I received this question from a business owner recently:
Q: “I’ve been successful in growing my small business, and I’ve started hiring some staff members. At first, I could keep track of what everyone was doing just by overhearing them and by quick check-ins. But now that I’ve hired more people, I feel like I spend half my time answering their questions and checking up on them. If I hire any more people, I won’t have any time at all! Help!”
I’m sure it was your intention to hire people who would lessen your workload, not add to it. Sometimes it’s difficult for a small-business owner to transition from having his hand in everything to hiring people whom he trusts to get the job done. Likewise, your employees may view you as a small-business owner who wants to know every last detail – and that’s why they call on you so much.
But it’s time to change! As your business grows, you have to spend more time managing your business instead of running it like you did when you probably started out. Luckily, there are a few easy ways you can communicate with your employees that will allow you enough time to manage your business as well.
- Use Flash Reports. Flash reports are an excellent way for staff members to communicate with management. A flash report is an email that is sent on a regular schedule (usually weekly) that highlights a team member’s key accomplishments, priorities and needs. It allows a supervisor to quickly keep tabs on a number of subordinates regularly and efficiently. It’s a great way for employees to “check in” once a week with their managers. It allows the supervisor to see if the team member’s activities and priorities are in line with their expectations. Are they getting things done? Are the things that they are working on the “right” things for the company? If everything is fine, it puts the supervisor’s mind at ease. If there are questions or concerns, it’s a trigger for the supervisor that he/she needs to pick up the phone and find out what’s up.
- Schedule a specific part of each day to answer questions from staff members. Flash reports are great for most updates, but things undoubtedly come up on a daily basis that may need your immediate attention. You should set aside a certain time of day, say, from 3 to 4 p.m., when employees can come to you with pressing issues.
- When your employees have questions, ask them to write their questions down before coming to you. Sometimes it’s easier for employees to ask you questions instead of finding the answers on their own. By asking them to write down their questions before coming to you, it makes them stop and think, “I think I know where I can find the answer to this.” They’ll start finding their own answers and get out of the habit of asking you.
- Hold regular, goal-oriented meetings. Just like sending out flash reports and scheduling part of your day for questions, you should work meetings into your regular routine as well. You should hold meetings to share information, maintain focus, promote a team environment, recognize excellence or achievement, and communicate statuses and priorities. Start out with flash meetings, which are meetings that are held at the same time every week. Prepare an agenda, and determine and communicate what you want to accomplish at the meeting. These kinds of meetings are great because they allow for batch processing, e.g., “I don’t have to call right now since I will see Dwayne at the meeting.”
If you’re at the point where your business is growing and you have to hire staff members, your business is at a critical stage where, if you don’t manage your time and your employees properly, there could be catastrophic consequences. As the leader of your company, you must send out the message that you are in charge and in control. Employees will see you in your new role and assume their new roles as well.
Photo credit: by Alan Cleaver