By Chuck Violand

July 6, 2015

A question I’m sometimes asked is: “How do I know if I’m hiding out?” The visible symptoms are usually pretty easy to spot. I mentioned a few of them in Part I of this series when I talked about financial reports: confused expressions on people’s faces, making excuses for not having them, or denying that they’re important in the first place.

Other symptoms can be even more conspicuous, like closing the door to your office to avoid having to deal with people or business issues, not getting back to an irate customer for fear of getting yelled at, or leaving important business documents unattended or buried under piles of papers on your desk.

Other symptoms of hiding out can be a little harder to identify.

We major in minor things. When we want to avoid making tough decisions or addressing uncomfortable issues, it’s easy to wrap ourselves up in the secure feeling of being busy, even if our busyness mostly involves mundane tasks that bring little value to our companies or our customers.

We engage in analysis paralysis. Don’t confuse this with paying attention to the details or doing your due diligence before making a decision. Taking care of details and researching potential hazards can be critical to success. Analysis paralysis involves endlessly obsessing over inconsequential details that will not measurably contribute to the value of a decision. It just lets us delay making one.

We fail to measure performance. I’m talking about front-line performance as it relates to every area of your business: administration and accounting, sales and marketing, operations, employee turnover and retention, even figuring the true cost of producing your product or delivering your service. You won’t stay in business long if you’re losing money on everything you produce while deluding yourself into thinking that you’ll make it up in volume.

We default to familiar activities. Sometimes the growth of our companies forces us into positions we’re either ill-prepared to perform or we’re just not comfortable doing. To avoid this, we occasionally resort to performing jobs or engaging in activities with which we’re more familiar and comfortable. Sometimes this even includes duplicating work we’ve hired, and are paying, someone else to perform. But it lets us hide out from the newer responsibilities that we’re trying to avoid.

We avoid confrontation. Many entrepreneurs are confrontation avoiders. We like doing nice things for people and we want people to like us, so we avoid being confrontational. Frequently, this hurts our companies and sometimes even the people we were trying to avoid hurting. We become experts at wrapping highly emotional issues up in tight little packages and keeping them hidden where we think we don’t have to deal with them. Most of the time, though, these issues continue to eat away at us, gradually eroding relationships and businesses.

As this series continues, I’ll discuss some of the fundamental causes that underlie these symptoms of hiding out.