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Who’s Running Your Business Anyway?

May 15, 2011

From American Express OPEN Forum

By Diane Helbig – President of Seize This Day Coaching

Original Post May 13, 2011

We like to believe that we are in complete control of our companies. However, sometimes we are not as in control as we’d like to be. Without realizing it you can be giving up power to others. When this happens they are determining the direction of your business.

Informal leaders in your organization can be the most dangerous—they become dangerous when you don’t take control from them. According to the Leadership Development Resource Center…if informal leaders do not support the formal leaders and their agendas and vision, they can function as barriers in the organization.”

There are times when informal leaders are good for an organization. They don’t have official authority but they are dedicated to the success of the company and others follow their lead. A negative informal leader is someone who doesn’t believe in the policy decisions so they don’t follow them.

Unfortunately, these folks gain traction because leadership doesn’t address them. The leadership is either adverse to conflict, is intimidated by the employee, or is fearful the employee will quit. The damage these people do is far worse than any of these scenarios.

You can’t reach your goals if you have an employee who isn’t following the plan and performing the functions necessary to meet the goals. The negative influence this employee can have on the other employees can be devastating. One way this manifests is that those more professional employees will still do what is expected of them but they won’t be happy. Moreover, their respect for the leadership will wane. This can cause tension, or worse—the good people might leave.

The other possibility is that the other employees will stop doing their part as well. After all, if ‘Suzy’ doesn’t have to do it, why should I? Now Suzy is effectively running the business because others are impacted by her behavior more than they are impacted by the decisions of the leadership.

The leadership has to decide what matters most—success or avoidance of conflict. Leaders have an obligation to the organization, themselves, and the other employees to make sure everyone is doing their part and that everyone embraces the company’s culture. If the decisions are designed to move the company forward then they have to be followed by everyone—no exceptions.

Outside influences can impact the success of an organization as well, two main ones are clients and vendors.


If your client is not providing you the information you need to do a successful job for them, but you proceed anyway, they are in control of your company.When they extend the boundaries of the scope of work and you let them, you’ve lost control.

Clients are a vital part of your business success. They cannot, however, make decisions that negatively impact your company and still be considered good business. The time you spend trying to keep them happy is time you aren’t spending working with good clients or marketing for more clients.

When you spend time doing things that are in conflict with your goals and vision, your focus has shifted and the client has taken over. You have an obligation to all of your clients to maintain your policies and procedures, scope of work, pricing platforms, and performance expectations.


Sometimes vendors make decisions that can have a negative impact on your business. They can change pricing unexpectedly, fail to deliver in a timely fashion, change the terms of the relationship. Any one of these behaviors can harm your ability to move forward with your business success.

Make sure you maintain clarity in your relationships with your vendors. Contracts are truly valuable here as they spell out the expectations on both sides. It is always a good idea to shop the products and services you need in your business periodically to be sure you are in the best possible relationship. Getting complacent is an easy way to allow your vendor to take control of your business.

I don’t think any business owner knowingly or intentionally turns control over to someone else. That’s part of the reason this is so dangerous. If you aren’t paying attention to the behaviors of others you may find yourself in a position where you’ve lost control. Unless those people have the same goals, vision, and commitment to the success of your organization, you will not be able to realize business success.

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