By Chuck Violand

August 17, 2015

Just as the symptoms and underlying causes of hiding out can be both highly visible and more subtle, so are the consequences that hiding out can produce.

Other behaviors get covered up. At its core, hiding out means that we’re avoiding the responsibilities that go along with being in a leadership position in our businesses. Some of these responsibilities include being accountable to others and holding other people accountable as well. When we hide out, it sends the message that this is the way things are done in our companies.

Establishing and maintaining focus on our company’s vision is another behavior that gets covered up. If we’ve taken the time to establish a vision for our businesses, yet we hide out from making tough decisions or measuring our progress toward that vision, then we’ll constantly struggle to achieve it. This results in our people being less efficient because they’re uncertain about where the company is headed, what their roles are in getting there, and how committed the company leadership is to accomplishing the vision.

Our businesses operate in the dark. As I mentioned in Part I of this series, hiding out from measuring important KPIs is like driving a car with the gauges on the dashboard hidden. With no solid data on which to base our decisions, we’re forced to rely only on our intuition. “I think I’m driving within the speed limit.” “I think I have enough gas in the tank.” “I think I still have oil in the engine and it’s not overheating.” Without seeing the gauges we can’t be sure, and we run the risk of long-term damage to our car.

It’s exactly the same with our businesses. Failing to measure important metrics puts us at enormous risk of doing long-term damage to our companies or unknowingly sending them into a tailspin.

We establish a culture of poor performance. Nobody starts their businesses with the intention of doing mediocre work. Mediocre performance doesn’t knock on your door one day and announce itself by decreeing, “From this day forward, we shall be known as the mediocre company by virtue of the subpar standards by which we operate!” Instead, mediocrity creeps in, almost imperceptibly, through the gaps around our policies and processes until it becomes part of the corporate air we breathe. It settles in a little deeper with every metric we fail to measure, with every conversation we avoid, and with every decision we delay until mediocrity becomes part of our company culture.

Companies that perform mediocre work don’t usually do so because they have second-rate equipment or systems. They perform mediocre work because their leadership, and by extension everybody else in the company, accepts mediocre performance.

Customers don’t call and complain when we do mediocre work; they just don’t call back. So, when we have trouble keeping our current customers or attracting new ones, we blame our equipment, or we blame our customers, or we blame our employees. What we should do is take a deeper look at some of the compromises we’ve been making or the decisions we’ve been avoiding that have led to this point.

As this series continues, I’ll offer strategies you can use to address hiding out.