Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't Be Afraid

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." --- Plato 
Business leaders have a lot to fear in today's market.  These are the days when it is good to have friends and peers to lean on and to share some of the problems and frustrations you face on a daily basis.  You can no longer look to the federal government for support; they are not your friend. State officials, at least in Florida, have been moving slowly toward a anti-business stance as well.  If you find yourself in a position with no one to voice your concerns and fears to, feel free to give me a call.  However, fear is oftentimes based on false assumptions.  Truth shines a light on fear.  Where truth can't be found, fear takes its place.  Here are three common fears followed by a bright light, or truth, to eliminate those fears.

1.) Fear of firing an employee.  During the Industrial Age, some businesses mistreated employees, used children for labor, and had unsafe working conditions.  Over time, the US government implemented laws to protect employees from these business leaders and to help ensure a safe working environment.  Through the years, these types of laws have increased to give employees more of an advantage over their employers and to make it easier for attorneys to make gobs of money representing terminated employees.  

Florida is an "at will" state which used to mean that you can fire an employee or the employee can quit without giving a reason.  Times have changed and it behooves the business leader today to document a case leading up to, during, and after termination to keep on file in case the employee decides to retaliate in some way.   Thankfully, Florida courts still lean in favor of the employer in termination cases as long as you can avoid issues currently under protection (e.g. "I fired him because he is handicapped," or, "I fired her because she is pregnant").  If you avoid the obvious and keep good records, you have nothing to fear when firing an employee.

2.) Fear of losing employees to my competitor.  This fear is understandable because you definitely don't won't your employees to jump ship, especially to go to a competitor and take your company knowledge with them.  There is a way to address this fear.  It may not be completely eliminated, but it can be reduced.

Communicate constantly with your team members.  Don't keep them in the dark about the condition or the direction of your business. Have a lot of face-to-face time with your employees.  Have a lot of meetings.  If you think you are meeting too much with them, meet some more.  Communication is key to keeping your talented team. 

According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top three reasons people leave their jobs to go elsewhere is because they 1.) want a financial stake in their work.  They want to know that what they do for the company gives them a piece of the company; 2.) want more resources and responsibilities.  They feel a sense of ownership and are highly motivated by responsibility; and 3.) hate working on things they are not good at.  

Understanding the importance of constant communication and the reasons people leave their jobs will help to eliminate some of the fear of losing your people.

3.) Fear of employees failing.  This is a big one I see on a frequent basis.  Business owners tell me, "My employees won't do it like I did it," or "I have to micro-manage my team in order to get the project completed correctly."  My response is always, "Well, then fire them."  That, of course, brings up fear number one in the owner's mind and the sweat begins to form on his brow.  Simply, it all boils down to the hard fact that if you didn't hire the right person to begin with, it is your fault and you should get rid of him or her.  But note that the key is to hire the right person, which means one with the qualifications that you believe can help to carry out your business mission.  That is one way to get rid of this fear.

Another way is to learn to begin trusting your team.  It is true, they are not like you... thank God for that.  They have other attributes you don't have and other talents, skills, and knowledge you don't have.  That is all great and helps to make for a well-rounded team.  Hire right, train them right, then get out of their way.

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