The dangers of feel-good management
Loop North News

Howard Tullman
A lot of companies fret about perks like allowing employees to bring their dogs to work. Maybe they should worry more about whether employees are bringing their A game to work.

19-Jan-22 – One of the biggest issues that large and complex businesses are experiencing as they try to promulgate company-wide post-COVID policies is that the lives, behaviors, expectations and working conditions of all of their employees aren’t remotely the same.

Folks in the factory aren’t focused on bringing Fido to work because they’ve got much bigger fish to fry. White collar workers want four-day, flexible work weeks, long weekends, and raises for no good reason. Anyone under 35 – especially in tech – wants it all, as well as a special engraved invitation to return.

One-size solutions never did fit everyone, and today, with increasingly dispersed and diverse workforces, the challenges are more complicated than ever. This is a growing problem that’s not going to get any easier or go away any time soon.

For entrepreneurs with newer and smaller businesses, it’s actually just as much a problem – maybe even more of one – because much of the current conventional wisdom, along with the gratuitous personnel advice being so freely handed out by various “experts,” is likely to make their lives even tougher.

Lightfield Studios

People with safe and secure jobs in corporate America love to lecture the rest of us. They’re charter members in the “do as I say, not as I do” school since they’ve never worked for themselves or spent a single day in the trenches.

A word of warning from someone who’s been there: Never take advice from anyone who doesn’t have to live with the consequences.

Consultants, advisors, academics, and authors all fall into this bucket. They get a free pass, offer weekly doses of touchy-feely instructions, are happy to spend your company’s money for you, but, at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to clean up the messes their mixed and simplistic messages make and explain to your team over and over that what might seem like smart and obvious solutions are rarely well-suited to startups. In tough times like these, new businesses need to be fully focused on the need to have elements for success, not the nice to have fantasies describing a world that we’ll probably never see.

They’re talking to your team about flying to new heights of equity, diversity, accountability, and inclusion when the core message most often needs to be that we’re going to walk before we run and re-focus on fundamentals.

One of my favorite recent barrages of this kind of BS has been the whole series of articles reminding employers of just how important it was to make sure that every employee takes every last bit of the vacation time they are entitled to. I’m sure mental health is an important goal in the grown-up world, but when you’re barely making ends meet and you’re constantly down a bunch of critical workers and looking to hire more, it’s much more important to have all hands on deck and a few ringers in reserve to make sure that you can get the day-to-day business done and don’t leave your customers and clients in the lurch.

Sleep is still mainly for sissies, vacations are for vagrants, and tomorrow is always the best time for an entrepreneur to relax and, of course, tomorrow never comes.

And if the glut of free and useless advice wasn’t enough of an impediment in the midst of a pandemic, and likely to confuse and defocus too many members of your team, the fact that your team is still largely scattered to the four winds and the economy can’t seem to consistently get started again just make things even worse.

Creating, building, and maintaining your company’s culture and a viable work ethic is hard enough in a normal economy. The degree of difficulty goes off the charts when most of your people – including newbies who’ve never been to the office – are still working from home and they’re all reading blog posts and articles about: (a) how desperate employers are to find, hire, and overpay talented workers; (b) companies that are providing special vans and shuttles to encourage their workers to come back so they don’t have to worry about taking public transportation; (c) not having to work for bosses who are jerks; and (d) booming businesses where everyone gets a vote on everything.

Democracy in our political system – especially these days – needs to be aggressively defended by anyone and everyone with a brain, but democracy in every business and every meeting is a fantasy that will quickly paralyze and eventually kill your company. The idea that every idea is a great one is just as stupid as the concept of giving every kid a trophy, so their feelings won’t be hurt. Building a business is always about facing facts and – in the real world – the facts don’t care about anyone’s feelings, just their results.

...democracy in every business and every meeting is a fantasy that will quickly paralyze and eventually kill your company. The idea that every idea is a great one is just as stupid as the concept of giving every kid a trophy, so their feelings won’t be hurt.

In fact, now’s probably a pretty good time to offer your team a little dose of reality to offset the overwhelming flow of warm and fuzzy findings from the “feelings” philosophers.

You may be short on people overall, but it’s even more short-sighted to keep folks around who aren’t getting the job done. Taking the time to set out your approach, your expectations, and the kind of team you’re building will help separate your hard-core keepers from the half-hearted hangers-on who are totally deluded by all the great resignation videos on Tik-Tok and just waiting for a better offer.

Building a new business from the bottom up isn’t that much fun these days – it’s tough, grinding, hard daily work.

The end goal isn’t enjoyment or entertainment. The end goal is the pride and satisfaction that comes from making a difference and accomplishing something of value and importance for yourself, your team, and others as well.

Halfpoint

People desperately looking for a pleasant experience and much appreciation are most likely to end up at the bottom of the pile.

The best entrepreneurs take for granted that much of what they put into the startup process will be thankless, but they still keep moving forward and they never lose hope. Not because hope is a strategy – at best, it’s a salve – but because leaders are everyday dealers in hope even if these days the main hope for many of us is that the feelings that we’re presently feeling won’t last forever.

As that great rock philosopher Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine always sang about the demons and ghouls: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.“ So, Shake it Out.

• Contact Howard Tullman at h@g2t3v.com

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