Don’t Risk Being The Best-Looking Horse In A Glue Factory

Mike Harden | | Operating with Vision, Solving Problems

Your company is having financial problems. Products aren’t selling. You are not keeping up with competitors, and customers are heading out the door. What do you do? Redesign your website. Sure, there’s your top priority right there. If you change your colors to something innovative-looking and add some new content, then the rest will fall into place. With a website like that, well, people will think you’re Apple.

What you’re doing here is putting lipstick on the pig, something a lot of companies do. When performance starts failing at a business, CEOs and senior executives spend a lot of time focusing on the wrong things rather than understanding the real problems that are derailing them.

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Stop Focusing On Symptoms

Most executives treat symptoms and never diagnose the underlying causes. If you were a doctor and did nothing but treat symptoms, never diagnosing core diseases, you’d be sued for malpractice. The truth is we commit malpractice all the time in business. Companies take steps to look better to themselves and the outside world. They remodel offices, write useless policies and forget about them, revamp they’re websites; and all the while their company is dying around them. They end up being the best looking horse in the glue factory.

Say, for example, a leader says, “I have a problem with morale in my company. I need ways to boost morale.” A less-than-adequate coach might say, “Have employee parties. Have a barbeque each month and hand out awards.” A real coach would ask questions: give me some examples of why you think morale is bad. How is it manifesting itself? What behaviors are you seeing that make you believe morale is low? What do you think is causing those behaviors?”

Well, we find out that the company hasn’t given raises in two years and had a nasty round of layoffs. Now we’re getting somewhere. The solution isn’t a picnic. We need to look at the whole problem: people are afraid of losing their jobs. They’re insecure, worried, and, maybe even strapped for cash.

Focus On Solving Real Problems

No wonder you have a morale problem! Or rather – a morale symptom. You have to start by dealing with those problems. Communicate more about the layoffs and the company’s performance; talk about the initiatives you’ve undertaken to create more stability. That’s how you get morale back on track, not putting more lipstick on the pig with parties or plaques.

If you are treating the symptoms, you are letting the underlying cause grow and fester, and eventually, it will become so severe that you can’t ignore it. It’s going to force you to look at it, and it’s going to be ugly. You can save everyone some time, resources, and anxiety if you start digging now. Changing your website colors or adding new waiting room art can wait.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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