Taking Risks Doesn’t Always Reap Rewards

This article comes from Entrepreneur.

Taking Risks Doesn’t Always Reap Rewards

Even entrepreneurs with the best intentions can send conflicting messages to team members without realizing it. Here are a few of the most common ways they do it:

1. Changing standards without communicating them.

Leaders often get new information that changes their perspective on their current situation. Whether it’s a set of recently passed regulations or feedback that a process isn’t working, there are good reasons to change the way things are done. Entrepreneurs who forget to communicate the “why” will often have trouble getting people to shift the “how.” One marketing agency owner I know struggled to get his team excited about moving from one type of marketing to another. When he asked a senior staffer for feedback, he was told that the team had picked up on the shift, but it had never been directly explained to them and they weren’t trained to handle the new tasks. Resentment brewed.

2. Applying rules differently to different teammates.

There are legitimate reasons for treating employees differently. Management is definitely a system built on rewards and trust. Giving more leeway to a longtime employee who always hits deadlines makes sense. Unless it’s explicitly spelled out in your policies, however, it may confuse a new hire who wants equal flexibility.

Treating employees fairly doesn’t mean treating them equally. For example, if you have an employee who needs ADA accommodations, you wouldn’t extend them to someone who doesn’t. If an employee requests bereavement leave for a parent’s death, the important thing is that the same option is available to everyone when applicable, not that everyone else gets a day off as well. The point is to communicate the circumstances that result in specific consequences or privileges.

3. Letting one incident affect other interactions.

Entrepreneurs have a special knack for taking bad news. Lost funding? No problem. An employee departing for a more established competitor? OK. Negative feedback on a new product from a consumer panel? Shucks. But sometimes, what’s happening below the surface bubbles its way up at inopportune times.

Once, I shifted from a less-than-great meeting with a partner to a one-on-one with one of my strongest employees. Still stewing about the conflict from earlier, I started questioning each project we discussed. As my employee’s face took on a searching, confused look, I realized I’d let my first conversation bleed into my second, even though they had nothing to do with each other.

4. Comparing and competing.

Perhaps the least obvious way entrepreneurs let hot-and-cold perspectives take over, competing can also be the most pernicious. Competitive by their very nature, it’s hard for business owners to ignore the innovative or headline-making things competitors are doing. Their immediate thought: Should I copy this move before it becomes mainstream or goes against it?

But comparing and competing can lead to inconsistencies galore, particularly when you’re examining the moves of a wide variety of companies. If a neighboring company puts up a sign listing its environmentally-friendly acts, convening your team for a highway clean-up may be confusing if you’ve never seemed interested in the environment. If you have pledged to stop using diesel trucks for deliveries and then order a new fleet to keep up with the competition’s delivery speeds, expect questions.

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