As a young manager, I remember telling an employee that I needed something specific from her, knew that I could count on her to do a good job, which was why I hired her and to go for it. She was a bright woman with all sorts of potential. I honestly believed that she could get the work done, so when she came to me with questions for clarification, I casually shooed her away, thinking that my work was much more important, much more “big picture” than I had time to worry about her. As a leader, I was just concerned about results and moving the company closer to the vision.
Unfortunately, the employee became frustrated and did not create what I had envisioned for her. You see, I did not spend enough time sharing the vision with her. She didn’t understand what her work meant, how it fit into the big picture and what the components of the work needed to entail. While I believed that she could do an excellent job, there were specifics that could have enabled her to be more successful in the task, and allowed her to approach the task with much greater confidence.
As leaders, we are often so focused on the big picture or the vision for the company, that some of the details get lost. Making the excuse, “I’m not a details person,” doesn’t cut it. When you operate like this, it’s like having a nice, shiny vision, then hiring someone to polish it with a backhoe: your vision gets dented.
As a business leader, when providing direction, there are at least two things you must take into consideration:
1) Understand that, at the basic level, we are in a buyer’s market, meaning that there are more businesses that need business than buyers who are willing to buy. Therefore, businesses, must be willing to adjust their offerings and pricing to attract enough customers to keep their doors open.
The alternative is a sellers market, where consumers will be willing to purchase a product at nearly any price. Gasoline might be an example of a commodity that many people would purchase at nearly any price. Despite the fact that less gas is used in this country than was used five years ago, the prices of gas continue to increase, be it ever so slowly.
2) Every employee you have is a reflection on your business. Furthermore, you hired them to increase your capacity to do business. By not taking the time to provide them with a specific framework of what you are looking for, you are decreasing their capacity and possibly willingness to properly represent your company. Furthermore, if the job you have them do is done improperly, it reduces capacity (you have to adjust what they’ve done, therefore taking them away from other work), it reduces morale (morale is a driver of productivity) and it could potentially negatively affect your customer experience (they have to wait longer to receive the good or service you are selling them).
While I am not a big proponent of micro-management, I recommend being a big proponent of providing very specific guidelines that capture, in detail, what you would like to accomplish from any work that you give an employee. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you do the project for your employee, or give them more information than necessary for them to get the job done. This was the point of your hiring them to begin with. You may wish to break the project into parts, to have them check in along the way and share any feedback at that time. It’s like taking a soft cloth to polish your vision.
I would recommend showing them how their “cog” fits into the “machine.” Especially with respect to younger employees, understanding where their contribution makes an impact on the overall business will earn you much greater commitment from them, which translates to higher productivity and lower turnover. Finding good employees is typically a long, arduous, expensive process. Like customers, it’s much less expensive to keep your good employees (emphasis “GOOD”) then to find new ones.
Go ExtraOrdinary. Don’t let your vision get all dented and scratched up. Take the time to have your employees polish your vision the right way. Repairing the damage will always be much more expensive then doing it right the first time.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We specialize in helping leaders create extraordinary businesses.
We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including Creative and Design Services, Software & IT Services, Professional Services and Specialty Consumer Services. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions.
If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].