Why You Don’t Want Employees

It’s Usually Something Else.

“Employee Problems” doesn’t mean “Problem Employees”. We miss cause and effect all the time, and most employees usually aren’t at the bottom of employee problems.

Edward Deming, the father of Process Improvement, said (paraphrased) that when an employee screws up, we assume right away that we have a bad employee, when in fact there are a dozen other things we should look at before we come to that conclusion. Deming suggests the problem may be somewhere else. I couldn’t agree more.

First look at the vision for your company. Don’t know where you are going? Then your employee can’t be in trouble because they aren’t doing ANYTHING that will keep you from getting there. Deming and I would both say get your vision fixed first.

Then look at your mission – do you have a clear understanding of the results you are to produce for your clients? If not, how can your employee harm your lack of clarity? He’s doing “badly” because neither he nor you know what a good result even looks like!

If your vision and mission are clear and everyone is on board with them (including your “problem employee”), than take a look at your leadership. Are you leading the way you should? Are the other leaders in your business leading the way they should? If not, why would you expect a great follower?

Then look at your infrastructure – does your employee have the tools and environment to be successful? If so, great. But is the employee properly trained including ongoing training? If so, you can check that off.

If all the above is in place, does your employee have clear expectations for performance, and clear WRITTEN processes for getting there? If not, then you’ve got some work to do here.

And finally, if all the above is in place, you have to ask yourself, did you hire someone who doesn’t fit your culture? Did you get tempted and hire for skills even though you knew this person didn’t fit?

If all the above is checked off the list, you probably have a problem employee. But how often do we look at ourselves and our own companies before we throw stones at our people?

It’s a lot easier to see that you have a problem employee, when in fact, more often than not, you have an employee problem, or actually an EMPLOYER problem, neither of which was caused by the employee.

Do you hate the thought of ever taking on employees or managing the ones you have? Are employees convincing you by their behavior and results that employees in general are simply a bad idea?

The fact is that your view of employees is not a result of employees in general being a bad idea. It’s because you are not willing to deal with the need to address your own soup and the things above that will help you actually build a business where employees could be stakeholders who find real significance.

If you don’t like your existing employees or hate the idea of ever having any, take a look at your own issues and unwillingness to build a business. The problem is there more often than with the employee.

The joy of business.

Success is a positive thing.

Those who find joy in business have a clear vision for significance, believe they can actually get there, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, are running toward something, not away from something.

Too many people are in business because they have a mortgage to pay, or a payroll to meet, or to escape the drudgery of the cube and working for the man.

When we are driven by short term needs like these we are always running away from something – running away from poverty, moving away from mortgage default, from boredom, from fear, etc.

Running away from things will never bring you joy in your business and it will never give you enough momentum to move from survival to a really significant business that goes beyond the treadmill of paying the mortgage. The gravity of those things you are running from will eventually wear you out and relentlessly pull you back in. Running away from things is like trying to leave the gravitational pull of a planet. The only way to do it is to eventually begin to be pulled TOWARD something else.

In his book “Shift”, Peter Arnell tells about his business success but more importantly about moving from 407 lbs to 150 lbs. How did he lose 250+ pounds?
1) He says he decided to.
2) Then he said, “From that moment forward I saw myself as a 150 pound man, not a 407 pound man.” And every decision he made going forward was made through the eyes of someone who weighed 150 lbs, not 407 lbs. Peter was successful, not because he wanted to lose 250 lbs., which was simply moving away from something. Peter was successful because he was already a 150 lb. man in his head, and everything he did was to run toward that.

A study of severe heart attack victims called Change or Die” by Alan Deutschman found that, faced with the fear of early death, 90% of them went back to the same bad lifestyle that would assure that result. Running away from an early death wasn’t a strong enough motivation.

Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, takes a very different and radical approach. He ignores the fear of death and focuses on helping heart attack victims find the joy of living. He gives them something to run to, not away from, and gets them to change everything at once, radically – not in tiny increments. And an astonishing 77% of his patients change their lives, permanently.

“Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear,” he says.

Things to run toward:
1) VISION – People are motivated by a more meaningful life. – not the fear of death, but the joy of life. Vision for where I’m heading and what that can mean to my lifestyle is critical for real change to happen. VISION is more important than anything.

2) INTERNAL CHANGE, not external. Structure, systems, processes, and other external things won’t make for a successful company. The right behavior will. Right behavior comes from a vision that is worth pursuing.

3) RADICAL, NOT INCREMENTAL CHANGE – Change should not be incremental – change everything at once. People who change radically are more likely to stick with it than people who change incrementally. Burn the bridges, sink the ships, shred the parachutes. Radical change with no intention of going back works.

4) COMMITTED COMMUNITY – Community is critical to sustain change. Ornish’s patients had ongoing weekly support groups and 77% of them experienced permanent changes of lifestyle.

A crises won’t change you, not permanently. Paying your mortgage or running from a cubicle won’t sustain you. People change when we have something to run toward, not away from – not the fear of death, but the joy of living.

I do a Lifetime Goals (The Big Why) workshop for business owners every few months. I do it because it is at the center of a hard-core success strategy to know what you are running toward. Everything rises and falls on your Big Why.

I’m running toward “Live well by doing good.” Every breath I take is to get my life and my business to conform with this vision. I can’t fail at it, I can only practice and get better every day. I’ll never fully get there, but I’ll always be running toward something worth pursuing with every fiber of my being. That creates joy in business for me.

What are you running toward? Will you share it with us here?

Education Is Not Important For Success

Learning is not education.

Sitting in a hotel lobby in Martinborough, New Zealand after a bike ride, two professors from Vancouver asked me if I thought education was important for success. They hit my hot button. If, like the old saying goes, knowledge is power, then librarians would rule the world. They don’t. Something else is more correlated to success than education.

Millions of higher degree recipients make less during their careers than people who dropped out of high school. And millions who never finished high school make huge impacts and a lot of money.

We miss cause and effect all the time. As an example, people love to say, “College graduates make a million dollars more in their lifetime than non-college graduates.” Is it because they went to school, or because they are motivated to do anything that will make them successful? I think it’s the latter.

If they were told they needed to apprentice with a businessperson they would do that instead of getting an MBA (that would be my advice). They are motivated and committed, and will do whatever they have to in order to be successful.

There is some clear correlation between education in the hard sciences (pharmaceuticals, engineering, plumbing, etc.) and success. If you violate hydrology ($%@* flows downhill), you’ll make a lousy plumber. But there is little correlation in the soft sciences. People build committed communities all the time without ever taking a sociology course. Others help people get past their bad habits without ever taking a psychology course.

Business is one of the soft sciences where education is least correlated with success. Dropouts from college (or people who never went) start hugely successful companies all the time. “Is college necessary?” is becoming a mainstream question.

What makes business owners successful? According to research, education doesn’t show up in the top five. (Entrepreneurial Intuition, an Empirical Approach, La Pira, April 2010), but these do:

  1. Seeing the big picture – being a visionary is most important. If you can’t see it, you won’t shoot for it.
  2. Speed of Execution – taking action while others are researching.
  3. Never giving up; being the bull dog; finding a way to make it work.
  4. Being a life-long learner.

Learning is massively different than being educated. Education fills our heads with information, while learning transforms our lives and the world around us with grounded and applied intelligence.

If you want to have your head filled with facts, get an education. It you want to learn, change lives and/or make money, you’re better off apprenticing with someone who’s done it. They won’t try to educate you, they’ll just make sure you are effective and becoming something you aren’t, yet.

The Greeks were wrong.

We don’t think our way to a new way of acting; we act our way to a new way of thinking.

Go do something with someone who’s already done it; and learn from their experience.

The Vancouver professor’s responses? “Check, please.”

What Do You Want to Be Known For?

An empowering vision.

What are you building with your business? Do you know? If not, it’s never too late to get this answer. Stop for a moment and get it, because every decision will fall from this one if you have it answered. People who try to make money rarely make very much of it. People who answer this question understand it is where significance begins.

We sometimes confuse what is good for us with what works for big business. We see Giant Corporation, Incorporated focused on return on investment (ROI) to it’s shareholders and think that we should do that. They are a lousy example of what you want to be known for. They have a legal responsibility to focus on making money, we don’t. And I can tell you that people who focus on something bigger than making money always make more of it.

What do you want to be known for?

And it’s even true with a very few Giant Corp. companies. As Raj Sisodia found in his book Firms of Endearment , 28 of the Fortune 500 have declared to their shareholders that they are about something bigger than making money – they want to be know for something else. You would think that might distract them from making money, but you would be wrong.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collin’s identified 11 companies that beat the S&P 500 profit standard by at least 300%. Raj’s 28 Giant Corporations that focused instead on something bigger than making money do 1,072% better than the average S&P 500 company.

This relationship between focusing on something bigger than making money and actually making a lot is even more clear with small businesses. Why?

Making money is not an empowering vision.

People make money for two reasons:

1) Survival – survival is a very strong instinct. It is not surprising that most people make just enough money to pay their bills. And the only way that they can motivate themselves to make more is to constantly increase their lifestyle so they can ensure there is always more money going out than coming in. Staying in this Cycle of Poverty, even when you’re making millions, is a great way to ensure you will always be motivated only by survival.

I have a former client who lives that way. His house is beautiful and his cars are gorgeous, and he doesn’t sleep at night. He is in survival mode all the time. He bought the 80’s lie “He who dies with the most toys wins”, and is a hostage to his business and his lifestyle.

2)Significance – An empowering vision – People who see money as a means to an end that is bigger than the toys it can buy are much more likely to make a lot more of it.

You should have as the objective of your work to move from SURVIVAL right through SUCCESS (the imposter of toys) to SIGNIFICANCE.

What do you want to be known for?

I address this in Making Money Is Killing Your Business. Answer that question and you’re likely to get up tomorrow a lot more motivated regardless of the economic climate. And you’re likely to be a lot more successful because you have committed movement in a purposeful direction.

Get out of my way. I have somewhere I have to be.

It’s a lot more motivating than, “I made 6% more this year.”

What do you want to be known for?