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No. 1 cause of business failure

It’s amazing how many different things get blamed for why businesses take a nosedive. Whether it’s the teams, products, marketing, sales, the banks or even in some cases I have heard companies blame their customers for their failure.

But more often than not, and especially in owner-operated business, the blame lies elsewhere. And usually, it lies with the people who are doing the most of the blaming, the leadership.

Bad leadership destroys engagement, raises stress levels, reduces morale and ultimately it leads to failures that can kill businesses.

Today I was reminded of just how true and how bad this can be when I was speaking to my good friend Dave. I was casually asking him how his job was going, and how things were working out with his new boss.

His response stunned me.

He said “I quit”.

I said “What? But you loved that job”.

He said “Yes I did, but the new boss has just sucked the life out of the place. Nothing we do is good enough, she shouts at people in the office for nor reasons, she’s intolerable in meetings and constantly places impossible demands on the entire team and I just can’t put up with any more of her BS. Although it pays well, it’s not enough to put up with that day in day out. Life’s too short”.

Now Dave is an easy-going character, he does great work and is a pleasure to have on your team, and he is not one of life’s complainers so I knew it must be bad if he had decided to quit, so I started to dig a little deeper.

It turns out that nearly 50 percent of the department had decided to leave, including one entire team of five people, and they were all leaving for the same reason, they hated the new boss.

In just a little under two months, she had created such a toxic atmosphere that morale was so bad everyone was looking towards the exits.

The engagement had dropped and productivity had fallen through the floor.

You would think that with these kinds of results Senior Management would be stepping in to find out what was happening. 

But no they just left the boss to get on with single-handedly killing one of the most important projects the company had for 2018.

Now I consult with a lot of companies, looking to help turn round failing projects, or underperforming departments, and usually, when I am brought in they tell me the challenges are due to complexity, the deadlines, or the poor quality of the teams.

But in reality 95 percent of the time the issues can be traced back to one of three things bad leadership, an absence of leadership or too much leadership.

Things rarely fail because of technology or natural complexity.

No, they fail because the teams are not engaged, inspired or empowered.

Teams need clear guidance, clear plans and the support of their leaders.

In my experience, if teams get those three things invariably they will be successful.

But unfortunately, that’s not as common as it should be.

Too many people with the wrongs skill get promoted. Yes they may be technically gifted, they may be incredibly smart, but that doesn’t make them good leaders.

Leadership is all about taking care of the people, putting them in a position where they can be successful and then applauding as they achieve the desired success.

It truly is as simple as that.

Gordon Tredgold

Gordon Tredgold is a leadership transformation expert ranked #25 in Global Gurus Top 30 leadership gurus for 2019. Over his 25-year career Gordon has led teams of 1000+ staff in Fortune 100 companies, delivered operational cost savings of $350m and transformed delivery (from <35% to 95 %) and service levels (from 57% to 99.7%). A critically-acclaimed author, Gordon's latest book, FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Drive Success and Achieve Results, was a finalist for Management Book of the year 2017. He is a regular contributor for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Business Insider and an international keynote speaker, recognised by Inc. Magazine as a top 100 leadership expert and speaker. Gordon works with organisations to transform culture, drive results-based leadership and rapidly accelerate organisational growth and performance.