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Edition 235 – Taking Control

In over 30 plus years of working with the owners, managers and employees of family businesses, as well as employing my own staff, I’ve observed there is a fundamental difference between people in terms of their outlook and whether or not they control their own lives.

There are people that we come across that are downtrodden. Every day is a slog. Elements of “woe is me” pepper their conversations. They drag their feet around. Most things (everything?) is always someone else’s fault. If it is their fault, it’s their luck that’s at fault. Often, these are the people who don’t believe they control their own life.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those that are positive. Every day is a new beginning and they greet it like your dog does you when you arrive home from work. They consider “what’s next” in terms of what they’re looking to achieve. There is a spring in their step most of the time. These are the types that do believe they control their life.

For most of us, we don’t sit at the extremes, but somewhere in the middle. 

The reason this topic raises it’s head this week is due to the fact that, for a number of the family businesses that I work with, where they are having issues with particular employees right now, it relates to the perceived lack of control in some (or a wider) element of their employee’s lives.

In one family business, an employee, whose spouse was not supportive with their young children and travelled away a lot for work, was making mistakes at work. When I say mistakes, I don’t mean of the “Slipping Standards” variety that we covered recently (Edition 233 – Wednesday 29th July, 2020). I mean fundamental errors that either:

  1. Made the business look unprofessional; or
  2. Put the business at risk.

Tasks weren’t being completed on time and, at times, deadlines were continually pushed out for special projects to be completed. It seemed to be that every week, there was another excuse, even though additional resources and support were provided to the individual by the family business owner. From the outside looking in, an inability to control what was happening in their family life was impacting the work performance of this individual.

In a second family business, the employee complained about not being made aware of systems changes or in being properly trained in new equipment. Yet, this individual actually helped to develop some of the new systems AND had been trained by a third party, at the employer’s expense, on the new equipment.

In terms of this second employee, the answer was simple. They didn’t want their work role to change. The owners of this family business were introducing new, higher standards of customer care and service delivery that meant the individual was offered multiple opportunities to upskill, at the cost of the business. The employee engaged in “Patch Preservation” (Edition 13 – Wednesday 13th April, 2016) and in military grade subterfuge. In their own mind, they couldn’t control their future – because they didn’t want it to look any different to what the present represented.

In both of these situations, when the individuals were challenged as to their issues, unrealistic behaviour took place. Each of them stormed out of meetings that were convened in a friendly and collaborative matter, including one who had said on multiple occasions they not only welcomed feedback, but took it on board constructively. It’s still hard for me to fathom how leaving the premises and slamming the front door shut behind them was constructive.

So, this week, listen out to the words that your people are using. Is their language the type that is almost an admission of defeat in their lives? Do they exhibit body language and other non verbal indicators that suggest that they don’t control their lives. If so, these people may yet become your next problems.

Beware of your thoughts, they become your words.
Beware of your words, they become your actions.
Beware of your actions, they become your habits.
Beware of your habits, they become your character.
Beware of your character, it becomes your destiny.“

Attributed to various – including Mahatma Gandhi & Margaret Thatcher.