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6 Ways Bosses Make it Harder

How owners and managers make hurt employee performance.

Most discussions of management and leadership talk about what to do to help people be their best. Here are six ways executives and entrepreneurs routinely do the opposite.

(Click here to read Ten Entrepreneurial Mistakes.)

1)They don't provide a vision for the company.

Today, most companies have a vision, and most of these visions wind up as nicely written statements on wooden plaques. These are the "visions and missions" employees scoff at. But without a clear and compelling company direction, employees have no real freedom of action. Without a north star to follow, the best they can do is what they are told - a rather low performance position.

Everyone knows executives need a vision, but it is not just having a vision that's important, it is sharing the vision, bringing people into the vision, bringing that vision alive--which makes the real performance difference. When people align with themselves with the company goals, they are free to invent, to improvise, to innovate, to inspire each other. They are free to do great work.

2)Saying things once thinking that's enough.

Many executives think that if they say something once, it needn't to be said again. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Should I say that another way? People forget. Don't you? People don't listen. Do you hear everything that's said? People don't understand everything the first time. Did you ever hear something in passing and not know what it meant?

If something is important, it bears repeating. And repeating. This goes doubly--perhaps trebly--for sharing a vision. Repeat it over and over again. Repeat until you are sick of hearing yourself say it. Reiterate those goals. Restate the product strategy. Revisit the customer care policy. Repeat everything important.

3)They don't hold employees accountable.

Do the people in your company keep their word? Do they say what they will do and then do it? When you ask someone to do a job and they commit to getting it done, in a certain way, by a certain time, do you expect action? Do you expect results? Of course, but do you follow up? Do you make sure? Either people are held accountable or they aren't. Either they keep their word or they don't.

Accountability is built into the culture. People need to know you expect them to do the things they say they'll do. Otherwise, anything that is perceived to have a higher priority, or worse--anything that is easier to accomplish-- will get done instead. It's that simple. Start by doing all the things you said you would do. Then make sure everyone else does. This will pass through your organization like a virus.

4)They try to improve people's weaknesses.

You think, "If only they did such-and-such, they'd be perfect." So you set out to improve someone's weakness, testing them, evaluating them, training them, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Don't. Don't worry about weaknesses--instead, figure out what they are already really good at and train them to be brilliant. Not only does this create more value for your company, it is far easier.

Wouldn't you rather have a brilliant salesperson who was poor at customer service, or a brilliant field engineer who couldn't fill out a report to save their life? Sure, it might mean a few more staff positions, but so what--each person is performing at the maximum in one thing that makes you money, instead of wasting time doing all those other things poorly.

5)They keep people in the wrong jobs.

You start with a great performer--an employee who is smart and effective. Then you have an open position, and naturally slip that great performer into the open position, thinking, "They're smart, they can handle it." The difficulty comes when that great performer doesn't perform, and out of loyalty, inertia or a simple unwillingness to admit mistakes, you leave them in place--causing great harm to both the employee and the company. Their poor performance totally ruins their self-esteem and harms the performance of those around them. They know they aren't contributing at a high level and finally they leave, or you fire them.

Are there people in your company who could perform better in a different position? Are there employees in your company who are simply not performing at all? Do them and everyone else a favor. Move them or ask them to leave. Quickly.

6)They change goals and direction informally, and never it official.

Flexibility is critical to your success in today's fast paced ever-changing world, but when you decide to change direction, make it official. Why? If you don't announce new goals, and admit you are no longer pursuing the previous ones, it becomes too easy to slip and slide from one set of objectives to another. Management loses credibility, accountability suffers, and your company develops the culture I call "The Path of Least Resistance." Your people model this behavior- they slip their own goals without telling anyone, and start to do whatever's easiest. And it's all right, because no one was serious about those goals anyway. Were they? You have to make it official.

I wish these were the only ways bosses hold back employees, sadly they are not. My list currently has 23 more ways and I know I'm not done counting; I simply stopped here when I ran out of room. I'm not even sure these are the worst ways, but they are easy and productive to fix.

If you currently do any of these things--stop immediately.

Good luck.

Paul Lemberg is the executive director or Stratamax Research Institute, abusiness coaching and consulting firm specializing in helping entrepreneurial companies quickly increase short term profits for sustainable long term growth. Of course, he is available for keynote speeches and workshops and can be reached via

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