The Business Hostage – How did it happen??

Is it possible to have a hostage situation in business. Probably. It might be a big really important customer that makes you feel that way or the government or your own business.
The hostage situation I’m talking about is when you as the owner feel hostage to a member of your team. This is the situation where you have an employee that brings a lot of value to the business (usually through skill set or tenure) but has a hidden agenda, or does not fit in with the rest of the team, or perhaps who behavior makes your skin crawl. Yet you don’t feel you can do anything about them because they would leave a gaping hole in your business. There is always the fear around loss of revenue or profitability if you ‘rock the boat’.
How do you fix it?
Step one is to realize that the only person that can make you feel like a hostage is you. This situation is all about perspective. As soon as you feel like anyone has power of you they do. You always have options in every situation and this one is no different. The truth is, when this situation is rectified you will see your business grow in both efficiency and profitability
Have you ever tried to change someone’s attitude? After trying this several times myself I’ve decided eating sand is more fun. Changing someone’s attitude is one of the toughest things to do because it is outside of your control. Simply said, if they don’t want it to change then guess what … it won’t change. Trying to do so is also a huge drain on your energy … energy that could be more valuable used elsewhere.
OK, so you’ve got this employee whose attitude sucks and it’s affecting the rest of your team, so what do you do? There are 2 options:

  • Give them a good reason for it to change or
  • Help them to realize your business and them are not a good fit

While those 2 options might seem logical, they can be quite challenging to execute on. There are emotions and fears involved that prevent most owners from taking the necessary steps. I’d say this situation can be one of the bigger leadership challenges for small business owners.
Here the way I coach my clients through it:

  • Firstly you have to have a clear idea of the desired behavior. I coach my clients to document the ‘Rules of the Game’ (ROTG). What are the core values that you as a team choose to uphold and are willing to be held accountable to. If the expectations are not clear then it is very hard for someone to know if they are on track or not. It is a good idea to get your key players involved in this process to create buy in.
  • There must be agreement for accountability on the ROTG. So the ‘trouble person’ needs to agree this is the standard. If they don’t want to agree to that then it is time to take some more drastic action. Before making any rush moves here make sure you are aware on the labour laws in your country and always act within them. Long and the short is this person needs to go.
  • When the individual’s behavior is outside the ROTG, it must be addressed immediately. The conversation must be assertive and delivered from a point of respect. Your mindset needs to be “I’m helping this person to be a good fit for our company and their role. If they can come into line then they will excel in their position”
  • Keep this kind of pressure on. The driving force of the conversations is alignment with the culture of the business. The conversations may start to take the tone of “I’m not willing to compromise on the ROTG. You need to make a choice if this place is for you”.
  • The outcome of the process will be either a behavior shift or they will leave. The key is to keep the pressure on. And this process should not be a drawn out one. The degree of non compliant behavior will dictate the degree of pressure asserted.

Human behavior will only change when there is pressure. If the person receiving the pressure does not want to change they will find an environment that does not have pressure.
This process is not the most enjoyable part of leadership but can be the most rewarding. A huge part of leadership is to expect more from your people and continually be ‘raising the bar’, keeping positive pressure on them to improve. The process described above is simply an intense version of that positive pressure.
When you have a team of people who all share in the same core values and work to uphold them, you’ll start to see that small problems disappear and are replaced by pro-activity. Profitability will improve, sick days go down, customer satisfaction goes up, turnover is reduced and numerous other measure will all improve.
At the end of the day your business is your people. If you don’t have the people you want then you don’t have the business you want. And your customers are not getting the experience they deserve with drives down the value of your business.
So take control and have some fun!

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