t fall behind the competition. Here are four critical questions to pay attention to:

  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?

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 an organization starts with creating open dialogue and ends with helping people see the value they bring to the organization. Consistently applied, these five small steps will help an organization heal growth trauma and stay ahead of their growth curve.

  1. Share Your Thoughts – Your employees want to know what you are thinking, how you feel about specific things and how you view the world they work in every day.
  2. Ask for Their Input – Your employees are smart, capable and motivated people so take the time and look for opportunities to ask their opinions. Find out what they think about their job and how it impacts the overall company.
  3. Provide Clear Direction – Don’t make your people guess what you want or how you want it done by taking the attitude, “they should already know.”
  4. Show Their Impact – Track key indicators that have been created and embraced by each and every employee and share those results daily.
  5. Encourage Innovation – Encourage people to think about and to explore different ways of doing things and help them see the impact those ideas have on the organization.

With up to 57 employees, growth is critical to the sustainability of the company. How a CEO defines growth, how he/she talk about growth, how he/she engages employees in that conversation about growth is the critical component to not allowing GROWTH to become a six-letter word.

I constantly remind my audiences that I could solve 90% of all problems CEOs experience in running their companies if I could simply get people to communicate more often, more consistently and more effectively. I think that starts with an intentional communications plan that defines what needs to be communicated, to whom, when and how will it be communicated.

Starting on page 212 in my Stage 4 book, Managing Managers: How To Accelerate Growth Through People and Processes with 35 – 57 Employees, you’ll find ideas for helping your CEOs understand the value of intentional communications to help manage this challenge of helping everyone understand how a company will grow in the future. You can get your Stage 4 book at

Your Success. My Passion.

Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!