How do you develop good employees? There are some basic philosophies about managing employees that you need to understand.
The first thing you need to realize is: the strong-arm style of management just doesn’t work!
If you declare yourself supreme tyrant, if you are condescending, demanding, unappreciative, and mange by intimidation, we can almost guarantee your failure. Your employees will do everything possible to contribute to your failure. They won’t care about your product quality, customer service, store cleanliness, or your costs, and they’ll probably steal from you as well! The important thing to remember is you can’t make your employees do anything. You have to make them want to do it for you. This should become the underlying strategy in developing your management style. Once your employees respect you, like you, and believe in your business mission, they will do almost anything for you.
There is nothing wrong with becoming a friend to your employees, but at the same time you need to be their boss first.
They need to understand what it is you expect from them. They need to know that it’s unacceptable if they don’t follow policies or maintain the level of performance you expect.
If employees show up late to work, give them a verbal warning. If they show up late a second time, give them a written warning (which goes into their file), and warn them of their impending termination should they be late again. If they show up late again, you terminate their employment. If they simply miss a shift without excuse, it results in a suspension from work, or termination. If these remedies seem heartless and extreme to you, then you need to toughen up! Of course, your reaction to your employee’s failure to adhere to policy will not come as a surprise to your employees if you developed a thorough policy manual stating your policies and you covered the content of that manual with your employees prior to them going to work.
If you don’t have reasonable set of rules and policies, or your employees won’t adhere to them, then it will be almost impossible to run a harmonious, efficient business. You’ll have unhappy employees with no respect for each other – or for you either!
Those who are new to managing people are usually overly concerned about having their employees like them. And while we do want to win over the hearts and minds of our employees, we have to insist they adhere to certain rules and polices. It is not unlike being a parent. Sometimes you have to demonstrate “tough love” when dealing with your children. Certain actions and behaviors have to be dealt with for their own good, and the good of the family – even though they may not know it is for their own good at the time. By not reacting to an employee who disregards policy, you encourage the rest of your employees to do the same. Recently we visited a client whose business has been open for over a year. His sales have not yet developed to the level where the business can debt service itself, he’s running out of operating capital, and he has been unable to do much guerilla marketing because of problems with his staff. It seems this owner is spending up to 40 hours a week working employee’s scheduled shifts. When we asked him why this was happening, he said that his employees just call in sick whenever they feel like it and these occurrences have increased to four or five times a week! When we asked him why he let them get away with this, he replied, “What am I suppose to do, if I fire them, I’ll have even less staff!”
We informed our client that he had not only allowed this problem to develop, but had encouraged it. By not taking action to discipline those who have disregarded his unexcused absenteeism policy, he has demonstrated to the rest of his staff that there will be no serious consequences if they do the same. So, whenever someone wants to go to a concert, the movies, out on a date, or they just don’t feel like working, they can simply call in sick!
We encouraged our client to adopt a new strategy. He held a meeting with his entire staff to reinforce all of his store policies, after which he informed them that while he would appreciate their cooperation he would no longer tolerate their disregard for policy. Two employees tested his resolve within the first several weeks by trying to call in sick. He informed them that if they were so sick they couldn’t work, he wanted to see a written, dated, diagnosis from their doctors on official letterhead. Neither boy visited a doctor. He terminated their employment. He has had no further problem with the rest of his existing staff, and has since hired half a dozen new employees to pick up the slack and to provide some cushion, and has been able to resume his guerilla marketing efforts in earnest.
Another important point to understand, especially when managing teenagers and young adults, is that they are trying to gain independence from their parent’s influence. They want to prove that they can be responsible adults worthy of trust. If when they do something wrong you address them as if you were their parent, they will be much more likely to be resentful and/or rebellious. Don’t be judgmental, don’t scold them, and don’t show disgust.
Do not counsel an employee when you are angry.
If he or she has committed a flagrant breech of policy and you are upset, then send the employee home and designate a specific time for him or her to come back tomorrow so that you can address the incident then. The time you need to regain your composure will also be time your employee spends worrying about what you might do. This period of waiting will certainly be to your advantage.
When counseling or administering discipline to an employee, the key is not to get emotional (anger, disgust, condemnation, etc). Think like the coach of a professional sports team. If a player isn’t performing, what should the coach do? The coach doesn’t get angry, he simply pulls the player out of the game and puts him on the bench. If the player misses a practice, he is fined. If he misses a game, he is suspended. The player is supposed to be a professional, and if he doesn’t do what he is paid to do, or if he doesn’t respect team policies, then he must suffer the consequences (which may include being released from the team). You need to have the same frame of mind when it comes to dealing with your employees. Don’t get angry – calmly deal with situations in a business-like manner.
Always separate the person from the action. We have met few people in life whom we actually didn’t like, but we have all encountered many people whose actions we disliked.
Don’t say, “Jimmy, you’re lazy!” Instead, say, “Jimmy, I don’t think you’re giving me your best effort.” No one likes to have their character assaulted, but they might be open to evaluating their actions, especially if the criticism you level is constructive in nature.
You’ll pretty much get what you expect from your employees, so expect excellence! If you assume your employees will be mature, responsible, professional adults, then they probably will be. If you expect them to be lazy, worthless idiots, they’ll probably live up to your expectations. It’s not that you have “willed” the behavior, but rather your attitude and interaction portray how you feel about them, which they will perceive and respond to.
It’s not unlike an experiment that was conducted with school children several years ago. Two classes of children that were considered emotionally and academically challenged were assigned to two different teachers. One teacher was told that the class he was being assigned was composed of hopelessly learning-impaired students. The other teacher was told that the children she was being assigned had incredibly high IQs, but were motivationally challenged. The teacher that thought his class was hopelessly impaired achieved minimal results over the course of the semester. The teacher who was convinced that her class was composed of near genius students achieved remarkable results. The difference was the teacher’s attitudes towards their students. The teacher who was convinced that his students were impaired had low expectations. He didn’t expect his students to excel, and made little effort to try alternative methods to motivate and teach them. The teacher who was convinced that her students were highly intelligent was critical of her own performance when she was having difficulty capturing her student’s interest and enthusiasm. She knew her students were gifted. Surely if she wasn’t connecting with them it was because she had failed to identify a viable method for stimulating their interest. She kept trying different approaches until she was successful.
Excerpt from Bean Business Basics