Leaders: What Is Expected of You?

Sep 4, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

Gabe walked in to his office this morning.  He looked around at the piles on his desk and wanted to turn around and go back home and pull the covers over his head.  He sits down and wonders what he should start on.  “Some leader I am” he thinks.

Soon the phone starts ringing.  His bookkeeper comes in and says one of the vendors is calling for the check they were due two weeks ago and, by the way, Chris, the head technician, won’t be in today.  He thought he may be catching something.

“Come on!  How can I run a business this way!” Gabe is screaming in his head.

By the end of the day, Gabe is still staring at stacks of problems on his desk and avoiding phone calls.  He knows he has to change things.  Change anything!

Finally Gabe picks up the phone and calls a business coach his buddy has been referring him too.  Face it, he tells himself, I need help.

It’s Okay To Get Help

On his first visit to the business coach he is nervous.

He is trying to plan in his head what he will say.

He sits down and is asked for some background on his business and how it got started.

It was a surreal experience.  Gabe felt like he was having an out of body experience watching himself from above respond to the business coach.

His hand was rubbing the stress from his forehead.  He is explaining, “I don’t know how we got here.  The employees don’t care.  I can’t get people to show up on time or at all.”

“Are we a service company?  Well yeah…but we also sell new air conditioning systems.  And we install them.  And since our trucks were already going out to businesses we thought we could leverage our system and we also sell coffee.”

“I know coffee doesn’t seem to fit, but really, we don’t have to do anything extra.  We are already there, so our service guy just asks them if they are interested.”

“Are we selling much coffee?  Not really.  The owner of the coffee company keeps calling me to see what we are doing.  Actually it is sort of a pain.”

“You see…..I told you I need help!”

3 Glaring Issues

This may seem far-fetched to those who are reading this, but it is actually quite realistic.  There are three glaring issues in this case study:

  1. No Leadership – all energy and enthusiasm has been completely sucked out of the owner.  Yet, as the owner,  Gabe is the leader.  If he has no energy or enthusiasm for his business, what can you really expect from the employees.  If you as the owner don’t feel like being there, how can you expect anyone else to want to come to work?  Even in the face of persecution, the disciples spread the gospel with passion and hope!  Many small business owners are persecuting themselves, and by default, their team.
  2. No Focus – Gabe is selling anything and everything he can to make a buck.  I know small businesses need sales.  It is tempting to say yes to anything.  But, you’ve read the books about a niche, focus, a point of difference.  None of this can happen if you are just dabbling in a little bit of everything.  Coffee and air conditioners is an obvious miss.  The problem with most business is the distraction begins more subtly.  We are professional copywriters.  But one of our guys can build websites.  I guess we can build you a simple website too.  The scope creep begins and soon your business is dabbling in everything and you aren’t great at anything.  Remember, Nehemiah from the old testament.  Many tried to distract him from building back the Jeruselem Wall.  He explained that he had very important work and couldn’t stop to come down off the mountain.  He stayed focused on his one mission….to rebuild the wall.
  3. No Accountability – Gabe wasn’t holding himself or others accountable.  In the book of James we are called to “let our yes be yes and our no be no”.  Not paying our bills on time is not only an example of not meeting commitments, it is also not treating others as you would want to be treated.  On the other hand, when his key technician didn’t show up for work, Gabe just grumbled and felt sorry for himself.  He didn’t plan on how to fill the hole for the day or what to do to hold the technician accountable in the future.

All of this was glaring to the business coach.


Because it is a common path that small business owners travel down.  But working on everything at once would just send poor Gabe down 3 new paths simultaneously.

What should Gabe do?

Before anything else, Gabe has to take back the leadership of his company.  This can’t happen if he doesn’t first lead himself.  He needs to take a good look in the mirror.  Would he hire himself?  Does he want a tired, aggravated, and hopeless employee on his team?

Of course not.

His first step is to change his attitude and energy towards his business.  He can always call it quits, but each and every day he is in business he needs to be the most enthusiastic, the most energetic, and the most reliable employee.  [If he chooses to give up the management of the business to an outside hire, then it may be different, but while he is managing the company, this is imperative.]

I know it is hard when we as small business owners have so much responsibility and need to wear so many hats.  But, face it, if we can’t be an engaged, interested, and passionate leaders, how can we expect our team to have any of these qualities?

As a small business owner rank yourself as your own employee.  How engaged are you?  How much energy and enthusiasm do you exude?  Do you show up on time and ready?  Do you do what you say you are going to do?

If not, can you start now?

Reader Interactions


  1. David Rupert says

    Right now, with profits squeezed, there is a tendency to pile on the services.
    But as a consumer, i want to know that what you do is done well — professional and with value. All of the extras just seem to add to the cost. Fix my air conditioner. Be on time. don’t rip me off. That’s success.

  2. Chris Patton says

    Wow, Sue. Good post!

    I have had some of these same feelings at various times. The toughest for me is when I do not feel engaged myself. I know it is true when it is happening, but I cannot seem to stop it.

    What is your advice to create a turning point and moving back toward being engaged?

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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