6/14/2009

FISH OUT OF WATER

Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 5:52 am on

Nick spent most of his career at GM. He quickly rose through the ranks and became second in command at a Chevrolet plant in the NY/NJ metro area. Nick was one step from a high level position in Detroit when he declined a transfer and joined our firm. Owners of our tiny company had big hopes for him, but they continually questioned his prolonged approach to problem resolution and he was frustrated with what he considered to be limited company resources. Nick left the company after six years, finally accepting GM’s open invitation to transfer to Detroit.

Fred was an engineer by education and was well known. He progressed through the ranks of one the largest companies in our trade to the position of VP of Manufacturing before moving to another big firm. After serving as VP of Operations for 10 years at that company, Fred joined us replacing Nick. As a small but key supplier to Fred’s prior firms, our company was thrilled to have someone of his stature and notoriety on board. Unfortunately, the honeymoon ended quickly. With disillusion on both sides and after eighteen months, Fred joined another big manufacturing firm in Massachusetts.

When it came to leading people in a small business environment, these guys were fish out of water: The issues:

Poor people skills
In larger firms, where there are layers of supervision separating the big boss from the hands-on workers, people skills are less important. In smaller firms failing to acknowledge and engage your people can be "the kiss of death".

Inability to motivate
One of these leaders rarely acknowledged achievements, ideas or suggestions from subordinates and frequently took credit for the contribution himself. Another viewed new ideas and suggestions as dissention and would often respond with long and demeaning written dissertations on
why the idea could never work. If you know anything about the dog-eat-dog environment in big companies, you can easily figure out why leaders feel they need to "protect" their own position.

Complicated and costly problem resolution
Larger companies can smother the problem with cash, equipment and people. In smaller companies there generally isn’t a fallback position; and to be successful, a leader needs to be creative, flexible and resourceful.

Slow reaction time
Change rarely happens quickly in large companies, nor does it need to. There are just too many levels of management and review for a plan to jump into action. In smaller companies, failing to respond quickly and accurately can mean disaster.

Ambivalence to the importance of the customer
In a big company, loss of a customer means little in the grand scheme of things. In a small firm hard-line or take-it-or-leave-it approaches become the talk of the trade, and when the competition is looking to survive - watch out!

DOUG CONTRERAS
Visit my profile on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dougcontreras
I welcome your invite to connect!
doug@performancedatamanagement.com

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