Thursday, June 07, 2007

Confessions of a Business Control Freak

As a business owner, I must entrust daily business operations to my employees (especially if I ever want a vacation or time off). In my early business years, I struggled with control issues. I was consumed with the fear that things just wouldn't operate efficiently and productively if I wasn't there to oversee every detail. Of course, it didn't take long to realize this was a poor managment strategy. It was my daughter who finally sat me down and kindly (well, maybe she wasn't that kind) pointed out that I working myself into an early grave. Throughout that conversation, I kicked, screamed, and came up with every excuse in the book for why I needed to be in charge and in control of every aspect of the business. I begrudgingly resolved to change. Over the course of the next year I gradually began to relinquish and delegate more and more duties to my employees. I'm a much happier person as a result of it and my employees have blossomed into loyal, confident and take-charge workers. I learned a few things in the process that might help other Business Control Freaks.

***Allow employees to be in-charge even when you're not around. When you clearly state your expectations and what needs to be done, you will be surprised at how often your employees will pull together to get the job done.

***Don't solve all your employee's problems. Believe it or not, they like when you engage them as a team to work toward a resolution when challenges arise. Initially they may be intimidated and feel incapable of making the right decision or seeking out a resolution. With encouragement you'll find they soon become motivated by the challenge. My own employees, without fail, have proven they can make good choices and become very creative when faced with a challenge. I still chuckle about the time I was away on business and my employees couldn't get the office key to work. They knew they couldn't be locked out for an entire week and remembered we always leave one office window unlocked. It's 10 feet from the ground and not easily assessible which is why we never bother locking it. Scouting out a ladder someone climbed through the window to unlock the door. God love 'em.

***Employees will mimic your behavior and react to situations within the business based on how you react. If you consistenlty demonstrate honesty, kindness, understanding and integrity in all your business dealings, so will your employees.

***Most employers assume that employees should know how to take initiative and determine what's in the best interest of the company, when in reality such perspective comes from much discussion, learning and involvement of all employees. Set aside time to meet with employees on a regular basis to define your expectations and company goals. At GoPlanetEarth we do this at least once a month. We order in lunch and have a "pow-wow" meeting where we brainstorm, vent, and share information.

***Notice and recognize employees when they take initiative. If you want to see the behavior repeated you need to notice and thank employees when they make an extra effort or do something that needed to be done without being asked.

***Do not focus exclusively on employee mistakes. Look for the bigger picture of their intent, their learning and their growth as an employee. Criticism may bring compliance but can also impart resentment. As a business owner, there are times you must reprimand or counsel an employee about job related issues. Just be careful that it's done in a non-accusatory manner.

***Let employees find the best way to get their work done and support them whenever they offer a better way to do the job or a solution to problems that occur during the work day. My own employees have come up with some of the most brilliant ideas on streamlining day to day operations. Who better to come up with ideas than those doing the job.

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