Animal trainers have a saying “It’s never the animal’s fault” Because animals don’t speak, trainers need to find non-English methods to communicate what they want. If the animal doesn’t perform, they try to find a better way to communicate, they don’t blame the animal. It helps to take this approach with employees: if they don’t do what you want, think of how you can change what you’re communicating, how you’re following up, what incentives you’re using to reward results.
Most people react to that last sentence with something like: “But they’re people not animals and they do speak English and what’s more they’re adults. They SHOULD be able to do what I say.” So true. So true, and yet so remarkably ineffective.
Whenever you find yourself using the word SHOULD with another person in a fit of frustration take it as a sign to change your behavior not theirs. Your behavior is the only one you can control anyway unless the other person is small enough that you can pick them up. You can influence others not control them and only by changing your behavior.
I was talking to a client today who runs a small office: himself and four others. He’s so mad a two of them that he’s thinking of making it an even smaller office: himself and two others. And he’s got a right to be mad. They did some really stupid stuff recently. And so he’s upset with what they SHOULD be doing differently.
Taking my own advice about the SHOULD word, we looked at how he was communicating, and realized that he was not being much of a manger. If employees didn’t get it right the first time he said something, he never followed up. When it wasn’t done right, he either did it himself or let it go undone. Of his four people; one of them usually gets it – she’s been with him for decades. The others do most of their jobs right most of the time, but not always. And the company’s in a tough market right now. He’s been asking them to do different things to move the business forward. And for the most part they don’t. They stick with what they’ve always done and even though it’s slow and they don’t have as much work as they can handle, they don’t do the extra stuff.
Of course they SHOULD; but there’s that word again. So we talked about what he could do differently as a manager – what level of detail he needed to explain his request and how often he needed to follow up, and what incentives or consequences he could put in place.
And we talked about if he even wanted to bother. It would be much simpler to cut back and only have two employees. I still don’t know the answer to that one yet – he’s going to think about it.
If I may change analogies, let me tell you that when I was single and I lived alone, I never cooked. As much as I loved to eat, the cooking part was not something I wanted to spend the time doing or learn how to do well. After I got divorced I cooked, because I wanted the kids and me to have dinner time together. But I still didn’t put a lot of time into learning the nuts and bolts of cooking. I got a few meals down, and could follow a recipe or three and it was good enough. Now I’m married to a wonderful cook. She loves to eat as much as I do – maybe more. But she’s willing to actually be a cook. Not only can she follow a recipe, she can augment or even invent one. And her technique is outstanding. Of course she puts a lot of time into it, and she loves it. So why am I telling you this?
The situation with most entrepreneurs is they want to eat really well but they don’t want to learn the nuts and bolts of cooking. By that I mean they want the benefits of a well managed workforce, but don’t want to learn the techniques of managing, or put the time in to actually do the work of being a manager.
Here’s what it takes to manage: Direction, Support and Monitoring.
Here’s what too many entrepreneurs think is management:
For direction, they provide the vaguest set of directions in the fewest words, almost never written. “Hey, somebody just called from the Framus company about our account – handle if for me will ya?”
For support they never figure out what the employee needs and give it to them. Instead they expect people to get it done with stuff that costs less than it did last time. And what they do provide only shows up if the employee asks for it – hounds may be a better word than asks.
As for monitoring? They don’t check back till after the deadline’s passed and they get real mad if it isn’t done right.
A better manager handles it this way:
1. Direction. First you have to know what results you want. You have to describe them in terms of deliverables or behaviors (not attitudes). Think of what would happen if aliens flew their UFO into your facility at night and did the employee’s job perfectly. What would be different when you came to work in the morning? That’s what you need to describe to the employee. Until you can describe these results in detail, don’t try to manage anyone, spend your time describing results.
2. Support. Your next job as manager is to provide the employee with everything they need to do their job. This includes training, facilities, tools and equipment, time, reasonable expectaions and other people to provide the parts that they can’t do. Motivation and recognition is also part of support. Different people need various amounts at different stages in a given job.
3. Monitor. Employees should know how they will be monitored. If you did a good job giving direction they’ll be able to monitor themselves and come to the same conclusions you do about their performance. But you need to do it more frequently than you think – especially when you’ve given someone a new assignment with changes their routine or they’re doing something they’ve never done before. You need to see how they’re doing in time to make changes and corrections and give more support before the stuff hist the fan. That way you can both be successful.
[Tags] Management, CEO Skills, entrepreneur, small business, manager [/tags]