Comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen once quipped that 80 percent of success is just showing up.
Today, being present more often than not to inspect what you expect from your staff may be the best management move you can make.
Obviously, these are difficult and turbulent economic times. Whether you're an owner or an employee, these very well may be the most challenging circumstances you have ever encountered. Tough times usually stress both personal and working relationships.
Stressful, difficult situations can help pull a team of people together and focus them more clearly on a common goal. Or tough times can simply magnify or highlight existing problems between or among people. This magnifying of problems may occur at home, at work or both.
Lest all of this sound too touchy-feely for some readers, remember somethingand never kid yourself into thinking otherwise: You're only as good as the team of workers you have assembled. One of life's lessons is that sometimes you just get lucky in recruiting a great crew of employees. As a group, they may require so little guidance that they seem to run the tire dealership or service shop all by themselves.
However, it's more likely that at any given time, your work force includes some people who require considerably more guidance and motivation than others. I have observed that tougher economic times and the associated stress often increases the needs of the needyif I may coin a phrase here.
If you accept the premise that your business is only as strong as the work force you've put together, then also embrace this corollary. Overall, your team may require more interaction, meaning more coaching and more guidance these days. And as a rule, you must guide, coach and lead in person. You aren't likely to accomplish it over the phone or via the Internet.
This brings us full circle, back to Woody Allen's comment. Some owners I meet behave as if running a business interferes with their golf game or boating time. The more you talk to them, the more you realize they really aren't as involved in and aware of their businesses as you assume they are. Perhaps a combination of lucky hiresespecially among their managershas enabled them to minimize their involvement in the daily operation of the store or stores.
For instance, they barely know all the employees well enough to know what motivates each of them. Furthermore, they may assume that each and every manager has an effective solution for any and all personnel-related problems. To make matters worse, some owners expect miracles but never give managers enough authority to solve staff issues. Then, that same owner is seldom present to personally oversee and assess various problems. So he or she can't help managers make smarter personnel-related decisions.
Here's an easy and familiar example. Morale and productivity are suffering because workers have begun bickering about the lateness and apparent unreliability of fellow employees. The root problem is that tougher economic times have forced some employees to take second jobs doing whatever they can to hustle extra dough for their families. Also, spouse are re-entering the work force or else trying to work substantially more hours in order to bring home the bacon. One spouse may have to assume more family duties than in the past.
Overall, longer hours and/or more family duties can cause issues such as lateness, irritability, poorer workmanship and comebacks.
Owners who are present more often and more involved in the business are much more likely to recognize personnel problems and help managers identify the root causes. They're better able to assess the situation and help managers create more effective solutions than simply firing a basically capable employee who's under a lot of stress. For instance, crafting more-flexible work schedules may solve some employees' situations.
The bottom line here is that the boss should not gripe about the results when he or she is seldom present and seldom involvedespecially during these stressful economic times. I'm not recommending micro-management. But sooner or later, you must inspect what you expect and do so personally. Try it.
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