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  • Yvette Pearson

Amber Flags

When it comes to choosing your next company to work for, we are all shown how to identify Red Flags. Those warning signs that tell you that the company could be toxic, bad for your health, even headed for serious financial trouble. Things like making you go through 17 interview stages; or having a really high rate of turnover.

These red flags can be easy to spot for someone who has seen them before, or they can be realised with hindsight once you've joined or left a company.

But what about some of the lesser-known Amber Flags which could contribute to low staff motivation, poor communication, and ultimately reduced career opportunities.

Whilst Red Flags should make you run for the hills, Amber Flags are ones which, if spotted, should be something you should be able to rectify whilst working for that company.

Certainly, they can turn into Red Flags, especially if the management team roadblock your genuine attempts to make things better. However, they are not bad enough to make you look for the exit. They can be real opportunities for you to grow within your role and make a difference to your colleagues.

With my experience working in many different companies across multiple industries, I can tell you that these Amber Flags appear everywhere. There are no better or worse industries or sectors that I have seen, nor do they seem to be apparently different in different locations.

So what are they, and what can you do about them?

1. No Mapped Processes

It might be the case that everyone knows what they are doing, and when to do it. This is good, isn't it?

Not really: what happens if that person is suddenly taken ill or takes unexpected leave? Who can take on their responsibilities? These situations nearly always arise during busy periods, or in the middle of large projects. The team are then sent into panic mode, trying to figure out who needs what access or who should be doing which task. This detracts from normal business activities, and more often than not will take up a lot of management's time. The cost of which can be large - and that's assuming the process gets done without any mishaps, and people realise that there's something which needs doing in good time.

What can you do about this?

Obviously for starters you can map your own processes. I can help your company with this, with a day's process mapping workshop. Or you can simply get on and do it yourself. Take a look at my "How to Map A Process" blog for some help. Once you've done this, make sure people know its existence and keep a note to update it regularly, including listing out what system access people will need in order to run the process on your behalf. If you are a manager, get your team to do this for each Business Critical function that they perform.

2. Daily Anything

Never in my 20-year career have I ever been part of any daily call or meeting that was for a positive reason. Of course, sometimes there can be daily stand-ups for project updates, but these should be for a short period only, and they tend to only be when something has gone wrong, or when something major is about to happen.

Daily sales calls get tedious, with most of the participants not actually listening, resulting in things having to be repeated or people wasting their time. Honestly, there aren't many sales cycles where there are major things happening on a daily basis.

What can you do about this?

Ensure there is an end point to anything which happens daily. A couple of weeks should really be enough, otherwise this till turn into a Red Flag. A sales manager who needs daily calls suggests that you need to have more robust processes in place, a better sales dashboard, or that they are a micromanager. Perhaps you can reduce these daily calls to the last week of the month, or for specific deals only. Either way, if you can't run your business without having a permanent daily call, either something isn't right or you are wasting everyone's time.

3. The CEO is the only cross-departmental function

If the CEO is the only person in the company with direct reports from different business areas, it will be their sole responsibility to make sure communication is cascaded throughout the company. Fine if you are ten people in a WeWorks office, but not so great if you are 100 people across multiple sites.

What can you do about this?

I've seen it work exceptionally well with a team of Business Managers reporting into a Chief of Staff. They can have dotted line reporting into different business areas, but if they are meeting regularly with an overarching function, I can virtually guarantee that company communications will be significantly better.

If your company cannot justify or isn't big enough for Business Managers in each area, a similar result can be achieved by having a nominated person in each team to have regular discussions with each other. Like a two or three levels down leadership meeting.

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