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

Work Expands to Fill The Time

Work Expands to Fill The Time

Last week I had very similar conversations with general managers at two very different businesses.

They both had teams that seemed to be less focused, productive and efficient the more time they had.

One is a seasonal business where everyone works overtime for 4 months and then have very little to do during the off-season. Yet despite the “extra” time, the wish list of improvement projects never seems to be completed.

The other business sells short-term consulting solutions to clients, so they are “all hands on deck” for 1-2 months and then may only have smaller tasks to fill in between the big installations. Yet during a slower schedule, clients wait a bit too long for response to their smaller requests.

You may see this in your own business, or in your own week. I know that I sometimes don’t have a large list of “done” items when I have a whole day to work on them, but can check off 1-2 proactive items in a few hours between client meetings.

The cause: What you are witnessing is an actual documented sociological principle I learned in college:

“Work expands to fill the time.”

The solution: plan, develop work habits, and track for accountability

  • make a list of what needs to be accomplished – whiteboard on the wall or online tool such as asana.com
  • plan the week with your big 3 (projects, not just ongoing work)
  • begin each day tackling the next priority item
  • end each day re-prioritizing what to focus on the next day
  • review regularly, track progress and expect results
  • remember that deadlines are motivational– pre-schedule a time to review a specific outcome

These steps will improve your own focus on activities that achieve results.

They also work well to focus your team members, build their work habits and hold them accountable.
The key is planning with progress reports in a weekly coaching conversation.

Perhaps take this Friday afternoon to plan out a few items on your “wish list” and then assign one 90 minute task to each day next week to make progress on the first one.

 

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Is Accountability a Pink Elephant?

Is Accountability a Pink Elephant?

Last week I was speaking with a small business owner who told me “you aren’t telling me anything I don’t know…
but HOW do I get my team working together to grow the business..
HOW do I get out of overwork and overwhelm
?”

In a sentence, his firm lacks Accountability.

But what can/ should he do?

To quote an owner who has made this transition: “Knowing doesn’t make the difference.. it is Doing that matters.”

We talk about Accountability as if it is a “thing” that other companies have but we can’t seem to find, an elusive dream, a pink elephant.

Accountability is not something that is “done” to people but a contract between you (as coach) and your team member.

They know the Right Things to do, how and when to do them, what Right looks like, and agree to Get’r Done (said in your best Jeff Foxworthy voice).

It’s a process of being clear, getting people to commit, and then coaching with feedback, re-direction, praise, follow-up and sometimes tough love. It’s the proverbial “holding someone’s feet to the fire” or “inspecting what you expect.”

It’s also important that you have process to setup, agree to and expect Accountability.

The aforementioned owner thought his main problem was “finding better people”– yet a “better employee” will not be much more effective in a team who lacks accountability as a system.

Here are two quick videos from leaders on the accountability front to explain more:

From the Zenger Folkman group’s author Kathleen Stinnett, Accountability Success in Coaching

Great overview from Roger Connors of the Oz Principle: Steps to Accountability- Above the Line and Below the Line

He seems disorganized… after one year

He seems disorganized… after one year

A client was mentioning his frustration with a fairly new employee, when these words were uttered “He seems disorganized, after one year.“

This person had 5 years of experience in a similar role and was hired with high expectations to come onboard, quickly learn the job, and start taking on more client work and responsibility to free up the owner’s time.

But you may have been in this situation before.

The person takes a bit more time than expected to “learn” the job (or at least your systems and procedures). And he does the activities of the job adequately, but doesn’t achieve the results you expected. Or take on a larger role or more responsibility that you would like.

So you spend more time monitoring and coordinating work, and feel like you still can’t delegate anything off your to-do list.

He is a stable employee in the role but the growth and impact is not what you wanted at one year.

So you are questioning the root cause of the performance gap:

  • Are the expectations clear?
  • Does this person want the role I thought I hired him for?
  • Will training help?
  • Is this even the right person?

This is a challenge for even the most seasoned People Coach.

To uncover the true cause of the gap between what an employee is doing and what you expect in the role, you need to “evaluate for job fit.”

To assist in this detective work, I have created an article and template to guide you.

Download the “Job Fit Performance Maximizer” here.


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team! You can learn more about the “9 Steps to Build a Fabulous Team” at her upcoming webinar– Click to register here.

If Not You, Who is Coaching Your Team?

If Not You, Who is Coaching Your Team?

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.

I have created a Free Video Course for you to learn more about the process for discussion and development to turn around your poor performers, energize your average, and engage and retain your high potentials. I encourage you to sign up here with my compliments.


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!