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36 Barriers That Prevent Businesses From Reaching Their Potential

Updated: Jan 2, 2023


Grant's preface: this post is a heavily reworked version of a four-part sales copy I initially pitched to a client. However, this specific idea was not used as it was too broad of a topic. I ended up writing about other, more specific topics instead.


Ultimately, this post should be derivative enough to be a standard evergreen post. I have removed any references to the brand and added my thoughts and opinions on the barriers without including any sales plugs.


While this is already the longest post on my site to date, each section is only a brief overview of each barrier and some quick thoughts I have about each one. This vast topic warrants much more information, insights, statistics, etc. I may come back in the future to expand on the subject, as this is the stuff that people write entire books about. Regardless, I still feel this article is interesting enough in its current form.

 
 

What is the most important goal when running a successful business or organization? Is it to be seen as being innovative? Maybe it means providing the best possible product or service. Perhaps it simply means making as much profit as possible.


Regardless of what you think the most important criteria are, one abstract concept can make all these goals a mere fantasy: experiencing barriers. Like a locked door, your progress will be blocked if you don’t have the “key” to get past the barrier.


From my research and personal experiences, here are the top 36 reasons why businesses struggle to reach their maximum potential, as well as a few thoughts and insights I have about each topic.


 

1. Mistakes Are Frequently Repeated


Have you ever had to raise or watch a child that doesn’t seem to learn from their mistakes? Unfortunately, this is also a common occurrence in the business world. It is even more frustrating when a group of adults makes the same mistakes.


The long-term effects of missing a step while performing work or forgetting to follow up with a client may not seem immediately apparent, but frequently repeating these mistakes will inevitably reduce your profits and public image.


My thoughts: Learning and implementing new information can be tricky, especially when someone is expected to learn it in a short period. As someone who has worked as both a new employee and a technical trainer, I have comprehensive experience of the two sides.


Speaking from the trainer's side, it is frustrating when you know some background information that the other person isn't "getting."


Thinking something is simple when it's not is known as the curse of knowledge, a type of cognitive bias.

Old, seemingly basic information to you may be an entirely new concept to the recipient. It is important for the side providing the information to ensure that the employee can verbally describe the steps or information you provided.


From the side of the learner (or less experienced employee), making mistakes is easy when information is unfamiliar or unknown. At this stage, several things can be done. What I recommend to new hires is for them to attempt to locate information about the question they have. If the solution is still unclear, I encourage them to ask their manager for further clarification. This helps create and develop a business environment where being self-sufficient is encouraged without leaving the learner or inexperienced employee feeling like they are destined for failure.


2. Not Obtaining Desired Results


Are you not accomplishing what you want? Whether that involves hitting a specific sales figure, having your employees reach internally tracked metrics, or not getting the results you wish to hurts.

My thoughts: Results often vary for a variety of reasons. The amount of variables is even more numerous for business as a whole. Was the product not a good fit for the demographic you marketed to? Maybe a similar product that the general public considered more ideal came out around the same timeframe?


Even beyond sales expectations, internal results and expectations on how employees should act and operate may fall short of your initial hopes. There are undoubtedly more distractions in today's world than ever before in human history that prevent employees from reaching the highest level of productivity.


3. Your Business is too Reactive


Unless your business can't help it, being reactive is never preferable to being proactive. While many industries, such as the IT support industry, thrive on being reactive, most businesses will likely find more success in trying to predict their customer's needs and act accordingly.


My thoughts: As someone who currently works for a managed service provider, it is almost amusing to say that being reactive is a bad thing; being reactive, for better or worse, is a large part of what we do as a company.

For other industries (and sometimes businesses that thrive on being reactive), however, anticipating the needs of a client, group, or general demographic is preferable.

Let's say you are a producer of fashion, for instance. In this case, analyzing current trends and developing a line of clothing around what may soon be popular for your demographic will almost certainly lead to more positive reception and sales than just copying what everyone else is doing. While there is a certain amount of risk involved, the odds of your brand succeeding (or, at the very least, being seen as innovative) will be higher.


4. Your Team is Frequently Missing Deadlines


Missing deadlines is a real blow to an organization, mainly because missed deadlines can often be avoided. Not setting reminders and ensuring that workflow is streamlined as efficiently as possible are two of the most obvious ways that deadlines get missed.


My thoughts: Projects and long-term goals tend to go off rails quickly. Because of this, there are entire industries and schools of thought on the best way to hand deadlines and general workplace productivity.


There are so many ways for deadlines to be missed. Here are just a few examples from the top of my head:

  • Scope creep

  • Not documenting things efficiently

  • Your team is taking on a large workload relative to the period

  • No clear accountability

  • The initial deadline was unrealistic



5. The Meetings Your Business Holds Are Not Effective


Meetings and business reports often get a bad rep for not being beneficial and inefficient. The reality is that it's not so much that they are ineffective in themselves, but that your organization is not efficiently optimizing your meetings.

My thoughts: Meetings can be a great way to convey important information to everyone within an organization effectively. However, I've learned that many businesses poorly handle their meetings.

The best way to have productive meetings, of course, is to have and follow an agenda. Having a meeting without knowing exactly what you will discuss is like getting a box of chocolates: you won't know what you will get out of it.

Beyond following an agenda, having a productive meeting means only including information that all involved parties should be aware of. If you are having a company-wide meeting, the only information that affects everyone should be discussed. Only marketing-specific information should be discussed if the meeting is for the marketing department.


6. A Business Has Little or No Planning


Having a plan, even if it's just a general outline, can help make the difference between success and failure. Not having a plan can not only reduce your odds of success but can also make you seem incompetent as a leader, as well.

My thoughts: This one is pretty self-explanatory. If upper management does not know the general direction they want their business to go, they will inevitably fold.


While overly meticulous planning may backfire, not having any plans for the future will lead to a variety of things, none of which are positive.

This may include employee frustration and confusion, poor sales/profits, and/or mistakes frequently made by employees during unplanned situations.



7. Your Business is Not Growing


From the overall scale of your operation to the performance of your employees, growth can often be hard to obtain. At the very least, you can measure your business's profits and your employees' specific metrics.

My thoughts: This is an insanely broad topic. Stagnant growth can include a variety of factors. Here are just a few:

  • outside factors (often economic)

  • your products are for an extremely niche demographic (without any opportunity for scaling to a broader audience)

  • your product or product is becoming obsolete or overshadowed by the competition

These are just three that I immediately thought of off the top of my head. There is no shortage of reasons why a business may not scale.



8. There is No Visibility Among Employees


Ghosts can be spooky since they aren't visible, but here is something that can make even the most hardened business owner shudder: not having visibility inside an organization.


Not having visibility can mean that success factors are not apparent, not knowing what each department is supposed to be doing, or not having a clear idea of the level of the priory for each task.

No matter which (or all) of these you're referring to, not being able to see clearly what needs to be done can be scary.


My thoughts: No one is a mind reader (thank goodness!). Because of this, it is very easy for things to get lost in translation and become unclear in general.


Therefore, having important, relevant information easily accessible to everyone is key to mitigating any visibility-related issues.

Having a good place to have your company procedures documented, whether through an internal database or any other means, is the best way to reduce problems like these.



9. Your Business Has No Clear Structure


Having a chain of command is vital for organizational success. Without one, it is hard for employees to know whom to report to and who holds what responsibility. Without an excellent corporate structure, you are almost sure to be doomed to failure.

My thoughts: This is similar to the previous point but broader. If there is no clear structure on how a business is supposed to operate and with whom they should be working, employees will, no doubt, frequently do things incorrectly.

Having a business structure chart documented is the best and most straightforward way to define your business's structure. You can see examples of business structure charts here.



10. No Focus


A lack of focus can negatively impact anyone, not just employees. Whether it’s a missed deadline, lackluster results, or anything else, a lack of focus can affect all aspects of the business world.


The secret to getting around this is to bring back focus, naturally. This is easier said than done, I'm afraid. However, there are still ways to manage a lack of focus.

My thoughts: In today's world, a lack of focus is more common than ever. Distractions are more prevalent than ever before. Whether it is due to noises playing from your cell phone, background noises that divert your attention, or anything else, obtaining a focused mindset is a challenge to obtain these days.


Whenever I need to focus, I do what I can to block out any distractions. For example, if I'm on a PC, I will close out any unneeded windows and applications and only focus on the task I need to. I also find that playing ambient music with no lyrics often seems to help me.


Ultimately, focus can be obtained in several ways, and the method to obtain it is not always cut-and-dry. Experimentation and a disciplined mind are two of the key to obtaining focus.



11. Burnout


Occupational burnout is an infamous state of mind that has become more and more prevalent in the news media as we are working longer hours, performing too many tasks, not feeling in control, and many other reasons.

While there is little you can do about an employee’s inherent fit in each industry and position, you can do much about their current situation and responsibilities.


Three common ways employers can help employees mitigate burnout include directly following up with them to see how things are going, ensuring that they are not overwhelmed with the amount of work they are involved in, and helping them reframe their position.


My thoughts: There have been numerous studies over the years that have delved into the physical and mental effects on an employee. Burnout can predict future physical conditions like heart disease or gastrointestinal issues. Additionally, psychological effects, like insomnia and depression, can develop or become more engrained in employees experiencing burnout.


Fighting burnout is a tricky thing. Probably the best thing an employee and employer can do is first to identify the problem before the issue spirals out of control.

Open and transparent communication, whenever possible, is likely the best way to avoid burnout from happening in the first place.

12. Fighting Fires


As kids, many of us thought firefighters were some of the most incredible people on the planet. As adults and business owners, most of us have a newfound respect for them...and it’s not just because of the actual fires they put out.

Most of us can relate to the stress and frustration of having to “put out flames” inside a work environment. If something needs to be handled, one can and should not just let it “burn.”

My thoughts: The frequency of internal and external problems that will occur in a business depends on the industry. Customer service-focused businesses, for example, will experience more issues in this regard than businesses that primarily operate behind the scenes.


Despite the frequency, however, internal problems will still occur within businesses. Even if the problems aren't dealing with one's public image or a frustrated customer, problems may still occur from within. This could be due to employee disputes, not following operational procedures correctly, or many other problems.


The best way to stop fires from happening, therefore, is to prevent them from happening.

Of course, completely preventing them from happening is impossible. Nevertheless, methods to help with "fire" prevention are certainly possible. Employee training, one-on-one meetings, and making company policies and procedures easily visible are just three examples of ways to help prevent and slow fires from spreading.


13. No Clarity


What makes sense to one person may not always be clear to another. This struggle is amplified when two people of entirely different backgrounds and experience levels communicate with one another.

My thoughts: Clarity is often an uphill battle. Unfortunately, it's often something you have no control over, especially if there's a language barrier preventing information from being communicated clearly.


Have you ever played the game Telephone? It is a game where one person tells one person in a room a few sentences, and they must whisper it back to someone else. This process continues until the last person has been communicated to, in which they then verbally convey what they have heard.


Even if someone didn’t intentionally hijack the game by saying something absurd, it is often surprising how different the final message becomes between the first and last person in the chain. This is a perfect example of how much information can become lost in translation, effectively losing most or all its clarity.


In cases where information or a situation is unclear, one of the best things one can do is to reframe what you know and reclarify. Reframing is not always possible, however, unfortunately. Consulting with another party may be the best action in cases like this.


14. No Alignment


If you’ve ever done any arts and crafts that involve a certain level of precision, you know how important it is to align materials and other elements before properly making a change. This level of accuracy is also the same inside an organization, just on a much more conceptual level.


Not having internal departments aligned with the company’s goals and vision will waste time and money and result in a poor bottom line regarding overall profit and the products and services provided.

My thoughts: Retraining or promoting an employee may be required if your organization has departments or individuals who do not align with your company's values. However, the financial and human resources needed to train and retrain can be high.


Suppose employees or departments are not meeting deadlines or performing sub-optimally. In that case, you only have a few viable options: you can either restructure your company to accommodate how these employees and departments are performing, retrain them, or lay them off.


Layoffs, especially massive ones that the general public can observe, are never seen as good. As a result, it's a logical conclusion to deduce that this option should only be resorted to if all else fails.

Similarly, changing entire operating procedures and company culture simply for an individual or group is seldom a good business plan. That leaves us only with training and retraining. While this may be costly in the short term, it is the option most likely to pay off over a more extended period (so long as the employee stays loyal, doesn't burn out, and so on.)


15. Poor Company Culture


I've heard people say that an organization can only be as good as the sum of its employees. This anecdote is true, but more factors at play make this statement simpler than it is.


Company culture has a vast bearing on the morale of its employees, and poor culture can lead to a path of waste and destruction. You can have the most sociable or intelligent employees, but the results will also suffer if employee morale suffers.


My thoughts: At first glance and thought, company culture may sound like a PR phrase concocted to engage employees and form a sense of unity. While this may be partially true, I've found through experience that company culture is more encompassing than this.


For instance, some businesses promote more high-risk-reward strategies where experimentation by employees and teams is encouraged. Others may be more risk-averse, focusing more solely on tried-and-true methods of success.


What makes for good company culture is a topic for debate beyond the scope of this article. Despite this, some methodologies and practices are generally considered universal. Strong leadership, clear direction for all employees, providing clear and helpful feedback, and similar elements are essential for having a respectable culture within your company.


16. Busy, But Not Productive


Being busy and being productive are two dramatically different things. To give an exaggerated (and, perhaps, humorous) example: repeatedly hitting your head against a wall will undoubtedly keep you busy, but no sane person would argue it's productive.


While there are rarely any real-world business tasks as absurd as this, the premise stands that there is often busy work inside a business that can slow down an entire operation, let alone cost the company money due to wasted time and effort. Many tasks can be streamlined, taking minutes instead of hours to complete.


My thoughts: In my opinion, one of the best elements of computers and other forms of technology is the ability to accelerate dull, mundane tasks. For instance, reminder emails for client appointments can be automated and set at predetermined intervals automatically.


On the flip side, I find the biggest problem with technology is its tendency to overwhelm us subconsciously, even when the end-user knows the inner workings of an application (like Microsoft Outlook). If you have several tasks staring you in the face, it's no wonder many people get overwhelmed and are often unsure of the best course of action.


The best way to stay busy while being productive is to determine what can be automated and delegated to others. Having a core set of tasks that you as an individual focus on is key to obtaining desirable results.


17. No Risk Management


Risk is a concept that can cause even the boldest gambler to freeze up from time to time. In the business world, risk has a reputation of being something to avoid at all costs. However, what if we were to say that risk itself is not something to be avoided? Instead, the lack of a plan to manage and mitigate the risk is what is genuinely frightening.

Putting a system in place to manage risk is one of the most important things you can do as a business manager to weather any instance of risk that may prevent you from achieving your strategic goals.


My thoughts: Some risk, undeniably, is a good thing. For instance, the entire financial investment market is dependent on risk-taking at its core. However, for an overwhelmingly large number of businesses, especially ones like manufacturing, taking risks is unacceptable and can lead to a diminished bottom line.


Managing risks can be as simple as just following basic guidelines and rules. It can also be more complex, involving complicated systems and applications to control individual elements of every action taken inside of a business. Regardless of the complexity, risk management strategies are vital for most companies and necessary if a business plans on scaling to consumer demands.



18. Not Meeting Targets


No matter how you present it, no one will argue with the fact that not reaching your targets stinks. Not getting the results you are looking for can be a significant detriment to achieving what you want.

There is often any number of reasons why this may be the case. Two of the biggest reasons organizations and their employees fail to reach their targets are a lack of systematic strategic planning and poor implementation.


Put another way: not having a good plan (or one at all) and not being able to properly implement it is one of the most significant ways to miss your target.


If you are not meeting things like your marketing key performance indicators, you may want to reevaluate how you are executing your strategy.


My thoughts: Financial targets have this namesake because they are what you aim for, not what you know you are sure to reach. Those who have played a game of darts know how difficult it can be to constantly hit the bullseye, the 60-point mark, or any specific dartboard area you are trying to hit. With "practice," business can better align their goals with the targets they are trying to "hit."

However, this is not always possible. Various unpredictable reasons, like a turbulent economy, may cause target goals to become unviable. Real-time adjustments for quarterly reports (or any other financial goals) are impossible. Because of this, it is in the best interest of those attempting to set realistic targets to consider all potential setbacks and hindrances before determining a target goal.

19. Lacking Leadership


Being a leader is a tricky thing to be. On the one hand, you need to be efficient at your job. On the other, you also must possess a certain level of charisma to have others want to listen to and follow your direction. This balance is not easy for most people to achieve.


Historically, leaders who do not find this balance tend to be unable to lead their companies to their apex. Even with a reasonable balance, however, being a leader, in general, brings on an entirely new set of responsibilities beyond the scope of a less senior position within the company.


My thoughts: There are entire books on leadership, so I will not delve too deep into this topic. Still, there are certainly elements of leadership that are universally desirable in a leader. Traits like being organized, conveying information clearly, and having an internal locus of control are just three of the many characteristics needed to manage a company successfully.


Leadership, naturally, is a desirable trait. What a business needs in a leader may vary, but having some degree of leadership is a universal must-have for businesses to optimize their potential.


20. Lack of Time


If there is one thing that most leaders, let alone most people in general, wish they had, it's more time. This feeling is understandable, as there's often not enough time in the day to accomplish what you want to do.


The best way to work around a lack of time is to develop strategies to help to free up more free time. Developing strategies sounds like a difficult task; fortunately, there are numerous ways to do so.


My thoughts: Time is something that all men and women are bound to follow.


No matter how much money, power, or influence a person has, they will never be able to escape the hands of fate. Because of this, an individual or business should optimize their time as much as possible.

Developing strategies to streamline processes and reduce the time one needs to spend on tasks is the first step all business executives should take to free up as much time in the day for other, more vital tasks. Two immediate strategies include delegating tasks to other employees or using automation software.


21. Poor Management


You likely hired your management based on their credentials and experience. On paper, they should be performing up to or exceeding the standard. If they are not, this may not necessarily be entirely their fault.


There are many possible root causes for why management is not performing perfectly. Some of these root causes may be due to issues having too little direction or a hefty workload that prevents your managers from being able to evaluate and better manage their performance.


My thoughts: There's a delicate balance between providing guidance to employees and micromanaging them. Too little guidance will result in employees not effectively using their time, ultimately reducing their level of productivity. Too much direction will reduce the time a manager will have to hone their time and efforts toward other tasks that require their attention.


When it comes down to it, the best thing business leaders can do to help their management immediately is to train them on finding and practicing the balance between the amount of guidance their employees oversee. This may involve training or retraining employees on processes, correcting minor errors that can easily be avoided, and more. A manager's job is to manage; having fewer things they need to control will, inevitably, makes their job easier.


22. Angry Customers


Hell hath no fury like an angry customer! ...Ok, maybe this is an overly dramatic statement. Regardless, the fact still stands that having a bad reputation and unhappy customers with your services can cripple any operation, despite the business's intentions.


So, what can be done about your company's public image if you ever reach this point (we hope you never will!)? This is a difficult position to bounce back from but rarely impossible. The most direct answer to this question is to develop a strategy and execute it.


My thoughts: Turning around a company's image is hard, especially if they are relatively young. Did you know that almost 80% of small businesses fail during their first year? While the most common reasons for this are poor market fit and the inability to sustain themselves financially, 14% of companies fail in the first year simply due to ignoring their customer's needs. From this data alone, it's clear that a good chunk of long-term success is determined by how well a business handles its customers' needs.


Two common strategies businesses can utilize to remain successful include training employees on how to best handle common issues clients have and reducing the number of channels and escalation points a customer needs to go through to resolve their issue.



23. Employee Frustration


Frustration is an emotion that can lead to a variety of outcomes. How companies handle frustration can either bring winds of positive change or be a deadly force that destroys everything in its path.

So, what is the best way to handle employee frustration? First, make sure you make it clear to your employees that the company hears their voices. However, that alone will never be enough. You also want to ensure your company implements and executes a strategy to alleviate their frustration. Some methods include developing a plan for internal promotion or negotiating a pay raise.

Almost all (sane) employees frustrated with a company that is unable or unwilling to accommodate them will opt to leave and seek employment elsewhere instead of remaining loyal. Identifying frustrated employees and directly working with them before it because too late is the best way to avoid losing qualified employees.


My thoughts: Some elements of employee frustration may be natural and unavoidable. There are virtually no jobs that do not require at least a portion of it to be unenjoyable and stressful. Despite this, no business could continue operating if it didn't provide reasons for potential employees to work there.


The key to maintaining your employees and keeping them happy with your company, especially for small to mid-sized businesses, is to determine common frustration points that many (or most) employees report. From here you should decide whether it's viable to accommodate your employees.

If fully accommodating employees is impossible, can your company make compromises? Regardless of your decision, a business must eliminate employee frustration if it hopes to thrive and reach its full potential.



24. Exhaustion


The human body and mind are only able to work intensely on something for so long before it starts to drop off and lose its maximum level of efficiency. Like weightlifting, you need to rest after pushing yourself to recover and become more effective.


Employees, naturally, will become more exhausted over time. Proactively identifying signs of exhausted employees is critical for businesses that hope to cultivate a work environment that promotes work-life balance.


My thoughts: There are limits to how much a person should work. Since most employees do not have the power or luxury of determining when and how often they work, it is critical for employees who work in positions that involve intense physical labor or extreme mental focus to take regular breaks.


While all of this may sound like a parent nagging on their kid, it truly is vital for an employee to regulate their body and mind if they hope to continue performing optimally. As a business owner or executive, ensuring that your employees are not exhausted is not just an ethical thing to do but one that allows your business to maximize both profits and the overall potential of the company.



25. Overwhelmed


While being physically and mentally exhausted may be worse, feeling overwhelmed is still not a great place to be. It is super easy to become “paralyzed” from the sheer amount of work you sometimes need to do.


My thoughts: Have you ever looked at your to-do list and thought, "good grief, where do I even start?" This is not only an extremely common phenomenon but something that many working professionals deal with daily.


The solution? Task prioritization is the first thing you may want to consider. Rarely do tasks hold equal value, so determining the task's urgency is crucial. If the task is both urgent and important, this should be done as soon as possible. If it's urgent but not super important, either do it later or delegate the task to someone else.


Determining the priority of your workload is important for bringing order to what you need to do for the day, and it can help you and your employees from becoming overwhelmed.


26. No Innovation


It is challenging to be cutting edge, but having zero innovation or improvement to your product or service can make working or purchasing from you seem less valuable to clients.


Not all businesses need to innovate to survive; however, most could do with some degree of innovation to further improve their overall potential.


My thoughts: There are times when a business should focus on keeping the status quo.



Plumbers, to provide an example, don't need to invent wacky and unique ways to replace a pipe. However, even plumbing companies can find ways to innovate. While this may not translate precisely to the service they directly provide, there are ways to innovate in other areas of the business.

Some ways to innovate could involve a unique marketing campaign, redesigning your website to make it easier to navigate, or even finding ways to provide better, more exceptional customer service. These are just three quick and straightforward examples I immediately came up with, so the potential to innovate even a tried-and-true business can be applied anywhere.



27. No Processes


If you do not have a visible process, your employees will be unable or unsure how to handle specific tasks. A solid listing of internal processes not only makes things easier to understand but also helps build and facilitate better focus and efficiency, as well.

My thoughts: All businesses should have their internal processes well documented and accessible for all employees at any time. Companies whose operations are unclear or not written down will never be able to reach their full potential.

Standardized processes are essential, but only if everyone is following them. Identifying employees or departments not following or unified in the process and retraining them to follow it is the first step toward developing a strategy to improve a company's efficiency.



28. Not Being Efficient


Efficiency and progress are vital elements to ensure the most effective operation possible. The more your organization operates efficiently, the greater the likelihood you will meet deadlines, have strong employee morale, have satisfied customers, and more.


So what happens if your business is not operating efficiently? You will lose money, customers, and sometimes even staff. Being efficient, therefore, is key to a successful business.


My thoughts: Remaining efficient, especially in today's world where there are more distractions than ever, is not easy. Efficiency comes in many forms, such as ensuring efficient processes or how much employees accomplish over time.


So how can efficiency be improved? There are many ways. To name a few:

  • Use software to streamline and automate processes.

  • Have fewer and more focused company meetings.

  • Focus on optimizing existing processes.

Ultimately, a business's efficiency is rarely something it can completely optimize to 100%. Still, you can approach this number by implementing effective processes and procedures that all employees and departments must follow.



29. Loss of Control


The battle between law and chaos is a battle that will, undoubtedly, rage on until the end of time.


In less metaphysical and more practical terms, disorder can spread like wildfire throughout your company without taking steps to keep it under control.


There are quite a few reasons why chaos can break out, and this can be due to a lack of strategic planning and implementation. Without careful planning, you can expect missed deadlines, lessened productivity among your employees, weak sales numbers, and more.


My thoughts: Loss of control can range from the more minor (missing deadlines) to the more extreme (workplace drama and fights).


It is easy to lose control and forget what you need to do, but you can take steps to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. As mentioned, careful planning is a must for keeping control over yourself, your employees, and your business as a whole.

Reclaiming control that you've lost isn't easy, so do yourself a favor and put preventative measures in place to keep it from staring in the first place.



30. No Follow-Ups Are Occurring


It is easy to forget to follow up with a colleague, a business partner, a potential customer, or anyone else you need to check back up with.


With all the frequent distractions that everyday life brings us, following up is often something that we forget to do. Simply following up regularly, even if you think things are going smoothly, is a great way to keep projects and tasks on track.


My thoughts: If you don't regularly follow up on tasks that require it, you may lose business opportunities or find that your employee may have overlooked performing something. Therefore, shooting a quick and simple email after a set time may be in your best interest.


My best advice is to set up recurring follow-ups whenever relevant. You should also consider writing up a reusable template you can quickly fill in and email recipients to save time.



31. Employees Are Not Engaged


At least on paper, the staff you employ serves to increase your business's overall output and profit. There would be little point in hiring employees to scale your business if they didn't.


When employees are not engaged and satisfied with your company's culture and goals, this is when engagement rapidly drops. Maintaining employee morale is tricky to achieve, as you need to ensure that their needs are not only met but also that they can remain productive.


Per Gallup, when it comes down to it, you only have the following three types of employees:


  1. Actively engaged (34%)

  2. Not actively engaged nor actively disengaged (50%)

  3. Actively disengaged (16%)


My thoughts: You clearly don't have to worry about the first type of employee on the above list.


The second type, which roughly half of the workforce falls under, is probably the type you need to worry the most about. If work conditions or management changes for the worse, they are likely to fall to the third category and become unengaged.


If employees show they are actively unengaged, it may be too late. However, keep in mind that, as long as they are not a poor fit for the company at large, there may still be a way to, at the very least, move them to category 2.


While an unengaged employee can sometimes be beyond the control of business owners and managers, keep in mind some things can be done to engage employees. To better help realign employees with your company's goals, focus on what the company has to offer employees.

Could your business be doing more to improve the career development of employees? What about improving the pay rates of employees? Is the work environment stressful? These are things that businesses can improve on or be more involved in to engage their employees better.



32. Things Are Falling Through The Cracks


The phrase "falling through the cracks" refers to when things go by without being acknowledged. A lack of acknowledgment is almost always due to neglect. This mistake is seldom due to anyone not caring; in most cases, it's due to no one properly documenting something or setting a reminder.

My thoughts: Having good organization and self-management skills is a vital trait to have if one expects to succeed in anything. Whether it involves performing a task at a specific time, following up on an email sent last week, or anything else related to being a working professional, it's clear that mismanaged tasks are the ones that fall through the cracks.


The best thing to do, in my experience, is to write down any task, no matter how small, in a calendar immediately. As I often sit at a PC, I use Google Calendar to organize what I need to do for the day. I also have Google Calendar synced with Outlook, which helps to remind me beforehand (I have it set to 30 minutes before).


Ultimately, there's rarely an excuse for missing routine maintenance or other forms of following up. It's easy to forget things; that's understandable. Please do yourself a favor and ensure that you are taking preventative measures to keep yourself from neglecting your duties, whether it involves writing down a reminder or anything else.



33. Finger-pointing/Blaming Others


It is tempting not to take responsibility and redirect the blame to someone or something else. This type of action can be seen regularly in the news and our daily lives, so this being a barrier to world-class strategy execution probably comes as a surprise to no one.


What takes true courage is acknowledging that we caused a mistake, owning up to it, and determining a way to correct or reduce it. Unfortunately, this is often hard to do, especially when you are considered a leader in your business.


My thoughts: Put bluntly, it sometimes is someone else's fault that something went wrong. Frequently, in fact. However, in my experience, finger-pointing and blaming others is equivalent to putting a bandaid on a crack: it doesn't do much in the grand scheme.


The way I see it, finger-pointing is redirecting blame to a different place. Just like the law of conservation of matter, blame can't be destroyed; blame can only have its form changed.


So, what can a person do about this type of redirection? There are several ways. The most direct, of course, is owning up to it if you were the one who made a mistake. Lies can spiral out of control, and keeping up with a lie will usually backfire in the long run. Thus, being forthcoming and transparent about your mistakes, as long as it won't directly harm others, is the ethical path to take. But what if your actions will have long-term consequences on those around you? As I would prefer to avoid delving into specifics and trolley problems, I will say: use your best judgment.


This is an even bigger dilemma if someone else makes a big mistake, especially someone you manage. The aftermath leaves you with even more choices to make. Should you blame "the team" for the error? I wouldn't, as that's demoralizing for individuals performing effectively. Maybe you should fire them? It probably depends on the severity of the mistake; if it's a minor one, retraining may be more effective in the long run. Perhaps you could sweep it under the rug and not tell anyone? Again, I would prefer to avoid ethical thought experiments.


In short: avoid blaming others whenever viable. It rarely leads to an efficient outcome.



34. Poor Communication


Even taking away aspects like language barriers, poor audio quality, and other elements beyond one’s control, communication is a complicated thing to do well. There are entire businesses and practices established for the sole purpose of helping others communicate more effectively.


Communication inside a business is even more tricky, as there is more at stake than a simple chat with a stranger on the streets. Poor communication between coworkers or customers can lead to many adverse effects, like lowered morale, reduced productivity, or a loss in profit and sales.


My thoughts: Communication is hard. Good communication, anyway.


That is a very vague statement, of course. What do I mean by this? The question is very nuanced, so I'll just list a few things that immediately come to mind.


  • Being able to listen and comprehend what the other person is saying.

  • Keeping reasonably calm and polite when conversations get heated.

  • Displaying an air of confidence, even if you do not feel confident.

  • Avoiding filler words such as like or uhh. (Note: this is challenging and something that is not easy to master. Though I've drastically improved in this over the years, I still catch myself uhh-ing a lot.)

  • Not overcomplicating language.

  • Not omitting important information.

There are far more elements of strong communication than this. These are just the first six I immediately thought of when quickly meditating on the topic.


Again, I want to be clear that developing strong communication skills is tough and does, indeed, require practice. There are numerous groups and organizations, such as Toastmasters, that you can join to practice and improve your communication and leadership skills.



35. Lacking Skills


You expect qualified employees to perform the tasks required of them. When you initially looked at their resume and interviewed them, wasn’t one of the first things you noticed about them their experience and skill set, both currently and potentially? Without this, their resume would have been a simple boring history of their lives, right?


However, even if your employees are performing adequately, this doesn’t mean they cannot grow. If you’re not already investing in your employees to provide them further training and opportunities for growth, you are doing both them and your entire business a disservice.


My thoughts: Skills can be learned and strengthened if an employee has the time and willpower to do so. In a perfect world, those who would rise to the occasion and attempt to better themselves and their situation would be granted the opportunity to thrive. However, this is not a perfect world.


Regardless, I've come to believe that pursuing self-improvement should not just be a means of getting a job and making money; it is also a right-minded path that often leads to a prosperous life and strengthened character.

In my opinion, employees are only as strong as their max potential. Suppose an employee naturally picks up on and learns skills quickly. In that case, I feel they will eventually be a better asset to most businesses than those with difficulties learning information in a reasonable amount of time or an active refusal to learn.


36. No Accountability


Like placing blame, not having accountability causes knowing who is responsible for a task to become muddled.


Unfortunately, not knowing who is accountable happens frequently in the business world. Not having a straightforward go-to person handling a job can cause objectives not to be met.


My thoughts: Knowing who is in charge of what can sometimes get lost in translation, especially in larger organizations. Even if responsibilities are publicly documented, there are often incidences where specific, non-clear tasks come into play where no one is sure who should handle it.


In cases like these, a company should utilize its escalation process. Generally speaking, a manager should be immediately contacted for clarification. If that manager doesn't know, they should report to their manager until the question is answered or brought to the top of the chain of command. If the CEO doesn't know, likely a third-party will need to be brought in for assistance.


Still, accountability and the roles in the company should be something that all organizations should make clear to their employees. Internal documentation is naturally the best means to convey this info. However, formal training at the beginning of onboarding every new hire should be a staple for all company training programs.

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