As leaders one of the most important things we can do is to notice warning signs and act on them. Sometimes they are are obvious and at others we’re so involved with the ‘doing’ that we are completely unaware of them and miss what in retrospect is blindingly obvious.
Here are five of common warning signs that can be easily missed or ignored.
Not having enough time
Isn’t it strange how many of us blame not having enough time for our failure to complete, start or finish something. There will always be times when we run out of time however, if you find that you or a member of staff is always ‘running out of time’ then this is something that needs looking at. Remember each and every one of us has 24 hours in a day – we all work with the same amount of time. Can you imagine Richard Branson running out of time?
Things to Look for:
- lack of expertise / knowledge
- lack of support from others
- inability to manage time
- too broad a job for one person / team
- poor systems in place
- inability to delegate
- inability to manage others
- unreal expectations of ability by self or others
Procrastination is amazingly productive. Surprisingly when we don’t want to do (or don’t know how to do) something – many of us are extremely good at choosing to do other things instead. We busy ourselves with other tasks in order not to have to complete the one thing that needs to be done. Very often we justify our ‘not doing’ (to ourselves or others) as being too busy.
Things to look for:
- a belief that it is too difficult to manage
- lack of knowledge / skill/ experience
- an unwillingness to tackle something confrontational
- a lack of confidence
- an inability to do a task when it is not enjoyable or likeable
- not willing to ask for help
- not wanting to be seen in a negative light
- unwillingness to complete certain tasks
Main or large Customer
Leaders are often delighted when they sign up an important customer. Yet that very customer may well become ‘the straw that broke the camels back’!
A real life example: a recruitment company lands a new client (large company) to supply temporary works. This is very exciting and a great potential boost to the bottom line. This is an important client and a special rate has been given to them because of the volume (and competition). For a couple of years the client provides regular long and short term requests for temps and provides around 70% of the business on the temp desk. One day the company informs the recruitment company that it has been taken over and the staffing levels are not only going to change but relocated to another part of the country. The recruitment company has three months to replace what is essentially 70% of its temp business.
There are often warning signs – if you take note of them.
Warning signs to look for:
- too much time spent on one customer
- too much revenue from one customer
- too much business from one customer
- payment terms too long
- late payments
- economic / legislative changes for customer industry type
- customer controls the buying and or selling price
Waiting to Recruit
When recruiting (especially in tough economic times) companies can often find themselves in dire need of that extra body. It is easy to see how recruiting that extra body is delayed – wanting to make the best possible use of resources, not wanting to take on additional financial commitments or not knowing exactly what sort of person, experience or knowledge will bring you the best return for your money. Then, when recruiting is undertaken, many candidates are interviewed and expectations can sometimes be such that no one quite fits the bill.
Tips for good recruitment practice
- make a business case for the position
- what will they do?
- how many hours are necessary?
- what are the qualifications / experience really necessary?
- write a job and people specification
- check that you haven’t already got someone ‘in-house’ who could be trained or promoted to take that position
- talk to the people who will be working with / for the new hire
- agree probation period and feedback criteria to ensure good fit
- be clear how, when and with whom will you recruit
- use professionals to aid you with the recruitment process
- treat all candidates the same, interviews like for like
- follow up and reply
- let all candidates you interviewed know your decision
Not making a decision to dismiss
Most business owners and leaders will recognise the scenario whereby a member of staff is no longer a ‘fit’. This could be for a variety of reasons: doesn’t fit the team, has little interest in the job, is consistently late, is unable to fulfil the role through lack of knowledge or ability, the role is no longer necessary or has outgrown the role and yet. There are many many scenarios that happen when people are employed…..
Most leaders may also recognise a time when they knew someone was no longer a ‘fit’ for whatever reason and yet delayed making a decision about dismissing that person. Many of us recognise that it is ultimately easier for everyone involved if these decisions are taken in an efficient and effective manner. If a member of staff does not work out then we do something about it – take action and resolve the problem.
Things to do
- take advice from an HR / Legal professional
- ensure that you have a clear probationary period for new hires and do not make permanent if the probationary terms are not met
- ensure that you give and receive feedback and carry out regular reviews and appraisals at all levels (however small the company)
- be clear and get agreement from all involved when agreeing training needs, knowledge updates, performance reviews etc
- treat people with respect always
- don’t use excuses to ‘not’ take action that will ultimately hurt the people involved and the business.
As always I would love to hear from you so email me or ‘phone me.
Ali x.Red Flag Picture used under creative commons license with thanks to Gerry.
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