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Our company is growing rapidly and some staff are having trouble adapting. What should I do?

THE QUESTION

Our company is growing rapidly and some staff are having trouble adapting. What should I do?

THE ANSWER

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You are facing a dilemma that many business owners encounter.

The issue is about their fit with the current circumstance of the organization. Are the skills of your people matched to the right stages of your growth cycle? Simply put, your organization will experience growth, maintenance and decline at various times in the business cycles. Each phase requires different skill sets. For example, where adaptability is important, you need to have someone with strong change-management skills. Without them they will not be able to keep up with the growing demands of the organization.

I had a client who appointed his brother to the position of general manager when there was only the two of them in the organization. My client was the CEO. They flourished working together and the company grew nicely and profitably. Fast forward a few years and there were many people on staff and things were getting out of control. The general manager did not want to oversee so many people nor did he feel capable of "ordering people around." This became a serious problem.

The general manager eventually moved into a position that kept him close to customers where he had a significant impact on the business but did not have to manage people. In this case, the result was great but could have easily gone sideways for everyone and the organization.

Here are a few tips that you may find helpful to address this:

Stop ignoring the problem

If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, rest assured that you are not the only person in the company who knows about it. The longer you leave things unresolved the worse they will get. The perception of your leadership will suffer. People will wonder why you are allowing the problem to go unresolved.

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Make it a priority to regularly review situations that you think are developing and get them on your priority list for action.

Do your homework

Be clear about what you expect and where the individual is coming up short for you. Take the time to write this down. Many leaders make the mistake of thinking through these situations but never documenting their thoughts. When the time comes for action you might overlook some points that need to be addressed. You do not get multiple chances to do this right.

Doing your homework will help ensure that the issues are real and will make it easier to map out a path to resolve the challenges you identify.

Start the conversation

Waiting to start discussions with the employee won't make the problem go away. Don't wait for the next performance evaluation.

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People who are in this position probably know that they are no longer a fit. We all have a natural reluctance to meet these challenges head-on. You need to overcome that.

Most often, starting the conversation will come as a tremendous relief to both of you.

Not every difficult challenge will result in termination. Hopefully addressing the issue quickly with transparency can help you save a valuable resource and avoid damaging the performance of other employees as well.

Brian Brennan is a senior partner at MAX Potential, an organization committed to assisting clients with the successful growth of their businesses. He actively coaches small and medium-sized business owners in all aspects of their growing companies. He is also a chair at TEC Canada.

For more small business insights, attend The 2017 Globe and Mail Small Business Summit. It's a one-day conference of insightful sessions, proven business growth strategies and innovative ideas from the country's brightest business leaders.

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