Growing pains in startups and fast-growing, small companies are a fact of life. Unfortunately, for many established companies, “shrinking pains” are equally common. From a business perspective, growing and shrinking may be polar opposites, but the impacts on individuals are remarkably the same. To deal with these situations “up-down,” “down-up,” and “side-to-side,” open communications is critical. Although youthful growing pains may cease with age, for companies, the negative aspects of growing pains can have long lasting effects. Dealing with them as they occur is critical in building and maintaining a healthy environment. The cure for company growing pains is simple and can be summarized in five easy steps.
- Communicate the fact that the changes are inevitable and are to be expected. Uneasiness and frustration are natural responses that many people will experience in response to any changes. Surface those feelings and openly discuss them. Logic is not persuasive, but it can help provide insight that can change feelings.
- Focus on the “good” that has occurred. It is easy to dwell on problems and blow them out of proportion. Celebrate victories such as the new product was released on time, manufacturing met their shipment commitments, the company was under budget during the period, the financing round was closed, or the sales funnel is remarkably full are just a few of the victories that occur regularly and are often overlooked. Ask each group to develop a list of their victories and share them company-wide regularly.
- Remember that nature abhors a vacuum. If factual information is not shared in a timely manner, rumors will quickly fill the void. Once started, rumors will take on a life of their own. Gloom and doom feelings can easily live on long after the feared issue has been resolved or proved to not exist.
- As changes occur, some individuals may be reluctant to let go of certain tasks, while others attempt to pick them up. It is natural to be concerned with items falling through the cracks. However, the more likely situation is that redundant, time consuming, and often inconsistent actions will take place during the old to new transition. If you wear two watches, you may not know what time it is. Duplicate efforts seldom are consistent.
- Stop and think about why you are doing what you are doing, and equally important, why you are not doing certain things. Encourage others to do the same. Habits can be good or bad.
As stated in previous articles in this section, just stop and take time for people! Tell them that it is OK to feel uneasy. Tell them often. Tell them both individually and in groups.