“I am about to lose my mind and eject my latest employee hopeful” Joanna said. Joanna (name changed to protect confidentiality) is a new client of mine. She hired me to help reduce employee turnover and her stress at having to go through so many people.
This is the most common frustration amongst small business owners. As they start making more money, they hire more people and they start bumping up against the problems of getting employees who can and will take busyness off their plate. The romantic ideal is to have someone who will take over all the functions that they don’t want to do, so that they can do the things that they love to do.
Books have been written about this idea. Movies and documentaries produced to promote the idea even further. Business gurus talk about this day in and day out.
But these gurus rarely talk about the realities and opportunities of creating a partnership based relationship with these humans they call employees – a partnership that results in more money, less stress and more free time. They only talk about the money, stress and time – but do not expose people to the investment they have to make in learning how to interact effectively with human beings who may want things very differently from what their employers feel or think that they should have.
The age old problem: the stark assumption that what is good for me is good for you. What has been good for the employer making her way to the top should be good for the employee as well.
How much more starkly misguided can we get as smart and competent business people? To think that what has worked for me, should work for you as well?
I want to share some things that I have seen work with my clients in addressing this problem, but first let me make a qualification. Hiring, managing and retaining employees can be done and is very complicated. It takes a willingness to develop some new skills in working with people and a willingness to listen and not to cut corners in working with human beings. More than anything, you will have to embrace complexities – individual complexities as well as group complexities for a small business.
Here are a few things that I have seen work with managing employees
- Assume that this person is completely different from you.
- Don’t make any other assumptions.
- Develop a curiosity about people – who are they, what are they aspiring to really, what are they challenged by, what are the primary moving forces in their thinking and in their lives?
- Treat them as unpredictable and complex people
- If you don’t treat them as unpredictable and complex people, then be prepared for predictable upsets and complex disappointments
- ‘Unpredictable’ is neither good nor bad – it is a fact
- All the points above will inculcate a keen listener in you – be proud of taking on keen listening as a skill
- Everyone has monsters and little trapped children, men and women inside them
- Learn to love these monsters, children and trapped men and women in them and inside you
- Do not take seriously the monsters nor the trapped children, men and women inside them that come out from time to time to create havoc and drama
- Instead, take seriously what they commit or promise to you and what you commit or promise to them
- Some people may have slower gestation periods than others – determine your results based timeline of patience – i.e. how long you will tolerate no or little results before you take steps to complete the relationship
- Being curious and realistic will help you set expectations with different people
- All that may matter are the following points:
- Setting up a clear partnership with them with clearly defined promises and expectations from both you and them
- Being willing to manage the partnership frequently with less risk to yourself
- Set a clear career pathway based on timeline performance expectations
- The above point will save you tons of hours but will require you to build your leadership skills:
- A working business strategy that ensures that you AND the employees are taken care of
- Your ability to coach and set up partnerships may be the only worthy solution to having a balanced and functional super team
- Coaching and setting up partnerships will probably save you time and energy in the long term
The investment for you to make is in improving your leadership and management skills and structures. Patience and compassion will yield results or at least clarity on when someone is not working out.