The high cost of ownership complacency

While every employer wants each employee to be fully engaged while on the job and working hard while on the clock, it just won’t happen.

Employees want the same thing from their boss; they want their boss to be engaged.

This is defined as working hard, setting an example for others to follow, providing direction and feedback, treating people with dignity and respect.

Sadly this is not always the case.

Some owners have simply become both lazy and apathetic about their own business.

If I did not know any better, I would say that these individuals have become disengaged from their own company.

I’m not talking about the founding partner of the CPA or law firm that retired years ago and goes into the office a few days a week to get out of the house.

I am referring to healthy, smart people who spend the bulk of their time and energy doing something else.

It is one thing to be a “big picture” kind of owner and I have met plenty of owners who did not want to have to deal with “the details.”

It could well be that these absentee owners have found other interests; other activities that are more interesting and more challenging.

It does not matter why these owners appear to have lost that loving feeling with the company.

To the employees, perception is reality.

No employee I have ever known wants to work in a company where the owner does not make a minimal effort to care about what is going on every day.

I recently received a Power Point slide on leadership from a conference a colleague had attended. There are 18 words on it:

Followers want authenticity

Followers want significance

Followers want community

Followers want a role model

Followers want clear direction

The complacent owner with other significant external interests is not authentic if they no longer understand the dynamics and details of their own business.

One owner I know is so busy playing golf Monday through Friday that they have ignored the maturation, consolidation and pricing wars that are now common place in their industry.

The company continues to shrink and there is no plan for a turnaround.

The owner would rather use their brainpower on lowering a golf handicap or planning their next exotic vacation than to figure a way to regain lost revenue, grow market share or increase profits.

The business shrinks, year after year. Is there a turnaround plan?

The owner who spends most of the day working on things other than their primary business is going to be hard pressed to be significant to any employee other than a signature on a paycheck.

If the owner is always away, formally leaving the message that they are “out on business” but the grapevine says “the boss is on vacation”, no company community or culture is ever going last the next round of downsizing.

That is because the community, the culture, is built on the big lie: that the owner cares.

To have a culture of growth, of accountability, of increased revenue, market share and profitability something has to change. That change must start at the top.

In one of my Strategic Advisory Board meetings, one owner was lamenting the fact that his business was shrinking, his employees weren’t engaged, customer shipping dates were slipping and the future was getting bleak.

When asked how much time was spent in the last year on personal trips, vacations, and days off, a rather larger number was stated; high double digits.

If you want to turn things around one owner commented to the whining owner, “You have to Be There. You have show up, start holding people accountable and let the under performers go. But it all starts, and ends, with you Being There.”

When the owner is never around, is never visible, is not setting an example for others to follow, how can they be considered a role model in anything but name only?

When the owner surfaces every so often (coming down from the mountain, so to speak) and all the employees hear is that they have made costly mistakes and have wasted “my money” what kind of clear direction is being shared?

Owners wonder why employees are not more loyal, lack dedication, are not focused on doing their jobs and are always asking for more money or more time off.

These owners are essentially asking, “Why won’t my employees act and think like owners?”

The truth is, the employees are acting and thinking like an owner, the owner they are working for.

The employees are acting complacent, disengaged, thinking about their time away from work … anything but the company they work for.

The employees are emulating their owners.

Do you want a better company? Having a better company starts with the owner being a better employee, setting an example for all others to follow, every single day.