"The floggings will continue until morale improves!"
I have a friend who manages a retail store for a large national chain who is miserable in her job.
She can't figure out how to manage her employees, and through them, the business. She's always weeks and months behind in reports, and lives every day in a panic to get caught up on her own work. She complains bitterly about the number of hours and late nights she puts in.
And she has no one to blame but herself.
She was promoted to the position of manager because of her solid performance in customer service and her deep knowledge of the company's products, services, standards, and procedures. Yet she's failing as a manager and suffers from it because this company provides little if any training in how to manage the employees of an individual store.
Whether it's a small business with one or two employees or a single location of a large chain with hundreds, the challenge for the manager is the same: how to run the business without driving him or herself crazy and harming his or her health by suffering unremitted stress over a long term. And prolonged, unrelieved stress is a cause of everything from diabetes to heart attack to cancer to Alzheimer's to stroke and more.
The best manager I ever worked for is a Harvard MBA named Bob Hacker who founded and ran The Hacker Group direct marketing company in Bellevue, Washington. Bob had a series of simple rules he worked by and taught to run his very successful business., All seventeen of his employees knew them and used them daily. Below is a list of rules based on what Bob taught.
The Rules of Managing Employees
Keep it Simple, Stupid. You'd think this would be obvious to anyone, but it is too easy in the course of the day to make a task or a project far too complicated. I know this from personal experience. Want to prove you're making your job more difficult than it need be? Read through your master To Do list. Feel a little, or a lot, overwhelmed? Then you've made your tasks, projects or goals too complicated. A To Do list works when it helps you stay productive, and works against you when you have an anxiety attack looking at it. Simplify:
- If it doesn't need to be done today, does it need to be done at all?
- Is the item wishful thinking?
- If you don't do it, will your business suffer?
I'll bet you a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop you could cross off most of the items on your To Do and not notice a bit of difference in your business, with the bonus that you'll regain a sense of control over your life.
Put it in writing. According to research on employee engagement and motivation, not having a written job description that spells out what you expect of an employee is the major de-motivator of employees. Not knowing what is expected of them is shown to be very frustrating to the employees and leads to poor morale and your employees becoming dis-engaged. And dis-engaged employees are the bane of any business. Why? The definition of a dis-engaged employee is one who is consciously working to subvert and sabotage your plans, programs and business. According to research, 30% of all employees nationally fall in this category. One way to create them is to not give each employee a clear, written description of what you expect of them.
- Put individual job assignments to your employees in writing. This eliminates misunderstandings and wasted effort, and expect your employees to respond to the assignment in writing. As in, "I understand you want me to order two dozen widgets this afternoon," followed by, "I ordered the widgets." This eliminates your need to run around checking up on what your employees are doing. This is incredibly easy to do given modern technology, so you have no excuse to not do this.
Use the Rule of 95. A business owner's or manager's primary job is to grow the business, to plan for the future, to prepare for opportunities and problems to come. Not, and I repeat, NOT to manage or micro-manage the day-to-day. If you have employees, they should be trained and empowered to perform 95% of the work and make 95% of the decisions for your business without you knowing about it. You should be involved in the 5% of day-to-day actions and decisions that really demand the boss's attention. Period. If you're more involved than that, you're wasting your time and energy and your employee's skills and knowledge with the added problem that you're demotivating them to think and act for themselves. You seriously need to rethink your management priorities.
- For Heaven's sake, if you see something unfinished as you walk about the business, don't give in to the temptation to interrupt an employee to have them take care of it "now". Assume they know about it and will take care of it once they've finished their current task. No need for you to be involved. You've got your job, and they have theirs.
- If you want employees to perform a certain task a specific way, then you must perform that same task exactly the way you want them to do it. Model the behavior you want. It works with children, it works with employees.
- Find way to have fun at work. One of my ex-employers puts on a Beer Friday every month or six weeks. Others sponsor Formal Fridays where everyone trots out their business best. Others hold ice creams socials during the lunch hour, or encourage slightly outrageous behavior while on duty (think the in-flight announcements on Southwest Airlines.) Hold an outrageous Hawai'ian shirt competition. You get the idea. If you're having fun, your employees will pick up on it and will come to enjoy their jobs more.
- Remember, your attitude is the only thing in life you truly control.
- Teach your employees to think of how their actions on the job effect others they work with. Is the way they do their job making it harder for someone else to do theirs? An analogy. If you are tight end on the offensive line of a football team and you don't block the red-dogging linebacker, how can your quarterback do his job and get the pass off? Teach your employees to think team by you thinking team. It will rub off.
- Occasionally ask each employee what you can do to make their job easier. If you can do what they suggest, do it. If you can't, explain to the employee why you can't. It shows you care about them and their success, and this too, will rub off on your employees.
Does this all sound simplistic?
Actually, it's Keep It Simple, Stupid, in action.
And it's up to you, and no one else.
Think about it.
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The best book ever written on managing people? Read it and decide for yourself ~