When our business grows to be more than we can handle on our own, we bring in employees and entrust them with portions of the work. In the beginning, the risk is low; we can monitor them closely and if someone drops the ball, we know how to pick it up since it’s stuff we’ve done before. But in time, the company grows to a point where we are so focused on leading and growing our business, that we don’t know how to do everything anymore. We become dependent on our employees. We need them!
And, this is where the danger begins.
When we have really talented people in the organization, they are going to do a better job doing their job than we would. We have to trust and believe that they are going to do things right. But this cannot prevent us from holding these people accountable!
Every employee wants to be held accountable. They want us to have standards and hold them to those standards. Like teenagers, they will test those boundaries and color outside the lines. But if we hold them to the lines, they will feel safe. It will increase the trust and confidence they have in us and in our leadership.
This is why when small-business owners come to me and say things like, “If I had better people this business would be fantastic! But the employees I have are driving me crazy. I can’t get them to work together.” Well, I just shake my head. If you need better people, get better people. You are the boss. Recruit, train and deploy whatever workforce you want to have! But more importantly – manage your workforce.
The workforce that you have is the workforce you hired. Maybe you think you can’t recruit better people, you can’t afford to pay better people or you may even wonder why good employees would ever come work for you. But these are all limitations you are putting on your recruiting effort. Unless you are so difficult to work for that you chase the good people away (this is a different and relatively uncommon problem), there are good people out there, and they will come to work for you if you recruit them.
Once you have good people in place, there are three things they need in order for them to be successful: a challenge, resources and a scoreboard.
1. Good people don’t join your company to shuffle paper; they want to make a difference.
When we talk to candidates, we want to show them how their efforts can make a huge difference in the success of our firm and in the execution of our company’s mission. We want them to know that there is an opportunity here to do something great. This needs to be communicated in the job posting, in the way we do an interview, and in the way we introduce them on the first day of work. They are here to complete an important mission. Framing the position in this way will not attract the kind of people who only want to shuffle paper, or perform adequately. That’s good; we aren’t looking for more of those!
2. Next, they need the resources to do their job.
Sure, they need tangibles like a computer, a desk and a phone, but they also need our time and attention. John Kotter, a well-known speaker and author on leadership issues, said the support of the immediate supervisor is the No. 1 reason that people succeed in a new role or job. We cannot possibly communicate all that a candidate needs to know in one orientation session, or even a couple of training meetings. Initially, we have to set aside time to work with them closely until they settle into the rhythm.
3. The last thing they need to succeed is a scoreboard.
Kindergarten had it right! We need gold stars to tell us we are doing well, but this isn’t going to be as simple as sitting in our seats with our hands folded. You and your new team member need to agree on the outcomes that you are looking for from their work. How do they know they are on the road to meeting the challenge you presented them with? The best kind of scoreboard is one they can see themselves (e.g. they can run the report, or it gets sent to them automatically) and is frequently updated (daily or weekly) so they can measure their progress.
Of course these tools can be used with the team you have too. Go and re-recruit them to the job they are in. Tell them about the great challenges you see and engage them in overcoming those challenges. Give them the resources they need to succeed, and provide them with a scorecard where they can watch their progress.
As small-business owners, we have the best job in the world. The only question is: Are we going to choose to exercise our authority and lead our teams to great heights? Or, are we going to whine and complain about how our people aren’t doing what we asked?
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