A 25-year old, privately held construction company generating between $15-$20 million in revenue annual. The firm’s founder was still its president and CEO with a senior leadership team of three others and 25 full-time employees.
The Generic Problem:
In my leadership and workplace communication workshops I always discuss as one of the top seven communication mistakes that take place in workplaces is a “Lack of Immediacy.” This style or habit of communicating evolves into what I call an “avoid and tolerate” approach to issues and situations that should be addressed and responded to promptly.
At one recent workshop, with over 50 regional small business professionals in attendance, I asked the participants to discuss with a partner the things they have a tendency to “avoid and tolerate” in their workplace, either in dealing with issues within themselves or things they tolerate among their employees and team members.
In a follow up exercise I asked them to take a minute and write down what they estimated the costs of avoiding addressing the issues and having to tolerate the results that come from the unaddressed situations.
When I asked for audience members willing to share a gentleman stood up and proclaimed, “my habit of avoiding and tolerating issues in my workplace has cost me about $5 million over the last 10 years!”
As a follow up I asked him what meaning that realization held for him, and he said, “well, I’d probably be retired and sitting on a beach in Tahiti right now.” And, everyone in the audience joined him in an uncomfortable laugh.
The Specific Problem:
For this business owner the things he would avoid and tolerate in his workplace, included:
- Employees working unnecessary, sometimes excessive overtime
- Accounts receivables going uncollected
- Project change orders not addressed, additional costs absorbed
- Failing to achieve acceptable profit margins on certain jobs
- Projects going over budget and beyond deadlines
- Key project managers and employees who were unable to make decisions, (everything had to come through the company owner no matter what the level for fear of reprisals over ‘wrong’ decisions)
- Employee behavior issues leading to an expensive wrongful termination lawsuit
- Failing to consistently apply performance management/review system to clearly identify and delineate between top performers and poor performers and giving across the board “fair and equal” salary adjustments and bonuses.
The cause of the “avoid and tolerate” leadership style stems three areas:
- Low levels of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.
- A lack of emotional intelligence.
- A lack of adequate interpersonal communication skills and emotional intelligence traits that would provide the confidence to communicate to address issues in a prompt, direct and respectful manner.
The solution we developed worked on three fronts:
- One-on-One executive level coaching for the company principal to address issues in real-time.
- Leadership Communication Skills Training – “Influencing With Integrity”
- Instituting a consistent “Performance Management System” that offered a specific process for employee job performance assessment.
Among the results achieved during the six-month project and over ensuing months, include:
- Projects were no longer missing key deadlines or going over budget.
- Project managers and site supervisors were more assertive in addressing their own issues as they arose.
- Company owner was able to invest more time in client relationship building, rain-making and cost estimating (his strengths)
- Accounts receivable reduced by 50%
- Change orders were all negotiated and agreed to at appropriate times
- Stress in work environment significantly reduced as a new chain of command was being followed instead of everyone going direct to the owner, as specific job responsibilities and parameters were identified giving a greater sense of individual ownership to the employees roles.
If the ‘avoid and tolerate” style of leading, communicating and behaving is an issue for you as the organizational leader, it is also usually an issue among your employees and team members. Either way, this leads to an erosion of trust among team members, which eventually infiltrates other levels of the organization causing significant performance issues for companies. You’ve probably already experienced this at your organization.
To identify specific areas for improvement you may want to apply for one of my limited monthly complimentary Leadership Assessment Strategy Sessions. During this Strategy Session we will dig deep into the issues you are facing with moving yourself and/or your team beyond this destructive “avoid and tolerate” culture and identify specific next steps you can take.
Click here to apply for a Leadership Assessment Strategy Session today.
If you have any questions regarding your specific situation, the best way to get them answered is through a Leadership Assessment Strategy Session, I guarantee the investment in time and energy will be worth it. I look forward to reviewing your application to see if your situation is a fit for the value we can offer.