Ten Things Owners Can’t Do

At a recent Peer Group meeting, business owners were talking about behaviors of key staff that could cause problems for the individuals and the company. The discussion evolved to conversation about owner behavior and the fact that, as owners, “we lose the right to do things that others can get away with. When we do them, it is very detrimental to our leadership presence and authority.” This is difficult because these behaviors are based on normal human emotions and they need outlets. It turned into a very interesting discussion. Near the end, someone suggested we publish it in our newsletter. Here it is.

Owners cannot:

1. Act scared about a situation or problem

Your biggest customer is furious. If you lose your head, don’t expect everyone else to do anything than panic. If you act cool and collected, people stay at their station and work to get things working right again.

2. Show concern about the business’ viability and future

The future is always uncertain, in your business and everyone else’s. Don’t share your fears, share your plan; employees need and want a sense of vision that shows the path to success. If they can’t get it from you, where will they get it? If you need to vent your inner fears, buy a fellow business owner a beer and commiserate with them, they feel the same way you do.

3. Vent or lose your temper or behave unprofessionally, publicly or privately

When you use anger, sarcasm or belittlement as tools, you don’t incent people to do something, you teach to avoid everything related to you. Soon, they focus on how to stay out of trouble instead of getting things done. How does a company like that perform? With rare exception, poorly.

4. Have a bad day or walk around with a scowl on your face

Everyone has a bad day. You are a leader. You leverage people through example, communication, vision and direction. What path you set people on when you have a lousy attitude which you share and communicate to the world, thereby setting an example that misery is the behavior of the day?

5. Discipline or criticize employees in front of others

Make a list of all the positive things that the target of your criticism is going to do after you rake them over the coals in front of their peers and subordinates. Now make a list of all the positive things those peers and subordinates are going to do to avoid the same fate.

6. Expect honest feedback about how you are doing from your employees

All owners wish they had better feedback on how they are doing as a business person, as a leader and as a competitor. That is one reason peer groups are popular and why feedback from trusted advisors is like gold. Most owners also feel that they can get good feedback from their most trusted employees. The best level of honesty from employees I’ve ever seen is about 60%. Consciously, employees try. Subconsciously and consciously, the self-preservation instinct limits what they can say. It is worth asking, but it is just one data point and a limited one at that.

7. Wear your emotions: anger, disgust, frustration, glee at the misfortune of others, etc.

It is human to be pleased when a competitor falls on their face, or be angry when a troublesome employee once again stops just short of the behavior that would make firing them easy or be disgusted at the latest sales figures and the poor sales effort that caused them. Take the high ground; there is a management process for dealing with every one of these situations. Teh processes work. That is what you want to teach your team.

8. Tell jokes or gossip about co-workers or staff

If you gossip about Tom to Bill, Bill knows that you are gossiping about him to everyone else.

9. Drink too much

Who wants to worry about what the owner is going to say or do when liquor loosens his tongue, lubricates his irritability and lowers the standards of propriety? How do you take it back on Monday?

10. Develop personal friendships with employees

Everyone who does this says that it works fine. Everyone else who works there says it doesn’t. Are they going to admit that when you ask about it? See number 6…The answer is no.

In the end, everyone agreed that ownership carries great risk, reward and with it a burden of responsibility to set the bar high for behavior within the organization. The employees of the company, its greatest asset, lookk to the owner to obtain clues about the state of the company, their performance and their leader. Victory hinges on the leader’s ability to lead and as Plato once said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.”