One thing I have observed in government, hospitals, universities, and small business management is that all of those fields tend to be people collectors. What I mean is those particular fields have a high incidence of people who have passed their expiration date.
Government, hospitals, and universities tend to: 1) pay their employees well, 2) offer good to great benefits, 3) offer prestigious positions, and 4) have incompetent human resource professionals. A person who lands in any of these three fields may be an excellent performer for several years; however, every human being needs new challenges and after five to seven years they lose the excitement of the job. The problem is that because they have moved up to the top of the pay scale (pay scale: an example of HR incompetence) the person discovers that if they were ever to leave that job they would have to: 1) take a pay cut, 2) risk losing their excellent benefits, and 3) not find as prestigious position as what they have in their comfy current job.
Now that excellent performer is trapped like a caged animal in a job that has no challenges for them. The result is what we have in America today. Government services, hospitals, and universities that are operated by uninspired people who’s most important priority is to go home at the end of the day. And where is the human resources professional? Standing there preaching that all those systems they created that cause employee burnout are absolutely vital for retaining employees. People collectors.
Show me an organization that prides itself on long-term employees and I’ll show you a group of people who shoved innovation and creativity into a file drawer decades before.
So why did I include small business owners in with this unhappy, unproductive group of people?
For small business owners the trap of mediocrity is different, but it has the same result. Initially, a new business owner is excited by the challenge of creating a business from nothing. If they are successful they find the satisfaction of beating the odds, which is like a drug to a business owner. Then comes the fear of losing everything they built. That fear always, always, always leads to becoming conservative. Don’t take chances and don’t risk failure. But it doesn’t stop there.
Eventually, the intelligent business owner realized that his/her business has become stagnant. He/she then tries a series of half measures that stirs the pot but doesn’t make anything new happen. They shake up their sales team, join a peer group (they serve the same function as HR), purchase clever productivity software, or…God forbid, hire a consultant. The result is a temporary change in activity that fails to address the real problem. Fear of failure. Thus, the small business owner becomes a people collector, and they are the one collected. Stuck in a place they can’t get out of and yet, don’t want to be.
My best advice I can give to a small business owner who is stuck in this trap? Fire yourself. Put someone in charge of your company, expect that they will drive it into the ground, and go out and build a new business. At the very least you will no longer live in fear, but you will more alive than you have been in years.
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