Improving productivity, morale, and overall profitability depend on one key area: excellent management. Do you want to be a better manager and have the support of your employees in growing the company? Here are five tips to help you:
1. Hire All-Star Players Only
Your top quality employees depend on you to run an organization that seeks out and retains great individuals. Whether your business is international law or local plumbing, you need to have an all-star team that wants to be the best at what they do. People are the most important resource that you have. Mike Krzyewski, Duke University basketball coach says, "At Duke, we search for good kids with strong character--not necessarily kids with great talent who can play, but great individuals who are willing to be part of a team and who are coachable. I don't hire anyone solely on their technical merits." Krzyewski has used that formula to lead his team to three NCAA basketball championships during his tenure.
Building a top flight team requires that your staff has confidence in your ability to manage. If you are allowing players that are not pulling their own weight to stay on the team, your top personnel may resent doing additional work to take up the slack. Knowing that everyone is consistently giving their best effort on a daily basis gives each individual that confidence to do their jobs well.
A customer visited our facility one day to take a tour and meet some of our key personnel. At the end of his visit, he realized that he locked his keys in his BMW. I mention that it was a BMW only because they can only a BMW dealer can get the car unlocked without a key. Kayla, one of our customer service representatives, took control of the situation and within a few minutes made arrangements to have our customer’s vehicle towed to a BMW dealer close to his home so that he could get his car unlocked. Kayla viewed herself as a problem solver and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when getting something done, even if it fell outside the normal range of her job description. Kayla is an all-star player.
2. Treat Everyone Differently
Your employees are individuals and deserve to be treated with respect, but they do not need to be treated exactly the same way. People from different cities, backgrounds, and generations cannot typically be treated in the same manner if you are looking for optimum results.
At one time, I was selling corrugated cartons to a seafood processing company in Virginia. My customer was based in New York City. Our service was excellent (we delivered next day, same day if they needed it) and based on their volume, they were paying the lowest pricing that we offered to any of our customers. We always delivered top quality cartons on time, but the buyer wanted more. She demanded lower pricing and better service every time we talked. “I can always buy from someone else”, she would tell me regularly (in a not so kind manner). Finally, after all of her rudeness and impossible demands, I said in very firm voice (okay, it was an over the top rude voice, just like she used with me), “Look, we give you great pricing, great service, and the best quality boxes that you can buy. We deliver your orders exactly when you want them, sometimes even twice a day. I’m not lowering your prices. Your team here in Virginia loves what we do for them.” There was a pause on the end of the line and finally she said, “OK. Thank you for taking care of us.” I had never spoken to a customer like that before, but I realized that I needed to stand up for myself and my company. We did do a great job; the customer needed to hear from me that we were doing our best for her organization. She expected people to be rude and overbearing with her, otherwise, she was going to push them around. Once I spoke to her the way she spoke to me, she never asked for a lower price or made impossible demands again (and we kept the business).
I do not recommend talking with your employees or customers in a rude or overbearing manner on a regular basis. Some employees may need a more detailed description of what you want accomplished. Spend a few more minutes making sure that they understand you so that they have the confidence to move forward. Other employees may need very little guidance as they see your vision and almost intuitively know the next steps to take. Be sensitive to what style works for each member of your staff.
3. Focus on Outcomes, Not Processes
If what you need your organization to accomplish gets accomplished, does it matter how you got there as long as it was done legally, ethically, and efficiently? Results are what matter not necessarily how the task was done. The saying goes “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. I personally have not skinned a cat in a single way, let alone multiple ways. In fact, I don’t know that I would ever have a reason to do that. I do know, however, that FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the US Postal Service all provide overnight delivery services to multiple destinations worldwide (if I ever need to ship a skinned cat). Should it really matter which service your employee uses to ship product to a waiting customer as long as the customer receives the product when they request it?
Allowing your employees the latitude to make decisions in accomplishing objectives strengthens their confidence and makes them feel more like part of the team. Nordstrom’s employee handbook is well-known for its simplicity and brevity. Of the seventy-five words on the 5” x 8” card, the most important may be: Use good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Nordstrom is a company that believes in results, not processes.
4. Reward the Producers at the Expense of the Non-Producers.
It sounds harsh, but the reality is if you do not reward the producers and eliminate the non-producers, your company will have a difficult time surviving. Charles Darwin espoused the philosophy of survival of the fittest (which is not a bad way to view your workforce). Put the very best employees in the positions that will provide the greatest benefit to your organization. Even if circumstances change, if you have hired great individuals, they will adapt and continue to perform at high levels.
If you have eight salespeople with two outstanding producers, four average producers, and two that are struggling in spite of your best efforts to train them, get rid of the two non-producers quickly. Replace them with all-star producers. Continue the process until your entire team is composed of people that can be counted on to perform every day at a high level.
Some may view this as unfair to the employees that are not pulling their weight. Ask yourself this question: Is getting rid of two employees that are not getting the job done better than having your company go out of business as you hold on to the non-producers? You may have twenty, fifty, one hundred, or more people and their families counting on you to run a profitable organization. Make sure that your team is full of producers.
5. Have Fun!
Do you dread heading to work every day? If so, it is time to make a change. Make a list of the five things that you enjoy at work. If you cannot think of five things that are fun, you may need to find another job. I love flying Southwest Airlines because the flight attendants truly enjoy what they are doing. Many of them deliver the pre-flight safety announcements in a fun way. They meet the requirements of telling passengers not to smoke followed by saying, “If you must smoke, please step outside the aircraft and smoke on one of the wings; however, you may have trouble lighting your cigarette due to the fact that we are traveling at 600 miles per hour.”
A customer service representative at a packaging company loved it when large packages were delivered to her office. After unpacking the carton, she would hide inside until someone came by. She would then suddenly jump out of the box and yell to scare the unsuspecting individual. Everyone had a good laugh and kept the office’s energy at a high level. Most importantly, it was inexpensive (free) and boosted office morale.
Encourage your team to find ways to enjoy themselves in the office without compromising productivity. A mid-afternoon paper ball fight (using recycled paper, of course) may be just the thing that your team needs to relieve a little stress before getting back to work. Plan your ambush carefully and make sure that you help clean up at the end of the battle. Remember that employees respect a manager that is willing to shoulder their portion of the work.