Ah, remember those good times in your business. You were so flush with cash and revenue was growing so rapidly that you didn’t know what to do with all your money. Every move you made was golden, and everyone in your company was aligned with your mission.
The executive team took luxurious trips. You ate out at lavish restaurants. You took clients to ball games. The best part was, none of your expenses were ever questioned.
I’ve been there before, and I’ll be perfectly honest: I loved every moment of it. As a consultant, it felt great when I’d finally be working in a business that was moving forward rather than trying to turn around a businesses that was struggling to make payroll.
Maybe you’re experiencing those good times now. Maybe you’ve never experienced them before. Either way, the good times aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be—they can be a mask to cover up real problems in your business.
Especially management problems. Success can bring about layers of management, where people communicate with each other less. The less people communicate, the more likely your business will go from flush with cash to flushing it down the toilet.
The Unnecessary Layers of Management
In almost every company I’ve worked with, I’ve noticed certain trends emerge. One of those trends was the creation of layers between management, meaning communication was hindered across departments or up and down the organizational ladder.
In most of the companies I’ve worked with, there were definitely layers of management and endless meetings to get a pulse of what was going on. That didn’t feel good—real and accurate information was hard to come by, and that made everyone disconnected.
It quickly became clear that at a certain level in the organization, everyone was an interpreter, and most interpretations were skewed. Communicating took a herculean effort as the layers created the world’s most frustrating telephone game.
By the time those at the top got any message, it was anything but true and accurate to the original meaning. Most of the people filtering those messages were playing the political games, so they’d skew the message to fit their agenda. Some of them expanded their power to protect their favorite people.
None of it made sense.
Growing your business requires speed and action. Overlayering your company—by making people communicate too far up the chain of command to take action—slows your growth and, over time, kills morale.
Only add go-betweens when it’s absolutely necessary. And for God’s sake, give the power of decision-making to the lowest level of your organization. Be rational in determining exactly how “lowest-level decision making” works, but know that no matter how you do it, it can’t be worse than the telephone game.
How to Drive off Your Most Talented People
I was hired to consult for a friend of mine. She was running HR for a publicly traded company and wanted my help to figure out why they were losing their most talented people. I did the research and found the answer: and the man cutting my check was not going to like it.
I had to look the president of the company dead in the eyes and tell him that he was the problem.
The president had created a culture where people only told him what he wanted to hear, and so the middle managers were not passing along vital information to him.
Whether their company was going through good times or bad times, some of the managers at my friend’s company had spent decades keeping information from their president. By not valuing candor, and by rewarding people for withholding information, the president had created an unnecessary layer in his management, one that had driven off some of the most talented people in his company.
As a leader, it’s your obligation to create a culture that encourages the free flow of information between levels. Otherwise, you’ll either be caught in an endless game of telephone interpretation, or you’ll find yourself losing your best people.
GUY PIERCE BELL
Over the past twenty-five years, Guy has led publicly held, equity backed, and privately owned businesses with a not-for-profit thrown in. In many cases Guy was hired to turn-around performance. Throughout his experiences, he has developed a deep understanding of the pointless discord between business and people. He is convinced business has the unique ability to change the world for good, but only if we choose to unlearn the dogma of limiting thoughts and behaviors. Success is easy. Sustainable success is hard. Part people – part systems. His success equation: when you get people right, you get business right. Guy teaches organizations and their leaders how to expand beyond their limiting beliefs into their full potential. Email. Website.