Learning Not to Lose it as Your Business Scales
When a company is trying to grow fast, employees get busy. If you’re trying to scale up quickly, you need to get clear on what your growth goals are. Is your goal a net profit goal? A revenue goal? A hiring goal? Are you aggressively cutting expenses, or bringing in specialized talent?
Change is tough. When the gears start churning, employees and management question what is possible. Can your employees handle the workload that is coming their way? Do you, as a manager, know how to tell when your team is overloaded?
Growing pains are real. Whether you’re developing new products or services or taking on larger projects, you’re going to encounter stress and capacity issues. If your people can’t handle the anticipated workload, or if you don’t have the capabilities in place to support new growth, you stand to lose everything—including employees, customers, sales, and even your reputation.
Context and communication come first. When scaling, everyone in the company needs to know what the growth goals are, the reason for growth, where you’re heading, and how you’re going to get there. That’s only half of the work. Once you have your people on board, don’t dip out. You must see your project through.
Avoid These Common Death Spirals
- Not getting enough resources at the right time
- Not hiring enough people
- Losing good talent to burnout
- Selling to misaligned customers
- Failing to invest in research and development
- Failing to question if the progress you’re making fits your original goal
According to Forbes.com, there is a myriad of warning signs that you may be growing your business too fast. If, for example, your business is struggling to deliver for a service you once believed you had mastered, this is a clear indication you could have a big operational problem.
Stress and capacity are top adversaries here. You need to know how to stay on the path and how to keep everyone else on it, too.
Is Your Business Really Growing, or Is Stress Holding You Back?
When we’re stressed at work, we tend to overestimate our own contributions and underestimate the contributions of others. Empathy crumbles. Productivity breaks down. Deadlines loom, and people begin to point fingers. Worst of all, people engross themselves in activities that make them look busy—all the while forgetting what truly adds value.
This applies to all levels in a company. A stressed-out manager may fall into habits of micro-management—exercising small bouts of control over a great audience—while a stressed employee may take four hours to answer nonessential emails. Stress clouds the mind, making every task at work seem urgent and important, injecting the workplace with minutiae and ambiguity. Eventually, employees leave, feeling overworked and undervalued.
You may think your company does things differently or has a good attitude about growth, but even the wildest positivity can’t couch stress. Put simply, it’s easy to think you’re accomplishing a lot when you’re stressed, when really your productivity plummets.
Don’t Attempt to Just Power Through
Can you handle the growth goals set out for you? Why? Because you enjoy your work more than anything? Because you can sacrifice much more for your goals than your competitors?
Pause. What are you asking of your employees? Think very hard about this. Your employees’ motivations may be wildly different than yours. You’ll want their buy-in before you decide to get going.
A Harvard Business School article recently reported research from the American Psychological Association revealing that workplace stress accounts for more than $500 billion lost from the US economy and 550 million workdays lost each year due to stress on the job. Workplace stress is also a contributor to several health problems such as metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Learning to manage stress is essential for supporting health and productivity at work.
For Healthy Growth, Set a Foundation of Trust & Transparency
People matter. Growing a company, in a lot of ways, means being able to take care of more people. If your people are stressed, and if they can’t see the benefit or the end to that stress, your efforts to grow will be stifled. You wouldn’t want your doctor taking care of you if he or she were sick. The same goes for your company: you can’t expect it to grow if it isn’t healthy.
I urge you to talk about stress with your teams. Observe what it does to your thinking. Don’t be afraid to pause and sit with big decisions, take a walk, or revisit an idea that clearly needs more attention.
Check in with yourself and your people. How are you doing? Are you still on track to meet your goals, or have your priorities changed direction? Growth is an iterative process that requires constant support and energy. Even small check-ins with your team can help unmask concerns before they become major pain points in the process.
Brainstorm. Whether you’re setting a goal for five years out or one for this morning, take time to think it through. As the adage goes, fortune favors the prepared. Within reason, prepare and question everything. Use these insights to strengthen your pitch and build rapport when you present new change initiatives.
Above everything else, communicate. When you are asking more of your team, they need more from you. They need a safe space to voice concerns and share ideas, a place for understanding. They need a leader that can throw a safety line, not one that runs at the first sign of friction.
A good team that is unafraid to communicate about change is your antidote to stress. Don’t overlook the very team you entrusted with your goals. We all need coaching. We all need gut-checks. We all need to know that when the going gets tough, we are not alone. Don’t let stress and capacity cloud your judgment. You have growing to do.