7 Chronic Business Dilemmas

7 Chronic Business Dilemmas

There are 7 chronic dilemmas that persistently plague organisations.

Working together these dilemmas cause harm. They turn the organisation inward … into doing business with itself.

This is not a good place to be.

If the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer, these dilemmas obstruct this purpose.

That’s why healthy organisations (and their leaders) obsess about confronting them.

So what are the 7 chronic business dilemmas?

  1. Lack of clarity about the ‘vital few’.

Real progress depends on narrowing focus not on increasing the number of objectives.

Getting to the ‘vital few’ means making trade-offs. It means making choices about where to allocate time, energy and resources. It’s the failure to do so that leads to too many priorities.

And too many priorities always means none at all.

  1. Dysfunction in the top team.

This is the root cause of ‘too many priorities’.

As an executive you belong to two teams. The Executive and the team you lead. The Executive should be the first team. The job of this team is to act in the best interests of the whole organisation.

Critically, this includes making trade-off’s and limiting the number of priorities.

  1. The wrong people in the key seats.

What should the key metric of the Executive be?

It’s the percentage of the right people in the key seats on the bus. This should be the obsession of the first team. It also means getting the wrong people off the bus, or into positions better suited to their abilities. This seldom happens.

In general, senior leaders would far rather tolerate poor performance or bad behaviour than do anything about it.

  1. Confusion about how to make a difference.

A major cause of employee disengagement is a lack of purpose or meaning in the work.

This is a consequence of the above. To overcome this every person needs to be able to answer two simple questions:

  • “How does what I do fit with what matters most to the organisation?” and,
  • “What do I need to do today?”

Knowing the answers and being well supported really does make the difference.

  1. The busyness trap

Being uncertain of how to make a difference leads to the busyness trap.

In the absence of clarity people make themselves busy. Busyness creates activity and activity generates complexity. The more complex things become the quicker the business starts doing business with itself. Over time the enterprise loses its ability to adapt and respond.

Inevitably mediocrity rears its ugly head.

  1. The unequal distribution of work.

What happens next is that fewer people start doing the real work.

Tasks, responsibilities and workloads become unfairly divided. This in turn leads to burnout, resentment and the loss of key talent. It’s a crazy outcome.

A few people disproportionately stressed out, while more and more people check out and become disengaged.

  1. Misaligned reward and recognition systems.

Recognition systems that prioritise ‘short-termism’ and individual performance over teamwork are frequently the norm.

This happens even when the company values state otherwise. This leads to cynicism, demotivation and negative, destructive internal competition.

Precisely the outcomes every organisation is looking to avoid.

How then are these things allowed to happen? What gives them life and longevity?

A major cause is absentee leadership.

By this I mean leaders who are psychologically absent. Who are unable, or sometimes even unwilling, to embrace the true calling of their title.

As Patrick Lencioni outlines in The Motive, leadership is not a reward for having arrived. It is a responsibility that comes with a burden.

The leader’s burden is to confront these dilemmas (not add to them).

To tackle them head on and to use their position and authority to dismantle them. To put the business on the path to becoming healthy, so that ultimately it can fulfil its one and only true purpose … to create and keep a customer.

Does your business suffer from any of these dilemmas?

We’d love to hear from you. Please write to me or comment below.


Change just this 1 thing in 2024

Get your Executive Team to work better together.

This 1 thing will have the biggest impact on your organisation’s performance this year.


The team at the top has a unique role to play.

It’s job is to set the pace, raise the standards and to narrow the focus. No one else can do this. It must also set the cultural tone and be a source of hope and inspiration.

If the team is not working well together it cannot perform these vital functions.

This has big implications. Dysfunction at the top magnifies across the entire organisation.

If …

  • the organisation has too many priorities,
  • behavioural standards are unclear
  • there’s confusion about major decisions

… everyone feels the pain.

So, how can you tell if your team is set to work well together this year?

Below are 10 questions to reflect on. Use them to pinpoint where change is required.

We’ve been lucky to work with many Executive Teams over the past two decades.

Executive Team at work

These traits come from direct observations of these teams in action.

The 10 questions

  1. Are all the seats on your team occupied by the right people?
  2. Is your team focussed or do you suffer from too many goals and priorities?
  3. Do your team’s goals concentrate energy and inspire commitment?
  4. Does each executive feel personally committed to the team agenda? Does their individual agenda support that of the team?
  5. Do your team members have their ego in check?
  6. Does the team respect the leader and do members of the team trust one another?
  7. Is membership on your team defined by contribution, performance and adhering to high standards?
  8. Does your executive culture ensure that everyone speaks up? Do team members weigh in even when they disagree?
  9. Does everyone support a decision when it’s made … even if disagreement is still in the air?
  10. Are your team meetings impactful and interesting?

Download the 10 Questions poster here

Extra Resources: Watch The Teamwork Trifecta below- 3 things to get right when building a great team.

In conclusion … 

Many organisations suffer because their top team is not working well together. This should not be the case.

Building a great team is not complicated. Nor does it need a new theory. It does however require willingness and commitment … and the desire to get to work and create change.

Changing this 1 thing will make a material impact on the performance of your organisation this year.

And you’ll be surprised at how many people will thank you for it!

We love hearing from you.

Please comment below.