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Eliminating Crisis Management

Helping to define what you do

If we were to walk into your business today, we would probably find you very busy at work.  The question is whether you were doing the things that you had planned to do, or if you were busy putting out the "fires" that often occur with being a business owner.

A contemporary definition of management by crisis is "making decisions according to the problems at hand, many of which did not exist when you go to work each morning."

As a unit of measure, if you are spending 15 to 20% or more, of your day handling today's problems, then you are performing crisis management.  And, if you are in that position, you are often unable to perform your other duties.

As managers and owners, you are the individuals with the responsibility of planning for the short and long term future of your business.  One of the currently popular management books says that a manager that is constantly putting out fires in his business, is probably the one that is carrying the matches to start the fires. If you are the owner or manager, there are three responsibilities that are a part of your written, or unwritten job description; you are a worker, a manager, and a planner.

As a worker, you will find yourself performing many of the same duties that even the newest employee is performing. Most owners and managers would agree that it is very hard to have your workday exclude these types of jobs, and that it is also important from an employee morale perspective that you occasionally be seen performing these duties.

But if the owner or manager is spending a large percentage of the day doing the same tasks as the employees, then the second responsibility, management, is being neglected.  You may own a business that utilizes a manager.  Most owners would agree that if they utilize a manager, it is a job that the owner is also well qualified to perform.  And as the owner, you do have to 'manage the manager'.

Whatever is your situation, you have the option of managing in primary style, secondary style, or a combination of the two.  Primary management can be demonstrated by the type of manager that has the employee perform a task, return to the manager for approval of the task, and then wait to be assigned a second task.  Sometimes this type of management is referred to as 'gopher management', which is a paraphrasing of the instruction, "Go for this. Return to me and then I will send you to go for something else."

This type of management has a tendency of becoming very exhausting to the manager.  The secondary style of management requires education and information being given to the employee.  This style is apt to be developed as a result of a manager or owner sitting with the employees in a staff meeting, and outlining the goals - immediate, midrange and long term - to the staff.

Goals are created and assigned, as compared to tasks being assigned, because you have the confidence in the employee to determine the detailed tasks that need to be accomplished so that the goals are achieved.  Deadlines are established with intermediate goals being provided so that the progress can be checked along the way.

As you can see the advantages, and disadvantages, to each of these management styles, you will also see the need to blend the two.  For, as the situations and individuals involved will vary, so will the technique that you will utilize.

Leadership is the hardest task for any owner or manager to perform.  Perhaps the difficulty comes in attempting to define the need for leadership.  Dr. Steven Covey provides this explanation: a worker does 'it', the manager sees that 'it' gets done, and the leader defines what 'it' is.  Being the leader should not involve a lot of your time.  You may even go days or weeks without performing leadership tasks.

If you have been a good leader, you will find that you are able to spend more of your time in a management mode because of the goals you have established.

It is impossible to determine for you, the quantitative amount of your time that should be spent with each of these three levels.  Depending on the size of your business, and the number of employees, you will find the majority of your time in one of the first two.  And if you are spending too much time in crisis management, then it is time to reread this article and examine how duties are divided among you and your employees.

Resolving crisis management in your business can generally fall into one of three categories: situations of which you are the individual that can resolve them, situations that you can delegate to others, and situations in which you will need outside assistance.

The first two of these categories will be resolved much in line with the information that we have already discussed. It is the third area in which you want to make sure that you have the necessary assistance ready.  If you are an owner, the most likely candidates for outside assistance would be an attorney, banker, accountant, and an individual within the trade who has years of profitable experience.  It is with these people that you will want to share information such as personal and business financials, long term goals, concerns, and any other information that could possibly influence the way that they would advise you on matters.

Walt Disney used to say that his company would work for five years, plan for ten years, and dream forever.  That may be too long range for your business, but the idea is right.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

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St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
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