Do you want a great business? Do you have a great workforce?
What makes a great workforce? My view is that greatness from any group or team always starts with and stems from great leadership from the top. In your business, that means great leadership coming from you as its owner!
To help you do that well, I’m going to focus on four leadership practices that are essential to you developing and maintaining a great team: respect, connect, train and praise.
Yes, it’s a given that you’ll also have to offer competitive compensation, benefits and other attributes of a strong business, but without these leadership practices your team and business may never be better than average. With them, a great workforce is within reach for you and your business!
This should really go without saying, but respect is the key to any good relationship – working or otherwise. Nobody wants to be disrespected and good workers don’t stay or work hard in environments where they are not respected.
So, be respectful to every member of your team! Though I know this can be hard at times, it is a deal breaker for building a great team when small business owners don’t make this your practice.
I say it can be hard because I know small business owners have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Believe me, I get it and respect you and the load you bear! And I know when you’re under stress or an employee isn’t carrying their load or complains, it is too easy to slip into disrespectful thoughts or actions toward them, their skills or contributions to your business.
Likewise, I’ve noticed that owners who have bootstrapped their business up from nothing can tend to dismiss or minimize the significance of others’ contributions to their business with thoughts or comments like: “Where were you when I…” If such thoughts have ever entered your mind, know that you’re skating on thin ice as your business’ leader.
The antidote is to intentionally focus on the value each employee brings to your team, even if it is in fact relatively minor. If disrespect is an issue for you, have someone hold you accountable and force yourself to focus on the positive things each employee brings to your business, and have a respectful attitude at all times.
Disrespect is a team killer. Respect is a team builder.
Going back to the prior point about respect, sometimes you may wind up with team members that do not or cannot perform their job duties very well. Respecting your employees in these situations does not imply you should not change that status quo. No business, small or large, can afford to do that!
Rather, when an employee isn’t doing or can’t do their job well, they need to be connected or reassigned to a position where they will better thrive in their skills and abilities. In some cases, this may be an in-house re-connection. In other cases, it may mean encouraging and helping them find a better fit opening with another employer.
Though re-assignments and firings can be awkward, remember that it is ultimately in everyone’s best interests for each person on your team to be doing something they do well and enjoy doing.
That said, the need to connect employees purely with their best fit roles can be difficult or impossible in small business, where employees often must be jacks-of-all-trades especially early on. And the best solution to that problem in small business comes at the time of hiring.
Seek out and hire people who are very comfortable handling all the various tasks they may be required to perform over time. And avoid “not my job” types that can and will do only one thing. The smaller your business, the more your hires will need to be generalists vs. specialists… and the reverse becomes more true the larger your business becomes.
In my experience, I’ve observed that one of the most powerful ways to communicate respect is to train an employee in their area of expertise. Company-paid training communicates these two messages to employees: (1) you are valuable enough to invest our money in, and (2) we want you to be here long-term and to advance in your job capabilities and responsibilities.
Who wouldn’t feel respected to hear these messages from their boss?
But the benefit is not just one-way. In many cases, training is a double benefit… it makes your staff feel respected and appreciated, and it makes them more productive as they build their skills. So, look at training more as an investment than expense…
Think about your biggest gripes as owner. I’m willing to speculate that for many of you, you wish someone would tell you “good job” once in a while! Am I right?
So, let me first say this: great job business owner! You are one of my heroes! You take on lots of risks, bear heavy loads, and make happen what others can’t or don’t! You’re doing great things through your small business… providing your customers a needed service, your employees jobs, and economic development to your country, state and community!
If that felt good to hear, as I hope it did and sincerely intended it to, know that your employees want to hear similar encouragements from you – when it is merited! Don’t go the false praise method, which they (and their co-workers) will see through right away, but do go the authentic route!
Daily be on the look out to praise someone on your team for some good or great thing they’ve recently done for your business. And speak to them and your whole team with praise for their good work.
Also, honor them with meaningful awards or recognition. It can be a plaque, a gift card, a meal on the business.., or whatever. Just do something to make it clear you sincerely appreciate them and want to praise them for their efforts.
If you do these four things well… you’ll have: an efficient work environment, a culture and a team that focuses on and strives toward positive achievements, easier hiring and job searches because good workers will hear about and start to find their way to you, and a workforce that will truly become great!
If that sounds good, continually remember and apply these keys to managing your team: respect, connect, train and praise your employees well!
Long live small business! Long live small business owners!
Jim Smith, Founder, PERFORMIDABLE, LLC