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Cloaking the Truth: What I Wish I'd Known When My Business Launched

by Francie Dalton on September 30, 2009

Nope – Surprise!
Looking back at when I started my company, I wouldn’t have wanted to know how, or even whether, success was in my future. The launch period, with all its trials and tribulations, is an almost sacred period of time during which your heart and intellect are (or should be!) one with the business plan. It’s a time when you’re sorely tested, yet welcoming of the test; a time when you’re poised in mid air over the Grand Canyon (but it doesn’t feel like a mere metaphor – believe me!) yet focused with laser-like intensity on making it to solid ground.

Instead, what would have been most valuable to have known at launch took me 15 years to realize.

Realizing my complicity
During that time, despite repeated experiences that consistently led to the same result, I failed to recognize my complicity in those (undesired) outcomes. In fact, even after gaining cognitive awareness of my error, it took another couple of years to improve, and 21 years later post launch, it’s still a struggle.

I thought they would also want to develop & exploit.
I believed that my enthusiasm for helping staff learn and grow would in turn create enthusiasm in them for learning and growing. I believed my willingness to create opportunity for them would create desire in them to take those opportunities. I believed that the strengths I discerned in staff and acknowledged them for, were strengths they would want to develop and exploit.

Although good at recognizing talent -
I failed to wait for others to demonstrate they wanted to use or develop their talents.

Believe it or not, just because someone has a strength doesn’t necessarily mean s/he wants to deploy or develop that strength.

Maya Angelou’s words epitomize my point beautifully: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them… the first time”.

On numerous occasions over the past 21 years,
I invested months working to develop staff who had iteratively demonstrated the absence of a desire to grow. Instead of realizing and accepting their behavior as an indication of what was actually so, I assumed my approach was flawed, or that I just needed to keep trying and would eventually get through to them.

If my error resonates with you
-if you’re currently struggling – yet again – to get a staff person to realize, to understand, to stretch, to hunger, I encourage you to be wiser than I was. The old adage “Be slow to hire and quick to fire” is of particular importance for small business owners. Because when we make a bad hire, the impacts can be severe. While large organizations can absorb and recover from a bad hire almost seamlessly, the same is not true for smaller firms, in which a comparable event could cripple productivity for months.

Here’s just one example.
Five years ago I finally dismissed a poor performer who I had been encouraging and trying to develop for several years. My refusal to give up on her was costly. To this day I still feel waves of relief every time I think about the fact she is no longer here. Less frustration and fewer work-arounds have combined to make the quality of work life seem to soar as a result of her absence.

Be better than me.
Don’t let what you want to be true cloak what is actually the truth (or masquerade as being the way things are when indeed they are not). Calibrate the time and effort you invest in staff to the degree of demonstrated interest.

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Guest contributor Francie Dalton, CMC, is founder and president of Dalton Alliances, Inc. and author of the recently published book Versatility. Her Washington, DC based consultancy helps the C-Suite solve business nightmares. Francie equips clients to deal with what they didn’t see coming (and shows them there’s always another way to win!). She welcomes a chance to meet you via Twitter or on LinkedIn.

(Image Garden of Surprises by Ailatan, Creative Commons)

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