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Do office superheroes hurt profits?

June 3, 2015 -  By

It’s easy to be swallowed up the constant flow of information – the pings, clicks, beeps, alarms and various reminders from people and electronic devices that demand our attention.  How many times have you heard someone say they couldn’t finish one thing or another because they ‘ran out of time’ or ‘lost track of time’? In reality, they were seduced by the call of the urgent.

Companies with urgency-driven cultures are out of sync with the audiences they serve. They’ve formed a reactive culture built on service recovery that creates an anxious work environment where burnout is common and satisfaction is low, except for the satisfaction of putting out another fire, or the office superhero saving another job. In the landscape industry in particular, customers demand proactive service and responsiveness. But when unexpected problems, emergencies and interruptions dictate your relationship with customers or employees, it is called crisis management. And it erodes profits.

Stephen Covey wrote about the Urgency of Addiction back in 1996 in First Things First, before Smartphones, social media, and email made time management more challenging. The biggest problem in an organization caught up in this addiction is that they are so busy fighting it they can not change. Sometimes the tone is set by management who live in a zone of urgency and enjoy the whirlwind and attention it creates. They like being hero managers always coming to the rescue and fixing things.

Companies who fail to address the issue, suffer. They lose business and jeopardize profitability due to service recovery spending, overtime costs, and a general lack of efficiency caused by not being able to stay on plan. Often in diagnosing the profit shortfall, they fail to identify the true problem.

Correcting the problem is not hard; but it is nearly impossible unless the company commits to making fundamental change. It involves several things:

  • You need a plan that addresses how the company should do things in a proactive manner.
  • You need to establish a culture of accountability where people must follow the plan and work proactively.
  • You must discipline the people when their lack of planning, discipline and lack of organization sets them back on the road to fire-fighting.
  • You must be willing to invest time in fixing the causes of the problem, not just the symptoms.
  • Leadership must be aligned in recognizing that a culture of constant crisis is serious obstacle to success. And align in fixing it.
  • Finally, you must not personally fall prey to the addiction.

The benefits of instilling best practices in crisis management are enormous. A proactive culture has engaged, motivated employees. They take pride in their work, are more enthusiastic, and serve your customers at a higher level. In fact, they are happier because they are not distracted by chaos. As a result, customers are satisfied with the service they receive and continue to invest in the relationship. It is a win-win for the customer, the company and the employee. The company grows and profits improve. If it sounds too good to be true, try it and see.

Effective crisis management is a critical skill. My version of an old Chinese proverb says, “The superior manager prevents crisis. The mediocre manager attends to impending crisis. The inferior manager treats crisis.”

Which one are you?

This article is tagged with , and posted in Business

About the Author:

The author, of the Wilson-Oyler Group, is a 30-year industry veteran. Reach him at

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