Being a successful business owner means you need to be a good manager. That is, unless you want to forever be a one employee company.
Your ability to manage other people can mean the difference between being a slave to your business (you do everything, always), and having the freedom to use your time how you want (your employees mind the store). I'm sure when you were first envisioning life as a business owner, you were dreaming of the latter.
If you ever want a chance at having time away from your business, or even expanding to additional locations (there is only one of you), you must be able to do 4 things that will make you a great manager.
Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. ~Steven Covey
Hire the right team members
Most first time business owners may have managed people in the past, but few have ever actually interviewed and hired people before. If you get this step wrong, the rest of the points below won't matter. When it comes to hiring, as the saying goes, a leopard can't change it's spots.
The problem that most first time business owners make in this area is that they get impatient and frustrated with the slow moving pace of the hiring process (us entrepreneurs like to race through everything!) and eventually “settle” on someone, just to end the pain of hiring.
So what do you do?
Take your time. It may seem like an eternity but good people are out there. Start the hiring process long before you will actually need someone to be sure you don't rush through the process and make a poor hiring decision.
Know what you are looking for, be specific! Have a game plan before you ever post a job opening. Do you know what the ideal employee looks like? Do you know what skills and talents are required to be that super employee? In the ground breaking management book, First Break All The Rules, the authors stress the importance of hiring for talent over experience, intelligence and determination.
Have a trial period. I never simply hire a person, not until they have proven they can do the job with excellence and they work well with the rest of the team. All new hires are on a 30 day trial period (with pay) with a weekly progress report on how they are doing. You never know how someone will perform until they actually have to.
Have a proper on-boarding process. Once you hire that great employee, make sure you make the most of it by providing a great initial experience for them. The first few weeks is where an employee decides if this job will be a brief pit stop or a lasting career.
“The less people know, the more they yell.” ~Seth Godin
Communicate Clearly with your employees
Nothing breaks down the manager/employee relationship faster than not communicating with them. Don't be the manager who only calls on their employees when there is a problem. Lack of communication translates into lack of caring, and yes, your employees want to know that you actually care about them.
So what do you do?
Set expectations. Let your employees know from day one what you expect from them. Poor managers leave their people constantly “guessing” what is expected of them. If you are very, very clear on what you want and what is expected (and remind everyone often), everyone will be on the same page and will know what is expected of them.
Give frequent feedback. Don't wait until a quarterly evaluation to let your employees know if they are doing a good or a poor job. Give feedback as things happen, as long as your being constructive and not critical of your employees. Treat the positives as an opportunity to celebrate and mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Be open to feedback from your employees. Most managers will tell you “my people can tell me anything”, but if you ask their employees, almost all of them will tell you “You can tell him anything, as long as it's what he wants to hear”. Be genuine in your wanting open communications with your employees, they know when you are full of it, even if you don't.
A manager's task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weakness irrelevant–and that applies fully as much to the manager's boss as it applies to the manager's subordinates. ~ Peter Drucker
Motivate and develop your employees
Being genuinely concerned about the growth and development of your employees will earn you a world of loyalty. Not only their development at work, but in their lives as well. One of the biggest reasons employees are satisfied at their job is that they feel that they are always learning and growing as an employee and as a person. It's your job as a manager to bring out the best in all of your people.
So what do you do?
Find out what your employees are good at, and develop those talents even further. Like a good baseball manager, it's your job to find the hidden talents of all of your players and bring them out to the surface.
Keep the work interesting. Nothing kills motivation (and productivity) more than boredom. Boredom comes when you are not being challenged, when you are not learning something new. Keep your employees engaged in their work by teaching them new skills, challenging them to do more than they are doing and to think creatively about their work.
Know what motivates them. If you know what motivates them, what really gets them excited, you can use that to bring out the best in them. Does your employee value more time off? Award time off for that employee if they reach certain goals and milestones. Others may want more money, another may want recognition….it's your job as a manager to find out and use this information as motivation.
Celebrate the little things. Don't wait until something “big” happens, look for those little things your employees do as a reason to praise them. Everyone loves to be acknowledged for a job well done.
Men and women want to do a good job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so. ~William Hewlett
Trust your employees
Your job as a manger is not to get stuff done, but to get other to get stuff done. You should be providing all of the tools, skills and resources so that your employees can do their best work and get the job done. This means that once you have given them these things, you need to step aside and let them work.
So what do you do?
Don't micro-manage. Everyone hates the manager that is always looking over their shoulder, so don't do it. If you did your job as a manager (and everything outlined in this article), you shouldn't have to. Managers that do this either don't trust their employees (didn't hire correctly) or are very insecure in their position as manager (I feel sorry for their employees)
Let them make mistakes. They will make them, but that's the only way they will learn and grow. Be there to give feedback (and re-training if necessary), but don't be the manager who always jumps in at the first sign of a challenge. Your employees will never learn and develop if they never have to think their way through a difficult situation. Don't let your employees form a dependency on you, you will never be free from your business if you do.
Give responsibility. Let your employees make decisions, and be responsible for them. Give them authority to make decisions, set guidelines where they are allowed to show discretion in a situation, like giving a discount to an unhappy customer. A terrible manager will make their employees responsible for things they have no control over.
Businesspeople will be responsible if they are truly given responsibility without second-guessing. ~Chuck Martin
Are you a great manager?
Are you a manager who does all (or most) of the above? Is there another management trait that is missing here? I'd love to hear your thoughts on what it takes to be a great manager!