From narcissism to inaction and micromanagement, here are the fatal mistakes that business leaders make – and how to avoid them. 1. Complacency “I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure,” Og Mandino wrote in The Greatest Salesman in the World. In short, Mandino is saying you cannot rest on your laurels. If we really want to get biblical about complacency, we could say that “pride goeth
de goeth before the fall”. Undoubtedly, great strategies can take your business to greener pastures, but any strategy responsible for getting you there is different to the strategy that will keep you there. Of course, it was your people who executed that strategy. You could reward them with bonuses and raises, but is that what they really want? In my experience in the recruitment industry, people want fair remuneration, but more so they want to be part of a values-based culture that empowers them to be their best. Your job as a leader is to provide this. Your vigilance and best efforts to improve on your team’s success will keep your high performers on board and new talent knocking on your door. 2 Extremism The two biggest mistakes of retail leaders belong to either extremes of the spectrum: micromanagement and estrangement. Both are fatal to achieving business goals. It is astounding how often I meet candidates who have left their jobs because of micromanagers. Every piece of statistical and anecdotal evidence screams that this is a destructive trait. However, micromanagers are often not aware of their behaviour or that it can reduce morale by 68 per cent and productivity by 55 per cent. Considering few people set out to be difficult or inefficient, we have to wonder why it is still so prevalent. Thankfully, this behaviour can be fixed with training. However, if that doesn’t take, this is such a “deadly sin” in business, there is little else to do except remove that toxic tendril from your garden, so to speak. Conversely, if you and your senior managers are making decisions about your stores without spending any time on the shopfloor among your people, you have no clue what is really going on. Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci didn’t turn his company’s fortunes around by sitting in his ivory tower. Be approachable, be trusting, be firm and consistent, but above all, be involved. 3. Ego Leaders never take credit when things go well and accept responsibility when they go poorly; such is the nature of leadership. Ego is a symptom of narcissism, and no-one has ever blossomed under a narcissist. If you want a culture based on cruelty, selfishness, deceit and self-interest, go right ahead. But let it be known, none of my respected industry colleagues would consider placing a talented candidate in such a business. When this “sin” becomes evident, you need to analyse what happened and prevent it from happening again, and retrain the offender. 4. Delusion The crew of an old sailing ship knew exactly when the tides, winds and weather were against them. If their captain didn’t come up from below and order immediate action, they would all be in peril. Vocationally, this analogy fits perfectly: your people will usually know something is wrong before you do. Even in cases where they don’t, denying or underplaying it is the surest way to show them that you are dangerously clueless or that you don’t trust them, or care about them. Abandon ship! Be positive but objective about problems and include your people in finding the answer. If you have a healthy company culture, your people will rally – if not only for you, for their own survival. 5. Inaction At its worst, this is the double-down flipside of delusion. If delusion is a refusal to face problems, inaction is knowing that something is wrong and doing nothing about it. The root cause of this behaviour could be anxiety or apathy. Regardless, both should ring alarm bells. For example, if you suspect you have a toxic culture in your leadership team, but you rationalise that doing something about it might be too risky or troublesome, then you are guilty of inaction. Inaction also extends to resisting innovation and sticking to outdated working modes because it’s what you are comfortable with and what you know. There is no denying it takes extraordinary energy to modernise a business, but your other option is a slow death rattle. 6. Underestimation Never underestimate the power your customers have to change the fortunes of your business, and never underestimate the power your people have to change the performance of your business. If you forget for one second why you are in retail, you are done for. Find a job in finance. Retail is an exhilarating profession that it is about enabling and inspiring your people to delight others – it’s all about your people. If you don’t give your people the autonomy, authority and accountability to perform their jobs effectively, you will never know what they are capable of. Worse, if they do not feel that their potential is being realised or respected, they won’t stick around. As Richard Branson once said, “There is no better salesperson than someone who loves their job.” 7. Reactivism You cannot be everything to everyone, nor should you try to be. The market is brimming with technological advances, innovation and disruption; there is no way around it, but there is a way through it and it is not by latching onto “the next big thing”. You need an understanding first of the current state of your existing “things”. Focus on what you are doing as a leader, what your company is doing as a business, what you are known for and how your people are performing as teams and as individuals. A business in good cultural shape with an in-tune leader is a business in a position to act, not react. Such a business will usually be the one delivering the next big thing, not reacting to it. Richard Wynn is managing director, ANZ – Talent Solutions at Compono.