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Ken Keller: You must always know your role

Brain Food For Business Owners

Posted: May 6, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 6, 2012 2:00 a.m.

It isn’t the prospect that kills the spirit of the sales team. It isn’t the lack of trying that stops the forward progress of a project. It isn’t the size of the raise that kills the initiative of an engaged employee.

What impacts these things and grinds organizations to a halt is that the battle in many companies has shifted from outside to inside.

As the cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy … and he is us.”

Companies often shoot themselves in the foot when they should be shooting at the competition.

If every organization took half the energy  spent on infighting and instead used that on the competition, there is no limit to what could be accomplished.

Imagine a more profitable company, with stronger cash flow, fewer employee issues, a sustainable competitive advantage, more clients, fewer client issues and a better reputation.

Instead, organizations choose to underperform. How? A majority of energy is spent fighting about which idea, priority, project or department is more important.

The client, the source of revenue, never comes up.

The joke goes that one day, the different department heads of a company were meeting and started arguing to see who should be in charge.

The head of sales said, “I do all the selling and bring in all the revenue, so I’m the most important and I should be in charge.”

The accounting department leader said, “I see everything, I count everything and I report every penny so the rest of you know where we are profit-wise, so I’m the most important and I should be in charge.”

The head of service said, “Without me, we wouldn’t be able to serve any client. You can’t pick anything up, deliver or set up any customers without me. You can sell it, sales, and you can invoice and collect it, accounting, but I’m the most important and I should be in charge.”

The marketing leader said, “Without me, we wouldn’t be advertising to make the phone ring, so sales would not have any prospects, we wouldn’t need the service department and there would no one to hire, terminate or discipline. I’m the most important and I should be in charge.”

Just then the janitor stepped into the meeting room, where he quickly got the drift of the conversation and boldly said: “I think I should be in charge.”

Everyone laughed out loud, and the head of sales replied, “You?! You don’t do anything! You’re not as important as we are, surely! You can’t be in charge!”

The janitor was humiliated and refused to do his job. After just a day, trash was piling up, the windows became dirty, the restrooms had not been cleaned, the floors had not been vacuumed, the office kitchen was filthy and the level of cooperation, never high, had stretched people to the point where no one was even civil to one another.

After just three days, the leaders met and all agreed that they couldn’t take it anymore and they fired the janitor on the spot.

What’s moral of the story? There are five:

1. Too many people spent a lot of unproductive time in useless meetings.

2. Some people think they are qualified to lead when they are clearly not.

3. Sometimes people can get away with not doing their job, but not always.

4. Leaders often delay taking action when prompt action is required.

5. Clients are often an afterthought of far too many employees and leaders when they should be the top priority of everyone.

The battle is to be waged against the competition, not each other.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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