Pond Skater or Deep Diver – which type are you in your businesses growth?

Ad board for rent or purchase of snorkel and diving mask.

Every business employs people who want to come to work but as a result of the hidden concerns many face, most employees only get to enjoy that experience when the boss is away.  Unfortunately, most SME’s don’t have the time, understanding or expertise to see what’s going on below the surface of a business as other challenges take precedence. So, if you’re the boss what can you do to change it?

There’s usually a host of things that contribute to this malaise and whilst many of the staff will be only too well aware of the majority of problems within the firm e.g. a lack of engagement, openness, motivation, job satisfaction, responsibility, belonging, trust, ethics, and poor internal communication that negatively contributes to someones enjoyment of their role. However, for those running a small business there are different challenges which focus the executive team’s time and energy and so it’s likely they won’t be so familiar with these ‘less visible concerns’ so they fail to get resolved. Conversely, at employee level it’s rare to find someone within the company whose willing or suitably qualified to take steps that will bring these matters through to a positive outcome. Some are perhaps fearful that the fallout from such actions may have far reaching consequences (which they’d be responsible for triggering), whilst others perhaps don’t feel confident enough to start a journey that they cannot complete. Whatever, the reason when change isn’t made the company and its customers will continue to not be served as well as they should be ultimately having significant consequences on the customer base, its profitability and potential longevity.

I often come across these issues, where a business is so busy doing the ‘day-to-day’ stuff that truly important things are lost below the surface. I call these businesses and the people who are kept busy by them, ‘Pond Skaters’. This is not a disparaging term as you’ll see in a moment, but merely a reflection that what they see on the surface appears to be fine because that’s not where the immediate pressure lays. If meetings do occur, everyone arrives to discuss an agenda that revolves around productivity, new and lost orders, deliveries and so forth. Whilst customers are making regular purchases, the company is paying its financial demands, the staff seem content and everyone can go home at the end of the day and just forget about the issues – so job done, but that’s most definitely not ‘job done’.

If you are employed by one of those firms that can see some, if not all of the benefits of your staff really wanting to come to work, then it’s essential you embrace the need for improvements below the surface, even if you don’t have the time, the inclination or ability to make widescale improvements that stick. In this scenario you don’t need a ‘Pond Skater’, you need a ‘Deep Diver’ someone who’s commissioned solely to explore the surroundings and be sufficiently comfortable in that environment in order to make informed judgements about the issues they uncover, bringing them to the surface to share with those ‘Pond Skaters’ who because of their own challenges need to paddle hard every day to keep the firm afloat.

If you recognise this analogy, you’ll be acutely aware that no matter how much you might want these issues resolving internally, that such a resolution simply might not be possible from within your existing infrastructure. Either due to the lack of appropriate experience from your current workforce or because recruiting such a role internally may be unpalatable for other colleagues and thus jeopardise any possible results. Whilst, it’s admirable to want to solve these things internally, the risks for doing so are huge and besides, I’ve seen companies who’ve declared this as their intended preference and yet continue to prevaricate over such a decision before losing the motivation to resolve matters entirely. Such delays risk losing staff, market share and the new contracts that would have come your way, so is that hesitation truly worth it?

If you would like to speak to me about any of the issues raised in this post, please email me, Nigel Davis for an informal conversation.

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