I have a 12-year-old boy who can be challenging at times. The last year has been a test in many areas of parenting. If you have a 12-year-old, you might sympathize with many of the viewpoints below.  If not, try to remember how you thought and acted at that age.  What if the business world acted like a 12-year-old? What would happen?  The funny thing is that many of us adults act like this from time to time, so you might find this convicting. I know I did.

10 Ways Businesses Act Like a 12-Year-Old

1. Impulsive Decision-Making

Some business owners tend to make decisions by their gut without much strategic or financial analysis.  I don’t recommend getting stuck in “analysis paralysis”, but there should be some basis for decision making. Mindtools.com recommends the following approach:

  • Create a constructive environment.
  • Investigate the situation in detail.
  • Generate good alternatives.
  • Explore your options.
  • Select the best solution.
  • Evaluate Your Plan.
  • Communicate your decision, and take action.

2. Difficulty Delaying Gratification

My 12-year-old cannot save money for long.  He earns money from doing chores and mowing the lawn, but he is in debt quite often and spends money on food and entertainment regularly. Many times he regrets how he has spent his money. Just today, he was upset that he paid $5 for a movie on Itunes instead of going to Red Box and paying $1.50.  I recommended that he have a budget. I know you might find this humorous, but if he can learn the lesson now, how much better will it be later when he has a much larger budget?

Businesses should have a budget, approval system, and a process for reviewing actual expenses to the budget. This will not only help in delaying gratification, but the plan will make decisions so much easier.

3. Making Excuses Instead of Taking Responsibility

My boy rarely takes responsibility for anything. Somehow very little is ever his fault. I know that we can all fall into this trap.  No matter the challenge a business in facing, we can all take responsibility to improve the situation. There are many unforeseen events that are outside of our control, but if we are honest with ourselves, we are in control of more than we think. Certainly we are in control of our reaction, focus, and ability to learn from mistakes.

4. Procrastination

I know all of us have waited until the last minute to do something.  Many of us believe that our best work is done at the last minute. The fact remains that adequate planning is always more effective and leads to less stress and increased creativity.  If you need the sense of pressure, try developing internal mini-deadlines to help achieve a larger goal.

5. Arguing About Everything

Maybe it is my 12-year old’s personality, but he argues about everything. It really doesn’t matter if he is wrong, he just likes to argue.  Businesses tend to have silos between departments and levels of experience that can cause a spirit of disagreement. Large businesses call this bureaucracy, but even a small business can have dysfunctional politics that slow down the growth of the organization.

6. Don’t like Change

Kids and teenagers tend to like everything to remain the same. Most adults are very averse to change and I admit to falling into this category sometimes. One thing is certain is that change will happen so we have to embrace it.

“Change is a law of life. And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future. ” John F. Kennedy.

7. Emotionally Inconsistent

We all know that pre-teens and teenagers can be emotionally unstable, and it is challenging to know how they are going to react to different situations.

Leaders of a business must be consistent in their communication and reaction.  How they treat different employees should be the same no matter their mood or stress level.  This is hard of course but necessary.

8. Lack of Empathy

I truly believe the empathy portion of a 12-year-old brain has not been fully developed. It can be very challenging for them to think of anyone else besides themselves. Let’s face it, we are all selfish to certain degrees. But we have to be careful and learn to be empathetic to other viewpoints in the organization.  Obviously, we can’t please everyone, but just the act of listening and considering different viewpoints will go a long way towards getting people to work together.

9. Manipulation

Manipulation seems to be learned at an early age.  I see my 12-year-old trying to pit my wife and me against each other through sometimes fairly effective and well-thought out manipulation. He might not really know he is doing it. He just wants to get his way and will do whatever it takes to get it.

I know this is prevalent in businesses. The problem is that it breaks down communication and causes infighting and lowers morale. The productivity of the employees will decrease and people will feel like there is an unfair system. This will lead to lower employee retention which is not good for growth.

10. Short-term mindset

It is very hard for a 12-year-old to think far down the road.  They have a short-term view of life.  Businesses cannot operate this way. Yes, they need to be flexible, but they should have a strategic vision and plan. They should communicate the goals and plan to help them meet those goals.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates

After writing this, it is amazing how much we as adults can act like a 12-year-old.  We must continue to work on many of the qualities above and strive to have a more strategic, empathetic, and long-term view of life and our business. Don’t stay a business that acts like a 12-year-old, but instead move into adulthood and experience the growth that comes along with it.