It is surprisingly easy to get comfortable once your business takes off. You reach a certain point, the highest so far, and you feel pretty darn good about yourself. As well you should.
Before you know it, though, you find there are people out there doing what you’re doing, only they’re gaining on you. They’s ambitious, ravenous and tireless, wanting a piece of the cake you all share. This attitude snaps you back into reality. You have eased up on the grind.
This is acceptable every once in awhile, but bear in mind there are aspects of your business you need to be polishing relentlessly.
Clearing up communication pathways
It can seem like all everybody’s talking about is communication – ironically. While it can get to be a bit of a nuisance, you can never fall back and relax in this area.
There are always changes, small or large, new people coming in, new assignments and challenges, meaning the very nature and course of communication is ever changing.
If there isn’t open and current communication happening at all times, many resources can go to waste: time, material, effort, money. It is no wonder then everybody is working on it.
With improved communication, you decrease the margin of human error and improve productivity, to say nothing of improving the overall cohesion and morale.
Giving everyone a voice and access
There is no room for stratification when a job needs to get done. Meaning, there shouldn’t be large heads and inflated egos, barring access to certain people.
None of your employees should feel like they can’t talk to you, or anyone else for that matter, if the need arises. Keep those doors open.
If your operation is manageable this way, check in with everybody personally. Be brief and supportive and that is quite enough. No need to micromanage or make anyone nervous, feeling like they’re constantly monitored. Just make sure they know you are engaged and available if they need you.
Don’t forget about listening skills
While it feels that listening is an integral part of communicating, which it is, it often remains without attention and necessary practice.
Good, active listening is a sign of respect and camaraderie in many situations, such as meetings and presentations. Additionally, it is the key part of taking instructions and receiving feedback.
The good news is that listening skills can be improved through some fun (and essentially) free exercises, such as telling and retelling stories or giving instructions via phone.
Using mistakes as teachable moments
If your employee makes a mistake and all they get from you is chastising with no constructive feedback and troubleshooting, they are clearly not going to be motivated or be ready to take on any new challenges or risks.
Now, everyone reacts to negative feedback differently and they have individual feelings on different methods of evaluating. One person may take the same feedback in stride, while another takes it very much to heart. This you must assess as you go on.
Learning what not to do, and why, is just as valuable as learning what to do; remember this as you’re about to give feedback.
Professional Development and Monitoring
Just like you shouldn’t overreact to mistakes, you also shouldn’t underreact to accomplishments. If an employee shows promise, make sure to reward that. If there isn’t the budget to send them on a course or you can’t afford to give them days off or spa days, get creative. Look within your own unique operation and find a way to show your gratitude and encouragement. If all else fails, you can take them aside and explain that there currently is no other way of rewarding them than with a hearty handshake and a sincere thank you. Even this could be enough.
As for monitoring, an often overlooked way of doing this is drug and alcohol testing. It has been proven that abusing these substances has many negative impacts on business, from lowered productivity to higher employee turnaround. Don’t single anyone out, as this can have various negative consequences. If you are wrong, you may irreparably damage your relationship with that employee. If you are not, there could still be residual bad feeling about the move. Seek out drug testing locations nearby – there is a well-developed network in place – and inquire about the way tests are performed and the cost. It may be a wise investment.
It is tough to juggle all these aspects simultaneously. Maybe it is doable – depending on the scale of your business and the people you have in place. If not, you can alternate. The bottom line is that you are trying to create a stable, nurturing environment that inspires your employees to follow you and work hard. You achieve this by showing and commanding respect and setting clear guidelines. Once these are in place, your business is much easier to manage.
Lauren Webber is a former HR manager and lover of psychology who now runs daintymom.com among her other pursuits. Her interests range from the corporate world to health and self-care to home improvement and parenting. Now if only someone came up with a way to extend the day by about 20 more hours, she could dedicate herself to all of these equally and constantly.