We all have blind spots -- things you don't see despite your best intentions to observe the world changing around you. In business, these can quickly take you off the growth track, even as you work harder and harder.
In my role as startup and small business advisor, it's my job to help you see more clearly, and keep ahead of the curve. I've been there myself, so I have felt the pain.
The list of common blind spots is a long one, so I was surprised to see many I recognized in a new book, The Road to Excellence, by David Mattson. As CEO of the largest business training organization in the world, he is well-positioned to not only see the blind spots, but also provide some real guidance on how to avoid them.
Here is my priority list of key ones to avoid:
1. Not sharing your vision with those tasked with implementing it.
Especially in small organizations, it's easy for you to assume that everyone had heard and understands the business direction and goals. A while back, I was embarrassed to get some feedback from my own small organization on "why doesn't anyone ever tell us the priorities here?"
2. Not tying employee personal goals to business goals.
Human beings always have been and always will be driven to improve their own personal situation ahead of improving your business.
If you own the business, your business goals are personal. For team members, it's your challenge to map these goals to each individual on your team.
3. Allowing coaching to degenerate into fixing their problems.
Coaching is the art and science of helping team members learn how to fix their own challenges, rather than you being critical or just jumping in to do the job. If you are not spending between 35 and 40 percent of your time coaching, your team and your business are unlikely to grow.
4. Not building and modeling a culture of accountability.
Too many entrepreneurs I know feel they have to know all the answers, and are quick with excuses for problems.
It takes courage to show culpability, and always be accountable for whatever happens. Your team will respond to your actions -- take the lead on being always accountable.
5. Allowing hiring to slip to the bottom of your priority list.
The acquisition of talent must be a continuous and structured process. I have often been too busy with daily crises to even think about a looming need in the organization. When that need is the crisis, it's easy to use gut feel for a quick close. Bad hires are a huge cost to any organization.
6. Not capturing and institutionalizing best practices.
When your business is growing, you must document what works and what top performers do to stay ahead.
Otherwise, that "tribal knowledge" walks out the door when key employees move on, and new team members have to continually re-invent the wheel. Relearning does not scale well.
7. Not focusing on lead generation and prospecting.
Another common blind spot I see in most business owners is that they focus on the wrong end of the funnel -- lagging indicators like closing sales. That initial growth surge of a new startup quickly dries up, and the focus must be on widening the funnel, new marketing, and new channels.
8. Allowing methodologies and systems to stagnate.
Leaders need to be sure there is a process in place for everyone, and find a way to confirm that these processes are up-to-date. Again the key is to be proactive, asking each team to come to you once a quarter with recommendations for systems improvements, new metrics, and new tools required.
9. Not initiating organizational changes proactively.
Organizational changes must happen in every business to facilitate growth, and adapt to a changing market.
Yet, in my experience, most organizational changes don't happen until there is a crisis. Don't allow this blind spot to develop - schedule reviews regularly and proactively plan for changes.
10. Not creating a good onboarding experience for new hires.
In the throes of growth, I most often see the "hire and forget" school of onboarding for new team members. New hires need training, clear examples of excellence, coaching, and measurable targets during those first critical weeks on the job. A "self-starter" culture is not a growth culture.
In my experience, blind spots are the symptoms of an impending downward spiral for your business. If you can relate to more than a couple of these blind spots, you need to do something today, or your long-term survival as a business is in jeopardy.
The road to excellence is not the path of least resistance. It starts with planning and a commitment to continuous improvement.