By Michael Gunther

In my mind, businesses are like ever-changing, living organisms. They’re constantly in a state of flux as they respond to their environments—customers coming and going, external markets evolving, innovation transpiring, reaching for improvement and growth, and employees developing and moving in different directions. Through all of these transitions, leaders must motivate and challenge their teams to reach new levels of performance in order for their organizations to thrive.

I’ve seen many organizations in which the owners have settled for mediocrity, or the leaders haven’t recognized that the organization is growing and some employees have chosen not to participate, holding the rest of the team behind. I realize change (whether positive or negative) can create stress for organizations. Having to do things or approach situations differently when you’re used to a routine can cause stress, but change is often necessary in order to stay competitive and strong as an organization.

Working with these “living organisms” in our line of work as business consultants, we often initiate change in behaviors, processes, and structures in order to get them back on track. Business owners come to us because something isn’t working—they may be trying really hard, but not making progress in sales or profit. The organization may have grown so much that they can’t seem to get caught up, or maybe the leaders have reached their competency level in growing their companies and are hitting walls of resistance with their teams and their development.

Many times the business may have some long term employees who have been loyal and committed over the years, and therefore believe they’re guaranteed job security. In reality what will keep those individuals’ roles secure is their willingness to try new things and improve the performance of themselves and their teams. Nevertheless, I always believe in giving people the opportunity to step up to the plate and prove that they want to be part of the solution.

Just last week I experienced a scenario of two long term employees who approached the changing dynamics within their organization quite differently. Both individuals had been with the company for more than 10 years, and basically performed the same job duties. As we began evaluating roles, processes, etc. we recommended redesigning some roles to better serve the clients and improve the operational processes. At first, both individuals resisted the change and felt that their job security was threatened, even though our goal was not to remove either individual.

After a few weeks, one of the most outspoken individuals actually started becoming one of the biggest advocates for the changes. She embraced her new role, started adjusting how she participated in the changes, and followed through on the activities necessary to move things forward. This individual is now on one of the most effective teams, and has certainly secured her place in the ‘new’ organization. The other employee has continued to resist change, not following through on tasks and alienating herself from the rest of the team because of her negative attitude and challenging demeanor.

So, which employee do you think will continue to grow with the organization, and which one is probably on her way out? Both loyal, long term employees, and yet, the one who has decided to become part of the solution certainly stands out as a keeper. Sometimes organizations outgrow some employees—in this case, the ‘resisting’ employee is not keeping up with the organization and will mostly likely find that there will no longer be a place for her.

As the saying goes, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”

Bottom Line

Evaluate your team. Are they performing at the levels you expect? Do they have the ability, competency, and desire to grow and change? If not, it may be time to help them find a new career option. These are never easy conversations, but are sometimes necessary in order to move the individuals, the team, and the organization forward.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.

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