By Chuck Violand
August 26, 2019
Being told by a doctor that you have an enlarged heart is not great news, and the consequences can be severe, despite the symptoms not always being easy to detect. The remedies to address the condition can include surgery, medication, and significant lifestyle changes.
There’s a corresponding enlarged hearts condition that affects many small business owners. While no surgery or medication can improve its condition, with constant monitoring and some changes to your management style it can be controlled.
Fortunately, the consequences of an enlarged management heart are not fatal to the owner, but they can pose serious health risks to the business if not addressed.
Three decades of working with small business owners has shown me that most owners are caring people who want to be liked by others. This caring nature extends to those they hire in their businesses, as many owners want to play a role in improving people’s lives through employment in their company. This is a noble motive, but it can get in the way of a company’s growth.
Occasionally, our hiring decisions are based more on improving the candidate’s life than they are on the candidate having the necessary skills and drive to perform the job needing done or to contribute to the company’s growth. The fallout from these hiring decisions becomes painful when the people we hired (often family members and friends) aren’t performing the way we expected or meeting what the company needs. Naturally, this leads to some very uncomfortable conversations and decisions.
Owning a business means having to make lots of decisions—some easy and some not; some we’re prepared to make and some we aren’t. It’s not uncommon for an owner to avoid the confrontations that invariably arise in making some of the tough calls. As a result, we frequently “kick the can down the road” on these decisions, thinking to address them at some later date.
I’ve written extensively about this tendency toward conflict avoidance in business owners. I call it Hiding Out. It’s a characteristic common to many entrepreneurs and, while it might feel comfortable in the short term, it can cause long-term damage to our businesses by leading to confusion and misunderstandings with our people, not to mention the critical decisions that go unmade.
The first step in addressing an enlarged management heart is to recognize that being a business owner places us in a high-risk category of having one.
Next is to recognize some of the symptoms that lead to the condition, such as fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, or a lack of control.
Ask a friend, a trusted associate, or an advisor for help in evaluating the plusses and minuses involved in decisions you’re struggling with, whether they involve money, people, or just everyday business.
Having an enlarged management heart doesn’t have to be an unfavorable condition. By learning to manage the symptoms and outcomes, we can enjoy its benefits while mitigating the risks.