Self-inflicted pain

Columns - Industry Voices

June 3, 2013
Marty Grunder

Marty Grunder

I see a lot of bad leadership going on daily. And some of it is at my own company, and I must be honest.

If it’s at my own company, there’s no one to blame but the guy writing this column. I love what my friend Dr. John Maxwell says about personal responsibility: “If I were to kick the guy who was most responsible for my problems, I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.”

However, how many of us are truly aware of how many issues we create in our companies and our own lives? Until I was about 35 years old, I was absolutely clueless about how my actions or lack of them at Grunder Landscaping Co. affected my company’s performance and, more importantly, our profitability. I’ll share with you a few examples.

I was an expert at micro-managing (still good at it, but not as good as I used to be). Not only could I not resist the temptation to jump in on anything my team was doing, I would completely take over and undermine what my manager was attempting to do. 

And I didn’t feel bad about it, either. When I became disgusted with the results we were getting, I changed. I learned that most of your people want to do the right thing all the time and that they are much more capable of doing a lot more than we realize. 

And, we’ll never find out if we don’t delegate tasks to them and/or delegate the responsibility and the authority to act on things completely, and then STAY THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY!!! 

This is hard to do and mistakes will be made. Mistakes are the ways we find out how to do things the right way. When I look back at what our first landscape installations and maintenance projects looked like, I laugh. We were terrible. But that experience showed us what we needed to do to improve. Today, I’d put Grunder Landscaping’s work up against anyone’s in the country. 

Presently, I’m looking for people to hand things off to; I don’t want more work. I need to have time to think strategically, to daydream, to plot our next move. 

If I’m busy handling tasks others are more than capable of handling, then I’m never going to grow my company and I’m never going to be able to retire. Old habits are hard to break, but I’m getting better and better at staying out of the way. 

And, I can assure you writing this column, which my whole team reads, will only help them see what I am trying to do and remind me to stay out of their sandbox.

Another thing I wasn’t very good at doing was leading by example. Oh sure, if you compared me to many, I was pretty good. However, in a few critical areas – those areas you must be good at to succeed with a landscaping company – I was not very consistent. 

For example, I wasn’t the best person at having the details a work order needed for a job to get done right. I would miss things: drain tile, the sod cutter, a good drawing, etc. 

But, I would continue to remind my other salespeople that they needed to do it. I am a highly detailed guy when it comes to image. I can nitpick something with the best of them.

But, often I am running at a very fast pace and forget the obvious. Just the other day one of our crews went to the address of the home of a client we work for instead of their business, costing us three man-hours and about $175.

No one to blame but me. 

It’s a simple mistake I should have caught and did not. I used to do that a few times a month. I’m much more aware of how not leading by example not only hurts your profitability, but it also hurts the ability for you to teach. Your team sees a lot better than they hear. 

Finally, I was not very good at sharing information. I would not want to admit we had a problem. I would avoid tough conversations with others. I did not fire people who needed to be fired. I did not speak up immediately about things that were important to me. And I also was not very good at sharing the credit. 

Today, I realize that I am the person most responsible for our failures and my team members are the people most responsible for our successes. 

The only way we are going to realize our utmost potential at Grunder Landscaping is for all of us to have an open, honest relationship with each other. 

And that means we have to share information that is good and bad. If things are not going well, there’s no sense avoiding it. Just talk about it. If things are going well, then share that too. 

Don’t be afraid to talk about things you see that you don’t like. Just remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Today’s modern leader understands that you are far better off catching people doing things right than looking for all the bad. 

I am gradually getting better at catching people doing things the right way and I’m hoping that my backside starts to hurt a little less in the coming year.


Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See; mail