We all have blind spots – things you do not see despite your best intentions to observe the world changing around you. In business, they can quickly get you out of the way of growth, even if you work harder and harder. In my role as a startup and small business consultant, my job is to help you see things more clearly and stay ahead of the curve. I was there myself, so I felt the pain.
The list of common blind spots is long, and I was surprised to see that I recognized a lot in a new book, "The Road to Excellence," by David Mattson. As CEO of the world's largest business training organization, he is well positioned not only to see blind spots, but also to provide real guidance on how to avoid them. Here is my list of top priorities to avoid:
- Not sharing your vision with those responsible for implementing it. Especially in small organizations, it's easy for you to assume that everyone has heard and understands the direction and goals of the company. Some time ago, I was embarrassed to receive comments from my own small organization on "why does no one ever tell us the priorities here?"
- Do not link the personal goals of employees to the goals of the company. Human beings have always been and will always be pushed to improve their personal situation before improving their business. If you own the business, your business goals are personal. For team members, it's your challenge to match these goals to each of your team members.
- Enable coaches to degenerate to solve their problems. Coaching is the art and science of helping team members learn how to solve their own problems, rather than being critical or just doing the job. If you do not spend between 35% and 40% of your coaching time, it is unlikely that your team and your business will grow.
- Do not build and mold a culture of responsibility. Too many entrepreneurs I know think they need to know all the answers, and are quick with excuses for problems. It takes courage to show guilt, and always be responsible for everything that happens. Your team will respond to your actions – take the initiative to always be responsible.
- Allow hiring to slide to the bottom of your list of priorities. The acquisition of talent must be a continuous and structured process. I've often been too busy with daily crises to even think of an imminent need in the organization. When this need is crisis, it is easy to use the intestine for a quick conclusion. Bad hiring is a huge cost for any organization.
- Do not capture and institutionalize best practices. When your business is growing, you need to document what works and what the top performers do to stay ahead. Otherwise, this "tribal knowledge" leaves the door when key employees move on, and new members of the team must continually reinvent the wheel. Relearning is not doing well.
- Do not focus on lead generation and prospecting. Another common blind spot I see in most business owners is that they focus on the wrong end of the funnel – delaying indicators like closing sales. This initial growth spurt of a new startup is drying up quickly, and the focus needs to be on expanding the funnel, new marketing and new channels.
- Allowing methodologies and systems to stagnate. Leaders need to make sure that a process is in place for everyone and find a way to confirm that these processes are up to date. Again, the key is to be proactive, asking each team to come to you once a quarter with recommendations for system improvements, new metrics, and new tools needed.
- Not initiating organizational change proactively. Organizational changes must occur in every business to facilitate growth and adapt to a changing market. Yet, from my experience, most organizational changes do not occur until there is a crisis. Do not let this blind spot develop – schedule revisions regularly and proactively plan for changes.
- Do not create a good integration experience for new employees. Growing, I see most often the hiring school "hire and forget" for new members of the team. New employees need training, clear examples of excellence, coaching and measurable targets during the critical first few weeks at work. A culture of "self-starter" is not a culture of growth.
In my experience, blind spots are the symptoms of an impending downward spiral for your business. If you can relate to more than two of these blind spots, you must do something today, or your long-term survival as a business is in danger. The path of excellence is not the path of least resistance. It starts with planning and commitment to continuous improvement.