6 Ways to Change a Business Culture: Pt. 2 — Get Out of the Way

One morning I woke up and realized that I was not happy with my job. I had great staff and great clients, but I was miserable. I have always had a running promise with myself that if I was not happy with my job, I would quit and get a new one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that because I was the CEO and owner of the company, and I had staff that were counting on me.

I contacted one of my business consultants and told him about the situation. He counseled me to hire an HR consultant. This didn’t make any sense to me because I didn’t have any problems with my staff. I decided to take his advice and hire one, though. This transition eventually led me to the CEO mentoring program, Vistage, which we talk about in other articles.

Foundation

One of the first suggestions the HR consultant recommended was to make an Org Chart. An Org Chart is an organizational tool that allows people to see the flow of a company, roles of staff, and many other aspects of a company’s work-flow. By displaying this in a visual format, one can see what is effective and where there are holes in an organization. Once again, I was confused by this suggestion — at the time there were only 15 of us in the company, and I felt that I knew exactly what was going on and who was in charge of what at all times. 

I did it anyways, and it became one of the best decisions for my company. Not only did it allow me to understand much more clearly what was happening in the company and what everyone’s assignments were, it also allowed me to communicate better with my staff, plan for future roles, and identify deficiencies. In addition, it allowed my staff and me to grow and become even more effective than before.

The second suggestion from the HR consultant was to create a RACI document, RACI being an acronym for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. This document’s purpose is to improve communication within a collaborative team. Every person within the team should be assigned a role from the acronym RACI. “Understanding Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI Matrix)” by Cara Doglione provides a simple example for understanding how this works:

“John is developing software feature X that will be integrated with software feature Y – developed by Jess. Mike is the project manager and Irina is in marketing. For feature X, John is responsible, Mike is accountable, and Jess needs to be consulted with as her feature will integrate with John’s. Lastly, Irina simply needs to be informed when the task is complete.”

Both the Org Chart and the RACI document began to organize the company in a way so that I was able to more fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of my staff as a whole and of each individual.

These two documents stimulated new goals for me and created a path to focus my energy. This focus rejuvenated me, therefore bringing new energy to the company.

Shadow Leadership

Once I had the organization in place, the HR consultant gave me one my most difficult challenges: to shut my mouth when my employees are trying to accomplish tasks.

I fought this principle at first because my thinking was such: I had built this company from the bottom up, I knew more about the application than anyone else, and I knew exactly what to do because I had done it before. Why would I shut my mouth and not tell my staff exactly what they needed to do?

She told me very clearly that I was stifling my staff. She explained that I was taking away their ability to contribute effectively by not allowing them to go through their own processes to reach conclusions, no matter how quickly or slowly that process may be, nor how many steps it may take them. I had to become the type of boss that could give his staff a task and trust that they would accomplish the desired results, even though they may use a different process than I would have chosen to achieve those results. Once I did this, the results were marvelous.

Putting This Principle Into Practice

A few months after I learned the above principles, one of our clients wanted to install a way-finding application. I scheduled a meeting with two of my staff to explain the project, then shut my mouth and let them figure out the best way to accomplish the task. The direction of the conversation was not going where I desired within the first ten minutes. Still, I persisted in my resolution to shut my mouth, giving only a couple of guiding comments as was necessary, and, 45 minutes later, they reached the conclusion that I thought was best. It was amazing and eye-opening to see this kind of result and growth, both in myself and my staff.

I returned to my HR consultant and shared the experience with her. She was happy to hear my results, then finished explaining this principle to me: people must be allowed to work at their own pace. Some individuals can complete a task in 15 steps, while others may take three to complete the same task. Everyone thinks differently and has their own way of completing projects, and, as a boss, I have the responsibility of not getting in the way of that process so productivity can flourish.

This is a process.

Putting this into practice, like many principles discussed in our blog, is a learning process. It takes mental effort and active choice to implement this attitude and action, but the results are well worth the effort.


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