Robert-photo-w-icon-150-4-7-10-FINAL4-150x150Business leaders for small and mid-size companies are always thinking about how to increase sales, improve profitability, boost productivity and better manage cash flow. But of all these challenges, which one consumes most of their time?

Our work with owners and executives typically begins with an assessment of the current business circumstances. We learn about goals and strategies, what’s working and what’s not – but before long the focus of this dialogue becomes the people in the business, including active managing-owners.

Who gets it and who doesn’t? Why does an owner or executive say one thing and do another? Who has the capacity to implement strategy and who doesn’t? Why are there conflicting goals within the same organization? Who cares and who doesn’t?

This same nucleus of attention is evident in our executive forums. The topic of the day may begin with a discussion about pricing strategy but the conversation soon turns to people and culture issues. And what is fascinating is the similarity of the experiences we hear. Whether it’s a business in medical devices or retail food distribution or tech services, the stories shared by the executives around the table are comparable.

The most consuming issue for small and mid-size business leaders is people and the business culture.

James Heskett’s research at Harvard indicates that “culture can account for up to half of the difference in operating profit between two organizations in the same business. Shaping a culture is one of a leader’s most important jobs; it can be ignored, but only for so long and at one’s peril.”

Much research and analysis has been invested in this topic and there are many proven ways to improve the situation. But, in truth, all of the proposed solutions have one principle at their core – does leadership care?

Do they care about the purpose of the business as much as its profitability? Do they care enough to hold themselves as accountable for their behaviors as they do their employees? Do they care enough about those employees to recognize their contributions and consistently seek ways to deepen engagement?

Want to elevate performance? Improve strategy execution? Grow your business? Look at your culture and how everyone in your organization, especially you, operates within it. Aligning your operation around your common purpose, and core principles, and shared goals transcends the parochial concerns of the individuals you employ helping them to care more about building your business and less about their immediate, narrow self-interest.

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
~Theodore Roosevelt

How much of your time is consumed in dealing people and culture issue?

What could you do differently to make this time more productive?