Monday, January 21, 2013

Where You Lead, They Will Follow

"If your thinking is sloppy, your business will be sloppy. If you are disorganized, your business will be disorganized. If you are greedy, your employees will be greedy, giving you less and less of themselves and always asking for more."  --- Michael Gerber
In his book, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber explains that most business owners tend to work in their businesses and not on their businesses.  He calls this person the technician, which is needed in a business.  However, the business owner also needs to be three people: the entrepreneur, for creativity, the manager, for running things, and the technician, for doing what must be done.

Even while incorporating all three characteristics, the business leader needs to keep in mind that team members are watching how you handle yourself throughout the day.  By definition, as a leader, you have followers.  These followers will mask or emulate your work habits.  There are at least three key points to keep in mind throughout your workday to let your actions teach your team members:

1.) Know thyself.  Know what your limitations are and be aware of what you can and cannot handle.  For example, if you are not a natural-born organizer, delegate what you can't or are not willing to do.  This allows you to avoid being put in a situation of doing a sloppy or poor job.  It sends the message to your team members that when needed, they should call for help instead of poorly completing a project.

2.) Know how to learn.  Always be on the lookout for new learning opportunities.  Keep a well-stocked library in your office and offer materials to team members when requested or if you believe it will help them in their roles.  Set an example of figuring out how to be the best in your leadership role.

3.) Know when to apologize. One of the most overlooked, yet most simple gestures is to say, "I'm sorry."  Business leaders screw up things too.  It is called being human.  When it happens, continue along that same vein of being human and apologize.  The message this sends speaks volumes to your team.  Most employees will give instant forgiveness and some will begin to realize that they are working with a real person.  

It is difficult enough to keep up with the three roles you are playing without the pressure of many eyes on you.  But, if you do these simple things, you take the pressure off so you can continue leading a team that is proud to follow you.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Costly Employees

"Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can't miss.."  --- Lee Iacocca
In a typical small business, labor is your biggest expense of the business.  The cost adds up when you factor in attracting ideal candidates, interviewing and orientation costs, training expenses, and compensation and benefits.  If so much is being spent on employees, why do we miss opportunities for continual development of talents and skills?  Why do we get so frustrated with employee retention efforts and keeping our team members' eyes on the ball?

In order to keep the employees you want to keep and create a better, more dedicated team, there are at least four things you can incorporate into your monthly schedule for 2013 that are painless and not too time consuming.  Be diligent in applying these and you should begin seeing immediate returns on your employee investments:

1.) Initiate true performance reviews.  No, not the annual forms that rate an employee from 1-5 where almost everyone is a 3.  Those have little value.  Instead, review every employee's performance (at least your top leaders if you have too many employees to review yourself) and personally and in confidence address any issues with the employee.  The reason for the performance meeting is to see how the two of you can help to improve the employee's performance.  Solicit feedback from the employee and together come up with a six-week plan addressing the particular issue.  Be sure to follow-up with the employee at the six week mark.

2.) Communicate employee's role.  This is a biggie that is usually overlooked in many businesses.  This simple process helps to eliminate headaches down the road.  Explain, in writing, what the role of the employee is.  Some call these job descriptions, but whatever you label it, make sure that the employee understands what his or her job is at the company.  Explain in detail how their job affects others and how what they are doing impacts the success of the business.

3.) Communicate your role.  Let your employees know what they can expect from you in terms of honesty, transparency, a good paying job, training, benefits, rewards for value added, etc.  This is another area some business leaders overlook.  Yes, it's true that they took the job assuming these things, but it is good, and necessary to remind team members from time to time about the relationship and what is expected of each other.  Leaders, as well as employees, become too relaxed in their positions and lazy in the relationship.  Communication will restate the reason for being at the company.

4.) Money IS a motivator.  Don't fall for the studies that say employees want more than money.  Of course they do, but they are working in order to make a better life for themselves and their family.  Reward your team members handsomely and especially after a value-added event.  Recognition, growth, personal development, purpose--- all of these are necessary, but money does motivate.  If you've hired the right person and want to keep him or her, pay them what they are worth to your business, and then some.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wisdom Meets Passion

Great Read!

Wisdom Meets Passion, by Dan Miller and his son, Jared Angaza provides great insight, and yes, wisdom for anyone looking to combine both wisdom of experience with on-fire passion.  I found the book to offer great advice and tips for improving creativity as well as for stirring passion for business and life.  Miller's and Angaza's writing style makes the book a quick read (a few hours) while providing good information for starting a business as well as going outside of my comfort zone.  It was strange at first because I too have believed in a linear approach to business and career, but the father and son author combination helped to open my eyes to new avenues.  I highly recommend this book to every business leader as well as those considering a business start-up.  The writing style of both Miller and Angaza lends to the effect of listening in to a father and son share life ideas from two very different perspectives:  Miller's wisdom of life experiences and Angaza's passion for life and his "being different" in his pursuit of a simpler life helping entrepreneurs in Africa.  Both styles help the reader, at least it helped me, to grasp a better understanding of what others see as a generational gap, but the authors see as a wonderful combination for living.
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