Your Bank of Bad Habits

“… One by one
They’ll do you in
They’re bound to take their toll
The wrong thing is the right thing until you lose control
I’ve got this bank of bad habits in a corner of my soul
That bank of bad habits is worth its weight in gold”

– from “The Bank of Bad Habits,” Jimmy Buffett

The same admirable vices leading to a successful start-up and growth of a business often turn into habits capable of killing not just the enterprise, but the relationships that go along with it.

When you think of a successful business owner, words like driven, determined, stubborn, focused, innovative, and opinionated come to mind.

Those words are not always compatible with words used to describe the leader of a successful company: accountable, team player, genuine, strong, and visionary.

The gap between being a successful owner and the leader of a successful organization can be reduced and perhaps eliminated when the top executive recognizes, accepts and makes a decision to change his or her behaviors.

It’s a tough diagnosis to hear and harder still to deal with: the bad habits that might have been a reason for the start-up, growth and success of the firm are now working against the owner and the company as it grows larger.

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” he identifies twenty bad habits that effective leaders must break if they want to take themselves and their organizations to the next level.

Goldsmith and research conducted by the Harvard Business Review mutually recognize that what damages careers of leaders are the so-called “soft skills.”

These are defined as having poor interpersonal skills, indifference to personal and professional growth, and a self-belief that the owner knows all they need to know about running and leading their company, despite the fact that the world around them is changing every single day.

I have observed that it is a rare owner indeed interested in developing themselves or others.

Despite rapidly changing regulations about retirement plans, I know of one owner who told one of his senior managers who had attended a short morning seminar to get caught up on recent changes in retirement fund regulations, “If you want to know about that stuff, you ask me! I know everything there is about that stuff!”

If the owner had been an attorney specializing in this kind of thing, his statement would have been reasonable. But he was the founded of a manufacturing company.

Owners are not very good team players; yet this is an essential skill in a company that is growing and diversifying. Building and leading a team of leaders is a core responsibility of the owner.

As an organization adds people, systems, processes, technology, geographically expands, launching new products and targeting new market segments, managing a diverse team of professionals, both inside and outside the organization creates a new, longer and more complex job description for the owner.

Yet, many owners don’t want this new job, the one that requires them to learn new skills, improve their people skills, and acquire the ability to delegate responsibility and accountability.

Sadly, these individuals continue to do what they have always done, in the manner that they feel most comfortable. In other words, avoiding the new reality they live in.

I have heard owners complain about having to praise people. These owners believe that a paycheck should be enough gratitude for employees. These same owners complain about the lack of initiative their employees have.

These owners fail to recognize that their bias and lack of praise is a very quick trip to a disengaged and frustrated workforce.

The deposits made into the Bank of Bad Habits need to be withdrawn and replaced with an asset that will be of more value to your company: a better owner for both today and tomorrow. That requires change. Are you ready? Your future is already here.