Seven Ways to Destroy the Business You Built

Shredding Paper

Seven Ways to Destroy the Business You Built (and how to avoid them)

The title of this article is not meant to be funny. It’s meant to be a heartfelt reminder to leaders who take their responsibilities seriously.

After three decades of being called in to turn companies around, I have been witness to what owners and executives do to destroy what they built. While health issues, accidents or market downturns sometimes cause the dramatic decline, these are not the situations I’m talking about.

I have observed destructive behaviors motivated by a variety of faulty beliefs and bad habits. All share a common source: serious lack of self-awareness.

Self-awareness for a leader is critical because it informs his or her decisions. When we fail to factor in the effect we have on the people around us, we forfeit the benefits of the influence we could have had.

Below are seven leadership attitudes and behaviors that can lead to a downward spiral in any organization – and how to prevent them:


1. Taking People for Granted
Over time, many leaders forget who helped them reach success. These employees, vendors, customers and community partners supported their ideas in the early days, contributed to the company’s growth, and filled in a gap for the leader. Sure, they were paid and rewarded for their contributions, but now that success has come, leaders often fail to engage them.

2. Modeling Bad Manners
Some owner/leaders believe success, education, wealth or intelligence give them license to model bad manners. Showing up late for meetings, failing to meet commitments, and using language meant to embarrass or intimidate are a few manifestations. If you have behaved this way, stop now and mend fences with the people you’ve offended. Company leadership has a responsibility to model wholesome, respectful behavior.

3. Becoming Unteachable
Leaders who convince themselves they are the source of all wisdom in their companies create an artificial ceiling for growth. Leaders who recognize their strengths and limits bring in outside talent and ideas to fuel growth. If your ego gets in the way of your judgment, find a mentor or hire a coach who will help you develop an awareness of what's missing from your growth and development plans.

Argument in the Dark

4. Becoming Complacent 
Many company owners begin their enterprise with a growth mindset, but over time (and with financial security), it becomes a lifestyle mindset. When this happens, the owner and company leaders who have gained financial freedom from the business’s growth stop making growth-oriented decisions. Instead, they make choices that give them the most comfortable lifestyle, at the expense of growth. This creates a “two-tier system” in the company. The bottom tier quickly understands that no matter how hard they work or contribute, they will never make it to the top. Competitors look for established companies like this to dominate. If your company has fallen into this trap, move quickly to replace leaders with ones who are hungry for growth and are innovators.

5. Becoming Fearful
As an executive coach, I find leaders’ fear and anxiety are top issues I coach around. Because so much of what a leader deals with is outside of his or her control, anxiety is natural. But in my experience, leaders often choose anxiety over action. It’s important to remember it gives others courage and inspiration when they see the boss lean into tough calls.

Obsolete Computer

6. Falling Behind in Technology
These days, there is no excuse for a leader to fall behind. Fort Worth is blessed to have terrific technology vendors and solution-oriented professionals. As leaders, we should become experts on the technical abilities our people and systems have and reach out to service providers to keep us competitive.

7. Forgetting Your Faith
If you are a person of faith, you believe God has a purpose for you and your business. You understand there is a “higher stewardship” that reflects your faith and beliefs to the world. If you have left God out of your leadership plans and practices, I encourage you to reconsider. The same God that made you unique and uniquely qualified to lead your people will inspire you in every area to do a good job.