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5 Steps to Overcome the Employee Mindset: Are You Still Thinking Like an Employee?


Business owners, are you still thinking like an employee? Don’t take this as an invasive question. It is not unusual to digress to past-employee behavior even after several years of running your business. I call this the remnants of “employee thinking”.

It is not unusual that after operating your business for several years you revert to past employee behavior. Habits die a slow death; they are so ingrained into our psychic that it takes deliberate actions to expunge or replace.

I entertained an employee mindset for the first 3 years of my business. It wasn’t until I ran up against some big challenges that I recognized; 1) I was stuck with an employee mindset, and 2) I needed a break-through.

So don’t think it strange that you, the established business owner, slipped back into the mode of employee. Stress, distraction, and business challenges can push us to that place where we relapse to past unproductive behavior. Case in point, have you seen older children, when frustrated or tired, revert to old habits like sucking their thumbs or fingers as a way to soothe or comfort?

Mind you, it is not far-fetched for business owners or entrepreneurs to experience unforeseen setbacks that “rattled their cages”. These setbacks can push you back into employee-survival mode. This maybe more prevalent in areas of financial matters. The concept of seeing high returns of investment (ROI) could be elusive; simply because you may not see the return immediately.

These 5 simple steps to break the cycle of an employee mindset:

  1. Recognize or be aware that you have reverted back to the employee mindset or at least heading in that direction. Take a conceptual snapshot of the last business decision you made and the outcome. Review the process you took to arrive at the decision. If the approach was out of alignment with your business vision and goals, you need to do some damage control. Consider the following questions: “Am I taking shortcuts to reach my goals?” “Am I looking at the entire picture or is my focus on that one thing that’s immediately before me?”
  2. As an entrepreneur, sales are the major part of the success of the business. Employees’ attitudes toward sales are skewed and it’s often seen as a necessary evil. To get good results, our perception of sales must be different. You have to embrace it as the conduit for success. Making a mindset shift is the first step; think of your business as a solution provider for the dilemmas or challenges your market is facing.
  3. Life-long learning is essential. Working for an employer impacts our approach to learning. We may learn only what’s essential for the job or just enough to get by. But, that type of thinking can be detrimental to your business. You must stay abreast of trends and economic changes that impact your business or market. This approach opens the door for additional business. Keep learning; it never ends.
  4. Seeking a loan to invest in the growth of the business. An employee mindset thinks a business loan is too risky; I’ll just limp along doing my best and sales will increase. Definitely, not a good idea. Go back to your business plans and review the timeline for growing your business. Were you investing back into your business? Didn’t you set goals to expand the business within a certain time period and hire an assistant to free you up to work on the business? Making a wise investment into your business would get you to your goal.
  5. What’s your attitude towards change? This is a difficult road for most of us especially when we are emotionally invested into the business. Starting a successful business requires a good product or service that others need. So it makes sense to invest into developing the right solutions. But that’s not the only thing. It also requires passion, commitment, diligence, and a host of other qualities. A few years into the business you can experience market shifts that necessitate changes. For starters, any unduly close connection to your business can blur your objectivity, stunt growth, and even erode your business. Remember that any unhealthy emotional cling gets in the way.

If that’s your dilemma, take a page out of the book of professional tennis players. In brief, it is not unusual for this group to work with different coaches at different times. The ultimate goal is to stay fit, be competitive, and improve their game, among others. In turn they hire coaches to get them to the top and will fire them if the results are less than stellar.

As employees working for someone else, you seldom worry about business-building challenges. That is not your problem or concern. As an employee your focus is limited and narrow. There are other employees to handle other aspects of the organization.

When you became the CEO of your business, you ought to begin thinking and applying sound attributes worthy of a CEO. The first thing to do is trade in your employee hat for a CEO hat. Eradicate those bad habits and mindsets. Do not take off the CEO hat when difficulties surface and always think with a CEO mind.

If you find this is challenging, invest in some leadership training for entrepreneurs or hire a business coach to work with you.