Do you have a 'secret agenda' holding back your business?

Teigan Margetts

Business owners, just like the businesses they run, are complex, multi-faceted and capable of having multiple agendas at any one time. But are these agendas always the right ones? And more importantly, are business owners even aware of the multiple agendas they may have, and how they have the potential to harm their businesses?

According to Simone Milasas, leading business coach and author of Joy of Business, the answer is a resounding no. Many business owners have what she calls a ‘secret agenda,’ which are certain ideas, often subconscious, which can be potentially damaging to their business. These ‘agendas’ can be particularly dangerous insomuch as they may limit the business’s ability to grow, innovate, and ultimately succeed.

But how do these ‘secret agendas’ do this? And how do you know if someone you work with has one? Most importantly, what should you do about a secret agenda if you discover one? Here’s a quick guide to understanding, unearthing and ultimately addressing such agendas:

How can a secret agenda limit your business’s potential?

As all small business owners would know, the success and failure of an enterprise is predicated not on its products or services, but on the people within the business – particularly the business owners. As individuals, business owners bring a rich tapestry of past experience, opinions and ideas to their businesses, therefore the business ‘begins’ long before the day it actually begins trading. It’s this tapestry of experience that can also have a limiting effect. 

According to Milasas, past experiences can cause business owners to drive away people that would otherwise have been valuable. For example:

“Some may go into business with the underlying belief that women can’t succeed in business, a damaging and untrue perception that may have come from early on in life,” says Milasas.

Secret agendas can therefore significantly limit your business’ potential as they blind you to people, process and possibilities.

There are other early-life influences that can have a damaging effect, such as business owners adopting their family’s approach to certain things. Milasas says:

“[A secret agenda I see often is the idea that] your family did it this way, so you should do this way. Whether it’s a traditional recipe, or how you manage your day – being aware of the assumptions you carry will help open you up to alternative and possibly more efficient methods.”

Secret agendas can therefore significantly limit your business’ potential as they blind you to people, process and possibilities.

How do you know if you someone you work with has a secret agenda?

According to Milasas, asking the right questions is key to discovering whether you, or someone you work with, has a secret agenda. Firstly, you have to ask questions to ascertain a person’s perspectives on the business, after all, agendas result from different perspectives. Questions that Milasas recommends asking of anyone you work with, or those you are considering recruiting, include:

“Where do you see this project heading? Where do you see this business heading? What kinds of revenue streams do you think we can create here? Etc.” 

More broadly, Milasas also recommends you question yourself about a person’s value to the business. For example:

“Will this person expand the business? Will this person make more money? What if it didn’t matter that they had a secret agenda, because most people do?”

What should you do about a secret agenda if you discover one?

Managing secret agendas is not so much about eradicating them, but more about building awareness and not being oblivious to how they may affect your business. According to Milasas:

“The way you resolve a secret agenda…is to be willing to be aware of everything and everyone.  You can’t change everyone, but you can see when someone is going to contribute something or they aren’t.”

Managing secret agendas is all about perspective – yours and theirs.

“If you look at a cream coloured wall, no matter what you think, everyone’s going to have a different opinion – be it white, off-white or yellow. Nobody has the same perspective as another person, so one thing you have to get clear is where people are functioning from.” 

Teigan Margetts

Teigan Kate Margetts is a freelance writer who specialises in producing thought-provoking content on business and education-related topics. 

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