8 Reasons You Don’t Have a Reliable Team

8 Reasons You Don’t Have a Reliable Team

The (busy) life of a small business owner

When you started (or joined) your business, you did a lot of work yourself. As the business grew, you added staff to take care of the daily “work” yet you never seem able to get yourself out of everyday responsibilities.

Your days are busy but progress is slow, and you go home feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything. A 40-hour week seems like a luxury.

You would like more free time, but you are afraid to leave since problems surface and you “pay for it” when you come back.

You have a big list of ideas to improve your business, but these never seem to get started [much less finished].

The cycle repeats

You might even have hired someone new to take some of your workload, or started “delegating” some of your work to others.

But despite your best efforts and good intentions, your to-do list is long and your days are filled with endless calls, meetings, and requests that eat up your time.

Or someone recently quit, leaving you and the team hanging. Now you spend your precious time interviewing and training the new person (which you hate), and then catch up for the lost time.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

It’s an endless cycle. Every Monday you start out with big plans for the week, only to leave Friday with not much progress to show for all your hard work. Some days you feel so burnt out and overwhelmed, you think about exiting the business.

And deep down you know this can’t be the way to grow your business.

What could be the cause? Why are you doing so much in your business?

Because you don’t have the team you need to support you—a trusted, reliable team.

If you did, you would be comfortable letting them handle the daily activities.

You would be confident that they are doing a great job: growing sales, caring for your customers, making great decisions, while keep you updated on progress and achieving your ambitious business goals.

So let’s explore some possible reasons you don’t have a reliable team.

Reason 1: You are under-staffed

Sometimes you truly don’t have enough staff to cover the work to care for your current client base. People are spread thin and are just trying to keep their heads above the water. Obviously if everyone is handling a high workload, it’s hard for you to be confident everything is being done well.

Perhaps you just added a burst of new customers, or you have a seasonal bump in demand, or you are in the process of training a newbie.
Teams under pressure, overworked, and stressed are notorious unreliable.

You may think hiring is the answer, but it isn’t always the best solution to start.

When you address the other reasons (below), this usually increase the effectiveness, capacity, and therefore the reliability of your current team.

Reason 2: You have low performers

You likely have at least one person who is not performing well.

It might be someone whose job changed but their skills didn’t keep up, or they are struggling with the workload or an aspect of the job, or they are slow in taking on new responsibility. They might have inconsistent output, working hard some weeks and slacking off others.

You tried feedback, coaching, or training with short-lived improvement.

When someone on the team has sub-par performance, of course you don’t feel you can rely on him or her.

Reason 3: You have people with attitude issues

Sometimes you have people who do an adequate job, but it comes at a price. They give you or co-workers a hard time, grumbling and complaining when you assign work or ask for a status update. They might be toxic to peers, openly difficult to their supervisor, or continually resist change.

Just like the low performers, Debbie Downer and Toxic Theo aren’t your go-to people either. They may do the work (if you are willing to put up with the negativity), but it’s a good possibility they may not do the work well.

When you avoid performance correcting conversations with low performers or those with attitude issues you are not building a reliable team.

What most managers do is “reward” unreliable people by taking work and giving it to a more competent high performer. A great solution? No, but you would rather give work to the reliable. So you are stuck in this “catch-22.”

Both these types of employees drag down the reliability of your team, lower your confidence that everything is under control. Because it isn’t under control.

Even more importantly, “unreliable co-workers” is a main reason top performers quit, so ignoring these issues can force out your reliable ones!

Reason 4: Your “open door” has a line of people asking for help

When you let people pop on by to run things by you, you are enabling “problem bringers” instead of developing “problem solvers.”
“Hey boss, what do you want me to do about this? Mr Z called and wants to know what is happening with the new thing” These continual interruptions fill up your day, and distract your ability to focus on anything else.

Remember the biblical parable about “teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime”? It’s the same for decision making.
When you are the source of problem solving you also become responsible for the decision, and enables a co-dependence on your input and guidance.

If you can’t rely on your staff to make good decisions without you, you will be chained to the office, worry when you are not there and be called 10 times on your vacation.

Reason 5: Your process is broken

Sometimes it’s not the people who are unreliable, it’s the process itself that causes problems, delays and customer issues.

If there are 5 people who are involved in the process to convert a proposal to delivery of a new sale, there are at least 5 places where the handoff can be incomplete or inaccurate or dropped entirely.

Sometimes your people are doing their best struggling through the convoluted and flawed process. To improve the human-side of reliability, check the underlying system.

If your good performers sometimes have issues with reliability, it might make sense to look at the work flow for effectiveness and efficiency.

Reason 6: You resist delegating

Hey, I get it. You need to trust first before you delegate.

If you can’t be sure the work will be done timely and accurately, you keep control of that task yourself. Even if it is boring or you hate the task.

I find that owners I work with have two main reason they don’t delegate.

One reason is the “it’s easier to do it myself” syndrome. Yes, it will take 20 minutes to show someone once to do this 10 minute task, but remember it’s 10 minutes every week (=500 minutes a year, 8+ hours.) So consider your time investment choices carefully.

The other reason is that a prior delegation was a disaster or just a big pain. You had to chase the person down for an update, nag them to finish it, they did it wrong, or worst of all created a big problem. Painful conclusion: brings you back to reason one- it’s easier to do it myself.

If you want to build a reliable team, you must improve your skills in coaching and training to achieve a successful transfer of work that doesn’t belong on the to-do list for a CEO or manager.

Reason 7: Desired Results are not clear (or rewarded)

You may not realize it, but if you are like most business owners, you are not clear about desired results or clear about priorities.

Most decent employees try to figure out what “Done Right” looks like and to do their best with the resources and tools you give them.
If you don’t measure or track any results, they may not know how they are doing. Absent of any data or feedback, most people assume that “no news is good news” and they are doing their job to meet your expectations.

So the “unreliable” don’t know it and don’t have any reason to change.

You also may not be rewarding the trusted reliable ones. Those that step up are given more work, those that duck and cover are given less work, and everyone gets a 3% raise and about the same year-end bonus.

Consider the messages you are sending with feedback, recognition and pay—is it rewarding reliability?

Reason 8: You can’t find good people to hire

Yes, I advise that you should improve your current team performance first.

But the lack of “good people” to hire is part of the reason you accept low performance or poor attitudes. You feel hostage because if you address the issues they might quit, and a mediocre person is better than no person.

You probably also dread the hiring process and rush to fill an open position. You take the “best” applicant, even if you worry they won’t work out.

If you settle for third-string players on your team and in your new hires, this is definitely a reason you don’t have a reliable team.

After you read this list, how many reasons do you have?

How many of these issues exist on your team?

If you have 3 or more, you likely don’t have a reliable who you trust to delegate work, run daily activities and work on projects to grow the business.

The Solution: Building Your Team Model

To build a reliable team, you need the Right People in the Right Jobs, Doing the Right Things

Next Step: Read the Guide

Guide to Building Your Team Right People Right Jobs

Would you like to learn the exact steps to go from stuck in the day-to-day to building a trusted reliable team?

Click to Download the detailed guide:

Building Your Team: Right People… Right Jobs

Small Business Catalyst Webinars

Small Business Catalyst Webinars

Recorded in April 2017, this webinar series includes short trainings and live interviews with host Diana Southall designed for the small business owner or manager.

Our speakers share their proven client strategies to add more sales, create smoother systems, build a better team, to ultimately grow profits and have more free time.

Just click on the links to watch the 25-30 minute trainings:

Do you have the Right People in the Right Jobs?

Do you have the Right People in the Right Jobs?

Last week I had similar conversations with owners at two very different businesses. I asked them:

“Do you have Right People… in the Right Job?” 

If you have been in business for a few years, you start to realize that getting new customers isn’t the challenging,
getting “good people” who want to take care of your customers is far more challenging!

Before I tell you how to build a great team…

Let me ask you, “How many A- Players do you have?” 
[Those that go above and beyond your expectations, are trusted, accountable and a good team player, open to feedback, eager to learn….]

If you have more than 25% A-Players, congratulations, you are in an elite group of small businesses! This is the foundation to build the rest of your team.

But until you get to +75% A Players, you don’t have the foundation in place to grow your revenue, profits, and customer
base without overwork and overwhelm.

When you don’t have the Right People: 

Without a team of A Players, you are captive in your business, involved in daily activities, fire-fighting, and are the only one who drives results. You may feel hostage to the low performer or toxic employee, for fear they will make trouble or quit and leave you hanging. You worry that things are falling through the cracks, you chase people down to find out if something was done, and you get interrupted all day long with questions and “checking” routine decisions. You feel like you can’t leave for more than a few days, and you pay for it when you go on vacation.

When you have the Right People, sometimes they are not all in the Right Jobs: 

Perhaps you have promoted a good employee to a new role, but she is struggling adapting to the new demands. You hired a new employee who seemed like a perfect fit, but he is not working out as expected. “Old-timers” are slow to adopt new ways of doing things and resist changes you want to make. You are frustrated with young employees who learn fast but leave in a year or two because they say you don’t have any future opportunities for them.

If any of these situations sound familiar, you are not alone! 

Most of us focus on hiring A Players to help us achieve our company goals, but once they are on the team we don’t give them the tools to be successful or reach their potential.

For our current staff, we are not sure how to build up their capabilities and performance. They have settled into the
habit of “good enough” and the status quo.

You are left wondering how to light a fire under the average Josie, and how to turn around the performance or attitude
of your most challenging employees.

You don’t want to be the bad guy or the witch, your attempts at coaching have not worked, and it is just easier to
tolerate mediocrity or do the work yourself. Or worse, your best people keep picking up the slack, but they may be
reaching burn-out or are frustrated with you.

The Promise 
If you wonder how some businesses seem to be easy to work with and have a great team, they have the Right People in the
Right Jobs.

When you have this, your trusted team works together to make good decisions (good for the customer and good for the
business).

You don’t have to oversee every sale and every customer, yet you are confident that things are being done right and
customers are happy. You have a sense of control, and trust that the business on target for healthy growth.

The team initiates and implements process improvements, for fewer hassles and more sales without working harder. This
allows you to finally take time off guilt-free and worry-free.

The Model 

This concept is credited to Jim Collins who wrote about this in his book “Good to Great.”
1. Define the Right Things
2. Evaluate if you have the Right People
3. Ensure work is Done Right

[you can read more in my upcoming guide, Building Your Team, Right People in the Right Jobs.]

Featured resource:
If you would like to systematically rate your current team on performance and commitment, you can click here to download
my People Performance Profiler template
.

 

Are You An Idea Hamster?

Are You An Idea Hamster?

I often spend time with clients and other business owners who are full of ideas– so many they don’t know where to start, or they starting working on 2 (or 10) without much progress. Their head and office notebooks are littered with the ghosts of projects past.

I heard another business owner Amy call this being an “idea hamster”– what a great term!

You have an idea, and another idea, and another one, and you start running on that hamster wheel spinning and going no where.

Sound familiar? I know that it does for me, I struggle every day with being a reformed hamster.

Here are six key steps that have made a difference for me to complete something important [as Seth Godin calls it “shipping”]:

  1. Write a destination postcard for the end of the year– what you plan to accomplish
  2. From the postcard results, generate a long list of potential projects and categorize by type [are they planning, sales, marketing, people, operational?]
  3. Now rate those projects on effort and on impact on your goals — then rank by those with the highest impact and the lowest effort — these are your short list– put the rest into a “parking lot” [crucial step 1- they are always there to be re-considered.]
  4. Prioritize the list of projects— does one have to be completed for another to be effective? Does one address a burning issue or roadblock to growth?  Rank them and put a guestimate on the number of weeks to complete.
  5. Select the Number One priority project, get your team together, make an action plan to divide up the tasks and start chipping away every week.
  6. Crucial step 2– do not start another project until this one is complete! 

Do not get distracted by the next shiny thing, just keep momentum on that project. Focus on the next step, one at a time, every week.

Get your team concentrating on just one task and making progress. Yup, it’s hard to do but any change in habit is challenging.
{See the great graphic above that I think captures what we all go through! This is great, this is hard, this sucks… dark swamp of dispair…}

4 Stages of the Small Business People Pyramid

4 Stages of the Small Business People Pyramid

I am not clairvoyant, but I can get a quick estimate of the stage of your business based on answers to three simple questions:

  1. How many hours a week did you work in last year?
  2. How much has your profit grown in the last three years?
  3. What percent of your team are A Players?

The answers to these three questions are inextricably linked – the quality of your People is essential to your business profit and your personal work-life balance as a small business owner.

To describe these business growth and health stages, I created a model that I call the People Pyramid.

Stage 1: Fires Chaos & People Drama

When you don’t have a trusted reliable team, you are left to deal with fires, chaos and drama. You and the rest of the team are exhausted dealing with everyday crisis, and feel frustrated rather than productive.

You might have a few Debbie Downers who squelch the whole team, and leave things hanging or a mess that surface later. Good employees are annoyed they have to pick up the slack or deal with someone who doesn’t work as hard or care as much as they do.

Tensions may be high or between co-workers, lowering the team spirit and creating interpersonal drama. The chaos lowers the customer experience and distracts you from pursuing new sales and customers. The focus is on getting through the day, not improving the business.

This creates a vicious cycle that is definitely not the foundation for growth.

Often owners work too many hours, and go home feeling like they didn’t accomplish anything. They feel burnt out and overwhelmed, and think about exiting the business.

Stage 2: A Few Good (Wo)men

At this stage, you have a stable core of long term employees who share your values about how to care for your customers and are good at their day job.

Most people are decent performers but a few don’t seem committed to doing a great job all the time. These lower performers tend to drag down the team, and take a large part of your day assigning and monitoring work is done on time and correctly.

Work flows fairly well and employees are mostly clear about job expectations, although procedures are informal and not written down. New employees struggle in their first few months getting used to how you do things. You have a fair amount of turnover as some of the people you hire leave after 2-3 years, and you are not sure how you can keep the good ones.

To make decisions, staff ask managers questions and get approval for anything they think should be run by the boss. There may be a continual flow of people asking questions and running things by you.

Your days are busy but progress is slow, and you have a wish list of business improvement ideas that you never seem to get started [much less finished].

You would like more free time and you are afraid to leave since issues or problems surface when you take more than a few days off.

Clearly the business is relying on your presence and guidance to function. You have the CEO Syndrome [Chief Everything Officer].

Stage 3: Silos and Soloists

The natural progression for a business is to start to organize around functional areas- sales, operations, customer service, accounting.

This is typically the stage where you have team leaders or managers who now coordinate the daily work in each area. Just like an orchestra, each area head is a soloist- concerned with the work under her section. Sales is concerned with selling more to more customers, operations is concerned with onboarding and servicing the customer, and accounting is counting the beans and controlling the cash.

It is also natural for these soloists to make decisions in a “silo” [a tall structure sitting directly next to another structure, yet not touching or connected.] Sales might promise 7 day turnaround without checking with the team who has to do the work and has a 14 day backlog. Purchasing might find a great deal on supplies and place an order without checking with accounting, and now there is a cash flow issue.

You now become the conductor of the orchestra—making sure that each soloist complements each other’s work and that decisions are made based on the impact on the whole business, not just one area. This requires daily effort on your part, because silos can’t see what is happening outside their walls, and often don’t hear about the impact of their decisions unless it is a crisis.

At this stage, there are often team leaders or manager who now assign and coordinate the work of your employees. These key people now are responsible for the daily monitoring of employees and customer care, and putting out small fires.

Most employees are clear about expectations and you have another layer to assist with performance and attitude issues, so you only need to get involved with serious and persistent People issues.

Now you have time to have informal team meetings to keep people informed and tackle current problems, although you may not stick to a consistent meeting schedule. You and your staff may not know what to talk about and when, and some people find these meetings boring.

You want to grow your revenue but sales may have been flat the last few years.

Your business has a good reputation and sales often comes from referrals and repeat customers. You may have sales people who use the traditional methods of networking, advertising and responding to leads that are generated to convert into customers. You may not have a specific sales pipeline or track sales metrics on a regular basis.

You feel like you are progressing on the business, but may feel like you “pay for it” when you take time off.

Stage 4: Trusted Accountable Team [Ready for Growth]

If you want to grow beyond a few million in revenue or 20 people without imploding, these are the elements you need to for scalable business. (Or if you want your smaller business to be more valuable and less reliant on you.)

This is a business that runs on “autopilot.” Just like an airplane, the captain is setting the course and still there for oversight and monitoring, but the routine work of flying at the same attitude is delegated to the co-pilot and systems.

This is a business that does not revolve around the CEO, who can then focus exclusively on strategic long-term planning and implementation.

This is the highest valued business, since it doesn’t need the expertise or effort of a single person to create value.

Key tasks and results are defined in standard operating procedures and are followed consistently. There is a method in place to review and improve process to eliminate bottlenecks, increase efficiency and delight the customer.

There are “A-players” in every main role and the majority exceed performance expectations. There is an ongoing coaching process in place to give regular performance feedback, and everyone has a training and development action plan. People are engaged, committed and loyal and the culture is positive and values accountability.

Everyone is clear about their responsibility and how they can impact business goals, and have individual metrics and projects with “line of sight” to key business priorities.

The business has a strong brand, and a consistent repeatable process to find leads and turn into customers. Sales is not dependent on a single rainmaker. The sales pipeline is clearly defined and semi-automated, and is reviewed and refined by the sales team in regular meetings.

The business uses dashboards to evaluate key company & individual results weekly and monthly. Business decisions are based on data analysis of past, present and future modeling. Managers meet regularly to evaluate and revise their plans and projects for continual improvement and long-term value creation.

Owners of businesses at this stage spend most of my day doing what they love, and choose how much time they take completely unplugged from the business.