12 Warning Signs of Success

Learn about the 12 Critical Mistakes That Derail Growth-Hungry Companies.

For more information about the 12 Warning Signs of Success, get Kirk Dando‘s best-selling book, Predictive Leadership.

Get a snapshot of the 12 Warning Signs of Success below.

1 Right Idea, Wrong Person

The company started out with the right ideas, right people and right direction. Along the way, the company ended up with some wrong people in key positions. “Superstars” – whether promoted from within or hired externally – have not worked out.

The team members changed, you changed or the goals changed. Whichever it is, some of the key people in the organization are now holding us back.

Further Reading:
3 Steps to Hiring Right
Getting the right people on the bus
The easy way to tell if you have the wrong person in a key position

 
 

2
BAD MANAGEMENT OF GREAT OPPORTUNITIES

Rarely is it an actual lack of opportunity that causes a business to struggle or fail. More often, it is bad management of people or poor prioritization of existing opportunities.

Technical/functional experts are “rewarded” with management and leadership positions, but they have not done the work to become great managers. Team members are not able to take advantage of all the opportunities in front of them because they are frustratingly being mismanaged.

Some people have the title of “manager,” but not the skills.

3OPEN DOOR, CLOSED MIND

Your leadership team says they’re on board for change and growth. But, their actions tell a different story.

They dismiss ideas quickly or impede new processes. What was once a can-do attitude and a “playing to win” mentality has morphed into a “play it safe” mindset. The leaders are not really listening to the rest of the team. They insist on doing it “their way,” and the result is frustration.

Negativity and insecurity are seeping in because certain leaders won’t change course.

 
 

4
LEADERSHIP BOTTLENECK

The formal org chart is not drawn this way, but functionally the org chart looks like a rake (a lot of people reporting into one or a few people).

This rake org structure has now turned key leaders into chief problem solvers who spend most of their time working “in” the business vs. working “on” the business.

Capable managers become frustrated and feel untrusted. Incapable managers figure out the path of least resistance is the path to the CEO’s office to get the answer. The result is a bottleneck that slows or stalls growth.

Further Reading:
Avoid the Mistake of the Rake

 

5HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY

We have a lot of great ideas, but not a robust strategy process to bring these ideas to life.

The company sets what they think are clear, measurable goals. However, we’ve had several missteps and missed deadlines. This leads to less focus and even less results.

The team is hoping their way to set of audacious goals, without a plan to reach them.

 
 

6CORE VALUES MELTDOWN

The organization started with non-negotiable core values, performance expectations and culture. But those have slowly broken down over time.

Compromises are made for special circumstances and “brilliant jerks” are tolerated.

There is a feeling that the leadership team’s questionable actions reveal their actual values. The best team members are losing faith, creating an “us versus them” environment. The back-channel gossip chain is hindering the organization’s ability to execute on key initiatives.

7DRINKING THE CHAOS KOOL-AID

Opportunity is everywhere! New products, new markets, new services – the possibilities are endless.

Teams go, go, go, and it’s thrilling — for a while. Suddenly, it is obvious: key people are unable to say no or draw hard lines on spending the organization’s limited resources. The result is chaos: teams are burned out and leadership is stressed out. It seems like everyone’s to-do list is endless — and also pointless.

There is chatter about needing prioritization and getting laser-focused on performance and measuring results. But little changes.

 
 

8COMMUNICATION VACUUM (a.k.a., It Sucks)

As the organization has grown, senior managers have less day-to-day interaction with operations and team members, so they’re less aware of problems and priorities than they should be. Executives feel out of control, and team members perceive a lack of direction from the top.

Despite countless emails, newsletters and meetings, team members consistently identify poor communication as a core problem.

Further Reading:
How to fix the “communication” problem at work

9INCENTIVIZING FAILURE

In general, recognition and incentives are not tied to the right behaviors or results. This creates unintended consequences. It also erodes employee confidence and keeps the company off course for too long.

For example, sales is incentivized to close the deal, but isn’t incentivized to keep the deal long-term.

If we can change the way we incentivize employees, we’ll reach our goals faster.

 
 

10THE FALSE SECURITY OF REVENUES

Things look good; revenues are growing, so leadership relaxes a bit. But because of poor or spotty controls on spending, extra expenditures are approved without much thought or analysis.

There are mandates to reign in spending — or worse, cut jobs. The financial, performance or market data needed to predict problems is not accurate, timely, or shared with the right people.

Expenses are starting to grow faster than revenues.

11RANDOM ACTS OF ACCOUNTABILITY

A lack of transparent, consistent accountability means top performers don’t know exactly what to do. Less-than-great team members use the lack of accountability to their advantage.

People talk about “accountability.” But it does not have a deep cultural meaning other than someone needs to be fired or needs to do their job. The “accountable” people are discussing and wondering what the “not accountable” people actually do.

There is confusion about how to create accountability, although it is very clearly needed.

 
 

12SOWING THE SEEDS OF DECAY

At one point, the business was ahead of the game because of new technologies, systems and processes. Today the organization has outgrown those systems and processes. This includes everything from accounting to people to technology.

Systems that once enhanced the business are actually speeding its demise.

There is a lot of discussion that the current systems and processes will not scale. But there are few or no resources (time, money, talent) put towards the issues. These improvements are required for the next level of growth.

The focus is on hitting the next quarter’s numbers. The technology, systems and processes debt is growing but largely ignored.

12 Warning Signs of Success

 

Want more information on any of the 12 Warning Signs of Success? Get the best-selling leadership book from Kirk Dando.