Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.
Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.
What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.
You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.
But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.
You need a deputy.
Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:
- Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
- Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
- Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
- Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
- Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
- Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
- Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
- “Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
- Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)
Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.
Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).
Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?
What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?
- Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
- Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
- Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?
If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.
Can a deputy do this for you?
How do you possibly find out the needs and motivators for each person on your team, and then maximize their strengths and give them what they desire?
After all, your team is made of individuals, all with their own strengths, weaknesses (or as I like to call them, “areas of non-fit”), personality quirks and idiosyncrasies.
As a client’s manager once phrased it, “we have 100 people and we have 100 different personalities! I realize I have to treat each one differently.” Truer words were never spoken, Bill C.
Fortunately, even though every person might need a different approach and respond to individualize coaching, you can start the “strength building process” by categorizing in two key areas: performance and commitment.
In fact, I designed a template that allows you to profile your team on these two key elements, and then created a matching “Action Plan” focus for each one.
Every time I use this “blueprint” with clients, a lightbulb goes off about at least one employee “Oh, that is why I am struggling with this person” or “Oh no, I should have that conversation I have been putting off soon—they might be looking for another job.”
Mapping out your team also helps you prioritize your coach efforts for fast results or avoiding a disaster — by focusing on the most urgent situations first. (A word of caution, don’t ignore the middle for too long, but that is for another blog article.)
We use this proven tool with clients to focus and prioritize weekly coaching conversations for maximum benefit (as part of the development action plan process).
How to get started mapping your team
- Download your copy of the People + Performance Profiler here
- Read the instructions to create your People Profile
After mapping your team, start the discussion and development action plan process to find out what each person wants from your job, and jointly create the path to get there.
If you develop the trust and the relationship with positive and appreciative discussions, they will tell you what motivates and engages them so you can give it to them.
Image provided by stock images, freedigitalimages.net
A new software for small business owners is called “17 hats” – and I think this accurately reflects the roles of a small business owner. You are chief everything officer (sales, people, operations, marketing, accounting, customer service), cheerleader and spokesperson, and as my family says “chief bottlewasher!” (if it needs to get done, you will do it.)
So it is no wonder you feel like you don’t have time to coach your team members monthly (much less weekly).
And no doubt some people on your team are easier to coach than others, so you tend to procrastinate in delivering feedback or talking about what would challenge and motivate them.
The data is clear—employees don’t just want daily task discussions (called “Managing by Wandering Around” by Tom Peters)—
Employees want to know how they can contribute, what is the purpose of their work, feedback on results, and that there are opportunities to develop and maximize their strengths at your organization.
This means you need a development plan for each person, coupled with regular two-way discussion on their aspirations and challenging assignments that meet their desired career path. (That is what we mean when we say “coaching.”)
If all of your conversations center around “what are you working on today” then they feel ignored, and will lose interest, commitment, and engagement in your job. (Reminds me of the joke – “I feel like a mushroom, left in the dark and fed manure.”)
Ultimately these unnoticed people will seek employment elsewhere where they can feel appreciated, a sense of accomplishment and contribution.
Or worse, stay in your job as “actively disengaged” working against your team. (Read my article—Want Employees to Tune Out? Ignore Them to find out the huge cost of the disengaged).
Every small business owner or manager can be a motivational, positive, and appreciative leader and implement a rhythm of weekly coaching conversations.
You just need a blueprint and training, and the willingness to learn and get outside your comfort zone to start having real conversations with your staff.
The average manager has 2-3 weeks of paid vacation each year, but most do not use every day off.
Time Magazine cover article for the 6/1/15 edition asked “Who Killed Summer Vacation?”
In fact, this has become so prevalent, there is a commercial featuring kids asking “can we just have one more day?” Pretty heartbreaking!
Do we love our jobs so much that we can’t possibly get away for 5 days at a time? Or are we creating conditions at the office where our teams and colleagues can’t function without our genius and brilliance?
I have a global client with multiple locations in Europe. Last summer we were working on a high priority sales compensation project. I was struck by the attitude of the sales manager from France and the regional operations Director in the UK. They simply mentioned “I am on holiday those two weeks (or month)”—no apologies, no offer to call into the meeting from the beach. And somehow their divisions seemed to survive the summer, and re-emerge in the fall with plenty accomplished.
If you own the company, you truly have no excuse.
What are you doing that can’t wait 5 days?
Who can you train to make decisions while you are gone?
My mother’s wisdom applies here – she used to say “I became a manager when I opened my second store. I had to put systems and people in place, since I couldn’t be there to handle everything.”
What can you do? I say book a 10 day cruise or vacation without email or phone access, and prepare as best you can. Then leave! You would be surprised by how your team can “hold down the fort” without you.
(In fact, have everyone keep a list of things they normally would have discussed with you, but they somehow figured out … then add these things to your training plan for next quarter).
Need some tips for taking charge of your schedule?:
Read my article about how delegation actually leads to more engagement: Engagement Driver 4- Training and Development
Entrepreneur Magazine article- 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance
Zenger Folkman report that employees who are the most satisfied and committed work for leaders who do 4 crucial “behaviors that focus on achieving challenging goals”
- Inspire them to high levels of effort
- Energize them to achieve exceptional results
- Create an atmosphere of continual improvement
- Skillful at getting them to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thoughts was possible
BAM- that sounds like a recipe for some high performing work!
To put it another way:
- These managers have a People Plan for each person with mutually beneficial projects and work that are designed to be challenging.
- This “stretch” work naturally develops the team member, and keeps her energized and inspired (and doing her best work).
- Employees feels that “the company provides excellent learning and growth opportunities for my own development.” (This is the key to keeping employees from looking for another job.)
- The positive coaching provided by the manager creates a team culture to perform at a high level, and this positive “peer pressure” continually reinforces the positive behaviors and outcomes.
This is the magic atmosphere where employees are engaged… performing with discretionary extra effort.
The most successful employers have 70-80% engaged employees, the worst 10-20%.
What if 7x more employees were terrific at their job- would that make a different to your team atmosphere and achievement?
If you want your department, your location, your organization to succeed- the key is managers who can positive coach and challenge the team to outperform every day.
My last article (Always a Crisis- Part 1) gave an example of “Chase” – a newly promoted supervisor who is struggling with his promotion to a new role.
I outlined the three main causes of performance gaps and four action steps to uncover the underlying cause and related solutions.
Once you identify the source and jointly develop a performance action plan, we will need to coach weekly towards improvement.
- One possible outcome is that the person is making progress, although possibly not as fast as you would like. Be patient and keep working with someone who is trying their best.
- Another possible outcome is that there is very little noticeable improvement in the first 30 days. Now you have to determine if this is a motivation issue or an ability issue.
Ability scenario – After about 60 days if you continue to witness that the person is “always in crisis,” the solution may be to move back to a role that has a short time span (daily tasks, tasks in natural sequence) rather than important projects.
Sometimes the solution is temporary – scale back the scope of the job with smaller “bites” to allow this person progress in competencies that take time to develop. Sometimes even with a slower development, this person make lack the necessary competencies.
In addition to weekly coaching, a monthly status update (end of month 1, 2, 3) is important to discuss progress and revise your action plan. It is important that you recognize effort and improvement, even if it is not as fast as you desire.
Motivation scenario– Sometimes you find that even with a great training plan, he does not make the expected effort. For example, the person does not complete the training action items or make seem to attempt changes to work habits or other behaviors. This is a symptom of a lack of motivation—it is possible he can do it, but chooses not to. No amount of coaching will improve the athlete if they are not “doing the reps.” Then this is a separate conversation.
If progress is not being made, then a crucial conversation needs to be clear on the potential consequences (change in role, move to another job, loss of job) before it happens.
This is not an easy situation to resolve, and requires a thoughtful and candid approach with a willingness of both parties to work together to identify the source and solutions.
Done well, even with a change back to his old job, you can retain and engage Chase as a valuable team member.
Done poorly, Chase loses engagement and will likely leave in a year or less. Or worse, you ignore the situation and Chase flounders in the job longer, losing his motivation and not providing the performance you need to serve your customers and the rest of the team.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net