How To Kill Your Company—5 Ways To Make It Virtually Impossible to Succeed
Erika Andersen, Founder/Partner
Sometimes I observe a leader and I think, Wow, on what planet would that have been a good idea? I’m continually amazed at the extent to which people don’t connect the dots between what they’re doing and the impact it’s having on those around them and on their organizations: You tell people they’re idiots and they sabotage your results or quit. How is that surprising?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t just complain about this; a lot of my time is spent working with leaders to help them connect those dots, and shift mindset and skills in order to get better results and create better relationships.
But sometimes, a girl’s gotta vent. So. Here are (drum roll) the top five ill-considered things you can do to make sure your company dies a lingering and painful death:
5) Make things complicated. If one process step will do, create two. Or seven. Focus especially on making your customer-facing processes complex and counter-intuitive. In any situation where simplifying things would help the customer but make your life a little more difficult—opt for complexity. It’s also important to redesign processes over and over without making them any simpler, so people lose track of what’s supposed to be happening.
4) Take all the credit, share all the blame. If something goes right, make it clear that you are solely responsible.
If there’s a problem, immediately disavow any connection with or knowledge of the offending decision or object. And spread the blame around—be sure to let everyone know that everybody except you is lame and clueless. While you’re at it, you can also take credit retroactively; claim authorship of any idea that bears fruit. If anyone has the temerity to complain to you or about you—blame them for not being a team player.
3) Make it dangerous to disagree. When anyone refuses to fall in line with your point of view, punish them. Public ridicule works well; character assassination is also effective. If they persist in having an independent point of view, fire them.
2) Dismiss as foolish anything you don’t understand. This includes new business models, technologies, ways of thinking about managing and leading, and areas of expertise with which you’re not familiar. You can just ignore them, but then others might miss your intent and embrace new approaches when you’re not looking. If you really want to kill your company, it’s much better to consistently and widely disparage and stifle all attempts to innovate or to explore new (to you) ways of operating.
1) Refuse to acknowledge reality. This is the quickest path to organizational death. Simply reject any bad news out of hand. Employees unhappy and leaving in droves? Tell everybody that it’s not a problem—people will be lining up in larger droves to replace them. Revenues down? Let everyone know that it’s just a business cycle, or that the people responsible have been let go, or that “it’s just a blip” (my personal favorite). Customers don’t like your products? Just tell yourself they lack sophistication and it’s simply a matter of finding better customers.
Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek. But, unfortunately, all of these behaviors are way too widespread: maybe poking a little fun will encourage someone (you?) to think about whether they might be guilty of one or more of them…