Work Smarter Not Harder: 3 Classic mindsets to avoid

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash

Small businesses are notoriously resource-constrained, overcommitted and often suffer from larger than life ambitions but poor strategic execution. While agile, small growth businesses often face growing pains that larger organizations may take for granted. Following are a few ways in which small business owners may be sabotaging their own success:

1. Continually putting out fires (The classic working “in” versus working “on” your business mentality)

Do you feel like your job title should be firefighter chief, instead of chief executive officer? This ongoing state of affairs can stem from a lack of action planning or the absence of a strategic roadmap to guide your thinking, choices and decisions.

If you’re falling into this trap time and time again, it’s probably a good time to conduct environmental and situational analysis using tools like SWOT and PEST to bridge the gap between performance expectations and where the organization is today. Leveraging interested parties and stakeholders to analyze where you stand in key areas might provide an early warning sign that a pivot is necessary. You also might benefit from bringing in a third-party expert to facilitate and guide the discussion and assist in faster implementation. Check out what NIIC client, Stre.me is doing to enhance performance, increase organizational focus on key strategic drivers, and deliver strategic boosts to simplify the process of strategic growth.

2. Working in silos (The classic “not my job”syndrome).

When employees are informed about how their job relates to others in the company, it can create an environment where people and teams work in silos and not in concert with one another. This lack of coordination can mean tasks are duplicated, left unaddressed altogether, and may result in sub-optimized organizational performance.

This is why a strategic roadmap is critical because it spells out accountabilities and resources will contribute to the company’s success. When employees understand the work they do helps other employees execute, it fosters camaraderie and incentivizes people to communicate and solve problems when things aren’t going as planned or unexpected surprises are experienced along the way.

3. Unproductive meetings (The classic “activity” versus “results” mindset).

Just say no. Decline 90% of the meetings you are invited to attend. In fact, our ISO auditor said earlier today that you should only go to meetings if there are decisions made and actions to be taken. If not, don’t ever go again because the meeting is unnecessary. As many favorite management books posit: if it can be communicated via an email or through an alternative non-face to face channel, don’t call a meeting. That’s because too often meetings become time sucks; informal discussions are drawn out, and there’s no clear decision made.

If you must call a meeting, everyone there should know why they are there from the outset and leave with a clear sense of what they need to do. A focused agenda with key objectives and decisions to be made should be provided in advance and meeting minutes distributed shortly after can maximize productivity if they frame issues, provide decisions and enables action planning.

You also might consider limiting the time duration of meetings, or require everyone to stand up for the meeting or better yet calculate the cost of the meeting (this should lead to limiting participation to be more productive). Multiple short meetings often can be much more productive than a single long meeting. Focused meetings may also cut down on the silo mentality because it gives them a chance to break out of their bubble regularly.

Do any or all of these challenges resonate with you? You may benefit from a business coach. At The NIIC, our entrepreneurial guidance is hands-on. We are engaged, and our energy is dedicated to you, the business builder. We offer a network of mentors and trusted advisors to support the growth and development of our client companies.

When you come to The NIIC, our coaching and mentorship approach will match you with subject matter experts, serial entrepreneurs, coaches and/or service providers. Mentors are chosen based on their expertise as it relates to your needs, business challenges, and strategic opportunities.

Let’s get started. Call a NIIC Business Concierge at 260-407-NIIC (6442).


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