Is Your Business Bleeding Out?

Bleeding out (“exsanguination” in medical terms) is death caused by the loss of blood from a wound. In business, the term could be used to describe a similar death. Wounded by one event, the organization fails to recover and slowly bleeds to death.

Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees. – Tony Hsieh

Surgeons Operating on a PatientTypes of Business Injuries

The wound may be an external injury:

Or the injury could be internal:

Whatever the injury source, the bleeding can be stopped. After the organization experiences the initial injury, it is important that leaders recognize the impact, identify the source of the bleeding and put a stop to it.

Types of Blood Loss

There are several types of blood the business may lose:
  • People: Your best people, seeing the trouble, seek employment elsewhere.
  • Efficiency: Resources are wasted on politics, personal agendas and ulterior motives.
  • Commitment: Disengaged employees who remain, show a lack of enthusiasm, decreasing results.
Whatever the type of blood loss you experience, it is likely you will eventually see decreased levels of all three. The downward spiral often begins with one attribute and takes other vital components as negative momentum builds. Faced with a wounded organization, about to bleed out, what is a servant leader to do? Consider how the hospital treats the patient that is bleeding out at the hospital…

Emergency Procedures for an Organization Bleeding Out

When a patient is admitted to the hospital, the medical staff processes the patient through four phases: Triage, Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery.

1. Triage

Like the nurse in the waiting room, you must stop the hemorrhage. At this point, fast, strong and highly visible action is required. Communications to the organization about your commitment to resolving the issue is necessary. At this point, you may not be 100% certain of the root cause – admit that.

2. Diagnose

Triage executed, now you must diagnose root cause. This means a cross-functional, multi-level team dedicated to naming the source. These individuals must have the support and trust of leadership to name the problems in the organization. The news your diagnosis team brings is often uncomfortable. Therefore, the team must be assured the messenger will not be shot.

3. Treatment

Whatever the root cause, there is a solution. For example, even external forces have mitigation steps. Comprehensive and candid communication is key. The resolution process is often uncomfortable for many – like re-breaking a misaligned limb. Commitment to completing the healing process is vital. The moment leadership slips back to old routines, the bleeding resumes – often at a faster pace.

4. Recovery

Just like the patient in a recovery room, the organization must experience a time of healing from the operation. During this time, the organization will be hypersensitive to the problems of the past. Therefore, leadership must be constantly in front of the employees reiterating the ongoing support. During this time, processes may be a bit slower, junctions may be painful and some will feel a bit uncomfortable. However, you’re in it for the long haul and the future is brighter than before the operation.

Don’t Just Sit There

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there. Allowing your organization to bleed out is like a medic standing beside a dying patient, watching them slowly fade away. In the long-term, you would be equally responsible for the slow death of the company. Stand up. Say something. Take action.

Question: What wound are you allowing to bleed out at your organization?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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