Stop the Train! What to do When Your Businesses Culture Gets Out of Control

culture10You’ve heard to old saying, “You can’t stop the train once it’s left the station”, right? I’d hate to say that is kind of an undeniable truth in life as well as in business. So what do you do when the “train”, especially the culture on the “train” – your life and business – gets out of control and begins to run you instead of you leading it?
In the many years of having my own business and helping others with their businesses, this is a very common, very hard to solve but a very large piece of the puzzle to continued growth and success. As owners, leaders, managers this is not a situation that you want to let go, it needs absolute attention, superior focus and your commitment, as the owner, leader, manager to pick the course and follow through… No matter how steep and narrow the road gets to recovering from a train gone wild.
Culture is an interesting beast. It can be your best asset or your worst nightmare. Understanding how to create it, lead it and commit to a path of positivity and success is your only hope of salvation once it becomes the latter. So to begin, we first must need to define and understand what it is that we are trying to accomplish and create. The Business Dictionary defines “business culture” this way –
Model or style of business operations within a company. The business culture determines how different levels of staff communicate with one another as well as how employees deal with clients and customers.
culture2From experience, this is created and lead from the top – that’s you, the owner, leader, manager. It gets out of control when the employees start dictating or running the process. Tough balance, as a leader you need get “buy in” from those who work for you and with you in your business. However buy in does not mean unending concessions, input and or changes to the model or style of your business to accommodate those folks. In fact, what I have found through in depth study and teaching on this subject, is that the more you, as the owner, leader, manager, do to plan, set S.M.A.R.T. goals for each employee, and structure processes and systems the less chance you have of the “train” running out of control and eventually off the rails!
So once the train has gone rogue and is out of control, what do you do? Here are the 3 areas of focus I have found that truly work to regain control, empower those who have gone rogue and get your business pointed back in the direction of prosperity and success.
  1. Understanding – Come on, admit I am right… You don’t know what you don’t know. When the train starts to run you and you feel the controls getting loose the first thing in any situation is to understand what is going on by clearly defining the issues. When your businesses culture gets out of whack, you have to be a big enough, strong enough and humble enough leader to understand what you are seeing/feeling and quickly define the areas in which things are not going as they should. Usually the biggest problem comes down to poor team planning, however you will need to follow step two to begin creating solutions to regain the reigns.
  2. Lead it – Yes, it is that simple. Let’s look briefly at what I mean by this though, it is important how you go about “leading” it that will dictate whether or not your efforts will trend you back into control or will further set you back. To LEAD IT, it is totally your responsibility to become a student of your business. Self guided/self directed education is an imperative piece of getting this runaway train running on the right tracks. The best leaders of business culture are those who are continually studying business, business structures, business processes, business systems and yes LEADERSHIP. Remember in the first part of this I mentioned that your “life and your business” go out of control? This is where you and your business become ONE. You started this business to build something great, something you could be proud of. If you are not resolved to becoming a student to your own life and business by continually studying, learning and always developing your skills how int the hell can you expect to LEAD anyone, to get anyone buy into your vision, to get folks to help you carry the load of growing your dream with you? You know it just as I do, growing a business is a great burden. It comes with some very big upsides when you are having success but it comes with some HUGE downsides when the train gets away from you!
  3. Commit to A plan – I have people that actually comment and tell me that I speak of the “plan” far to much. My response is simple, when you and others start doing a better job planning, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your staff, volunteers and vendors giving you the “utopia” of business management/business leadership, I will STOP promoting the value and benefit of planning. Why? BECAUSE EVERYONE WILL GET IT AND HAVE AWESOME PLANS AND UBER SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES AND WON’T NEED MY INSIGHTS OR HELP!
culture5My advice on this part which is the most crucial and variable piece of this runaway train puzzle, is to bring in key staff and empower them to become a part of the solution and stop being a major part of th problem. It comes from the top, you. However to change, correct or create a new culture is going to require you to be VERY CLEAR on defining the issues, the solutions you want to see put in place and the S.M.A.R.T. goals that need to be met or exceeded. This plan must come with full accountability of each of these key staff, possibly even to the point of if the goals are met in specific areas their position may be in jeopardy. The key in the accountability is the consequences CAN NOT be a threat, they have to be clear, deliberate and certain. As the owner, leader, manager YOU must be able to LIVE with the outcomes and move forward should you lose a key staff person due to their lack of performance.
I am Bryan Kiser, I live BOLD using my expertise and experience to help as many people as I can to be better now than they were a minute ago and even better tomorrow than they are today. The sets of life’s waves of opportunity are coming in clean and big…. gotta go!
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