E-News - For Leaders Only

Jerry Jr. took over his business from his dad, Jerry Sr., about ten years ago. Within the first twenty-four months, he made a few drastic but necessary changes. He updated the logo and company software, as well as arranged for a fleet of new trucks. Jerry Jr. also made the insightful decisions to hire a new and very capable salesperson, and he saw the value in beginning an advertising program. Over the years, he accomplished much more, such as improving inventory control, going green by converting to mostly paperless, and requiring all service technicians to drive their trucks home and report to their first calls before coming in to the office. All these systems and protocols proved to be beneficial to the company, resulting in improved performance and job satisfaction and increases in sales. Unfortunately, over the last few years, sales decreased drastically, and Jerry Sr.’s namesake experienced the worst thing any leader can experience: Leader Excuse Syndrome Symptoms (L.E.S.S.).

When L.E.S.S. takes place, less growth takes place! Jerry began blaming his sales team for declining profits, his service department for low ticket prices, his customer service team for not answering phones correctly, his installers for taking too long, and even his accountant for not being able to properly balance the books. Ultimately, Jerry demanded change from everyone except the man who looked back at him in the mirror. He had a whole plethora of excuses as to why his business was no longer growing, but he never saw himself as part of the problem.

In a meeting of his managers and key people, Jerry only addressed their issues and never took responsibility for any of his own. In fact, he was so aggravated that he had the nerve to quip, “I don’t want to change! I want all of you to change.” The team members just looked at one another till one bravely got up and walked out because she’d had enough.

It’s very obvious that Jerry had a problem, and in hindsight, we can observe that he was also the root cause of the majority of his company’s problems. Why and how? Because while Jerry Jr.’s influence and what he expected of his staff were important, what was far more important was what he allowed and permitted on his watch. Let me say that again: What Jerry allowed or permitted caused most of the symptoms he was forced to face:

  1. One manager, who had been with the company for years, failed to perform well and caused many to leave, but Jerry didn’t want the hassle of finding and bringing in someone new, so he just refused to see how big the problem really was.
  2. Most new employees were not given a copy of the company policy manual, and this resulted in poor service, which was an unpleasant surprise to long-term, formerly loyal customers. Jerry wasn’t proactive enough to be aware of this, even after the individual responsible for distributing the policies left months ago and was replaced with someone who was not trained properly.
  3. Many customers were upset because of delayed service, due, in part, to the fact that no one bothered to give official permission for overtime, which was Jerry Jr.’s responsibility.
  4. While focusing on ushering in the new ideas and company values, Jerry Jr. lost sight of many of Jerry Sr.’s old, traditional ones, such as promptness, clean trucks, and taking care of employees. This gradual loosening of the reins in these important areas caused many issues, both internal and external.

When leaders allow unproductive actions or wrong thinking to go on too long, they are asking for problems. Like some terrible virus, these fester over time, often with a snowball effect, and they are very hard to reverse when permitted to persist. If you are a leader infected with L.E.S.S., beware! Your business will suffer, and it may die. You’ll see sales plummet, morale decline, and customers leave, but these disasters won’t happen overnight; it’ll be a slow fade, per se, till you wake up one day and realize that things have gone too far, and you now expect everyone else to change!

The good news is that you can prevent these symptoms from happening by staying on top of things. Also, being proactive and communicating better with managers and key people will help you be more efficient and find out from the bottom up if protocol is still being followed.

Carry On!

Greg McAfee
Greg McAfee
HVAC Business Coach