A client of mine has a business that’s grown in four years from the couch of her living room and three customers to 40 clients and millions in revenue. Can you say rapid expansion? Now this CEO/owner has more problems to solve than she has time and energy (or so she thinks).

Too often, success can lead to feelings of overwhelm, panic, and contempt. “Why don’t employees see things the way I do?” “Why isn’t the office furniture where it belongs?” “Why don’t we have enough electrical outlets?” “Why isn’t the Web site complete?” “Why do I have to do everything?” and “Where is my coffee?”

Suddenly, the people you hired and who helped you become successful no longer seem capable. They aren’t getting things done the way you want. You’re not satisfied, and you don’t feel confident they can deal with clients. You don’t’ want to turn down new business, but you’re not sure your staff can support the strategies in your brain.

The strategies in your brain? Maybe you’ve hit upon something.

You’re upset because employees are not doing things your way, and because you can’t possibly get everything done on the list that’s in your brain. Did you somehow forget your employees aren’t mind readers, or that no one has the same vested stake in the business as you do because it’s your business?

You may think you’re communicating your expectations, desires, and outcomes with each outburst and by micromanaging, but here’s what’s really happening:

  1. People hear about 25% of your message when you deliver it the first time (and you don’t know which 25%).
  2. Because you’ve been a bear at work, when your number comes up on caller id, or you send an email, or you walk down the hall, employees think, “Crap! What did I do wrong this time?” or “Now what am I going to have do?”

You have created an environment of resistance, a workplace filled with opposing forces instead of forces that embrace people, ideas, and the freedom to fail. For many, it’s business as usual!
Let’s look at the dynamics of such an environment:

  1. FEAR: People forced into defensive mode won’t care what you say. They’ll only worry about surviving the day, hoping tomorrow will be better. Within three months, they’ll be looking for other places to work.
  2. RESENTMENT: People you put on their heels will resent your ideas. They’ll find holes in whatever you propose.
  3. EGO: People tired of resenting will begin to defy. They’ll find good excuses not to collaborate or fulfill your requests: “I can’t do that. I have to work on that client presentation you gave me yesterday.”
  4. SABOTAGE: Eventually, people will begin to sabotage. They’ll take more days off than usual or will work only “9-to-5.” Even worse, they’ll use their “extra” time off to seek alternate employment.

A poor relationship with a boss is the top reason people voluntarily leave their jobs.

Look in the mirror. We are human beings, not perfect robots. Ask, “What’s different about ME today from when I wasn’t so frustrated?”

Once you’re honest with yourself, you have a fighting chance to win back the favor of your employees.

  1. Every chance you can, thank employees for their efforts, whether good/bad or right/wrong. If the results are not what you expected, thank them anyway, apologize for not being clear, and then tell them again what you want.
  2. If you were rude, admit you were wrong, apologize, and move on. Don’t belabor the point. Whatever you do, don’t say, “It won’t happen again.”

People want to do the best they can, but they don’t always know how to access their genius. As owner/CEO, you hired your team because you saw something in them—something beyond just experience and education. Your job is to get your team to use their strengths and to want to participate in your success as much as you do. What’s the key? YOU must be the first to modify your behavior.

It’s your choice…


(Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary helping his clients get their companies “Unstuck!” He guides organizations through cultural shifts, getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. He is a leading consultant, speaker, coach, and author. He can be reached via email: stuart@pma-co.com)