What’s Haunting Your Business?

Lot’s of businesses have ghosts of things past that haunt them on a daily basis. In fact, there are probably a few ghosts or goblins hanging around your company. Even when you don’t see them, they can hide in plain sight and hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

These are not real ghosts (if there is such as thing) but shadows of poor decisions, past employees and customer relationships that died a slow painful death. The shadows of these events color employee perspectives, inhibit risk taking and undermine motivation.

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m an optimistic and prefer to look on the bright side rather than dwell on the past. If you feel the same way, you may find it challenging to think about exorcising the demons you can’t see when there is a new deal to chase or a fresh opportunity on the horizon.

Even so, it pays to take some time periodically to go ghost hunting and you can free your business from these pesky and potentially painful echoes of your business history. Things that can haunt your business include the ongoing effects of…

  • A bad-apple employee who undermined trust and disrupted your company culture.
  • A poor manager who was divisive and created lasting walls between team members.
  • A customer relationship that soured, leaving bitter feelings behind.
  • A partnership that derailed, unraveling business opportunities and hurting revenue potential.
  • Legal issues that contribute to a culture of fear and reduce risk-taking or innovation.
  • Financial challenges that undermine investment opportunities and inhibit growth.

To get rid of these ghosts for good – or stop them from taking up residence in the first place – try this:

Discuss and debrief. When a business faces a setback it is tempting for employees and management to deal with the issue by pretending it never happened. A healthier approach is to acknowledge the event with a debrief session that allows people to express their feeling and observations. Sharing the impact of the experience allows people to unburden themselves rather than dragging extra baggage around and suffering from the excess weight they’re carrying..

Learn the lesson and move on. Every situation holds lessons to be learned, but in the rush to “get back to business” its easy to lose sight of them. Use your debrief sessions to uncover that was really learned by your team, even if this process requires some probing, poking and prodding. Once you find the lessons, work on internalizing what you’ve learned so you don’t end up stuck in the past, repeating old mistakes.

Undo the damage. Even after you learn the critical business lessons from these events, the damage can echo on. Watch for ripple effects that linger. These may include subtle cultural shifts like hyper conservative decision making, employees fearful of retribution when risks don’t pay off or a general reluctance to stretch outside the norm. If you notice your team is boxing itself in to avoid repeating a painful past, tackle the problem head on. Address the issue openly and encourage a return to a healthy environment.