February 12, 2013

Ignoring the Problem won’t make it Go Away

Doug Lawrence

Ostrich Syndrome





I thought using the 2 x 4 terminology two weeks in a row likely wasn’t what you would want to hear. Having said that, it is appropriate this week as well!

I have heard this past week more concern about employees becoming disengaged in the work place. I have heard more comments around the whole succession planning process and the challenge of finding potential successors for small to medium sized business – a large percentage of which are family owned. I hear continued dialogue around the whole labor market and don’t see much more than that taking place – we are talking and doing nothing.

It was not all disheartening last week. I was fortunate and honored on the other hand to be part of a day long mentorship conference put on by an awesome person who works in the health sector. The commitment to mentoring and a mentoring culture was very evident. We also facilitated one of our Level 1 Mentor training courses and I was energized by the folks that were part of that day of learning and developing. To have people realize the “power of mentoring” and that it takes work to do it effectively was humbling to say the least.

The employee disengagement topic is an interesting one as we seem to want to point fingers at the employee. It actually is an organizational culture thing. It can even spill over and trust me it does into the succession planning/development space. If family members begin to become disengaged because of what is going on or perhaps not going on in the company then they will unplug and move on. What is even scarier is that there appears to be a fair amount of movement at the senior levels in organizations. Once they decide to move on they begin to unplug very early and that has a huge impact on the rest of the organization. Employees see the leaders becoming disengaged and decide that must be the acceptable norm and they too follow suit. I think we have stated all of this before – hence it must be 2 x 4 time again. Establishing a positive culture supported with mentoring is a means to create a learning and development organization. If you can create that you will have created an environment that most will not want to leave.

The challenges with finding successors in family owned businesses will continue to be a challenge until we understand the needs of our future leaders. They have a lot of great skills and they are not and will not run the company like you did. Support them, mentor them (or get help if you can’t) but give them the chance to make a difference and they will. What happens if you don’t? Would the last person out of the office building turn out the lights!

We have talent shortages – most definitely in the skilled trades and we have similar shortages in the leadership area. I don’t see a lot of movement on both fronts and wonder if we need some persuasion. We do have solutions in our backyard and it will take some development time – but the longer we wait the bigger the shortage and more pronounced the challenges will be.

That poor ostrich with its head buried in the sand is becoming a popular image for me. I hope that it is not reflective of your organization. There are things that you can do. Embrace the “power of mentoring” and build that learning and development culture. After all, “can you afford not to?”

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