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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Taking Your Business to the Gym – Recognising Decision Overload

The activity that most business owners find the most difficult is managing staff in particular delegating responsibility.  Firstly owners need to understand that the most if not all their staff see working for a living as a way of earning a living at not as most business owners see it as a calling. They are not going to work long hours of overtime for nothing or commit wholly to a business in which they don’t have a stake; nonetheless they have skills which are often overlooked by Owners. It is also fair to say at this point that most independent businesses owners are not professional managers and have no experience of managing people.
A typical scenario is asking your staff to undertake a task and then deciding that they’re not doing the way you’d do it and either take it back entirely or get so involved with it that the staff member feels like you now own it.  If this happens regularly then you the business owner are making the situation work by inadvertently training his staff to recognise that he is the solution to any problem. After all why make a decision on something that the boss may disagree with – better, don’t make a decision at all and pass it back to the boss. The result, the business owner gets more overloaded and ends up making decisions on all sorts of matters in which the business owner shouldn’t be involved. The result is increasing frustration on behalf of the owner who’s under pressure and now on a shorter fuse leading to more reinforcement to the staff that their best course of action is to leave it to the boss diverting yet more decisions and creating a paralysis in the business. This is what I call the decision overload condition, where simply the business owner becomes so swamped by the amount of decisions and tasks he has to complete that it stops the business in its tracks.  
This condition is surprisingly common in owner managed businesses, and is often allowed to develop because owners are interested in progressing the business, well naturally and that because when they started they did everything they lose the understanding of the relationship between the job or activity and the market price for a person doing that job. By way of an example I was with a company owner who insisted on doing the route planning for his collection vehicles, his argument was that his staff couldn’t do it as well as he did.   My response was to ask him would he pay somebody a salary similar to his (it was high five figures) to run route planning.
 “Don’t be silly” he said “of course not I’d only pay about £25,000.”
“Then why” I asked “are you insisting on doing that job when you pay yourself almost 4 times the going rate. Doesn’t that mean your expectations are based on someone massively over qualified for the job at hand? Its no wonder you’re so overworked, what other jobs do you do that your over-qualified for?
You know I could almost hear the clank as the penny dropped.
Like an addiction, acceptance is the first step to a cure, but this is the subject of another article.

Exigent Consulting specialises in providing Business Turnaround, Sales, Marketing and Mentoring to the Small and Medium Business. We help Business Owners improve the profit performance of their business.

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