January 2012: Business Building

Words: George Hedley

altBusiness Building

What drives you crazy about managing your company? Is it trying to get paid, dealing with customers, having to cut your prices, scheduling workers, or making sure everything is done right? My guess is, dealing with employees is what keeps you up at night. You worry about getting them to be accountable, mistake free, safe and customer friendly, and to do what you expect them to do.

Your ongoing challenge is to develop disciplined, results-oriented, responsible employees. You struggle with getting them to show up on time, care about quality, be productive, and improve your bottom line.

I hear this, when I speak at conventions:

“I’m just a small company. How can I get my employees to do what I want them to do? An employee mistake can cost me everything, so I can’t let my people make any big decisions.”

To overcome this accountability and responsibility problem, consider these three challenges:

Do you chase wheelbarrows? I was visiting a construction jobsite and noticed one of our long-time laborers cleaning the slab. He swept trash into his shovel, and then walked about 100 yards to the trash bin. He repeated this for several minutes until I finally stopped and asked, “Where’s your wheelbarrow?” He said his boss didn’t give him one. I then asked if a wheelbarrow would make the job go faster. He said it would, but his boss had not given him one to use that day.

I looked for the foreman and superintendent, to no avail. So I went to the storage bin, unlocked it and got a wheelbarrow for the laborer to use. I solved the problem, or did I? Have you ever fixed something yourself, but not addressed the bigger issue? The real problem was that the laborer was not trusted or given responsibility to think, make decisions, choose the right tools, or be responsible to achieve results. He wasn’t accountable for anything.

Are you a firefighter? Do you ever feel like a firefighter, running from one fire to another with a garden hose, trying to put out everyone else’s fires? Do you do work all day doing your employees’ jobs, and then working all night doing yours? Your employees can handle more responsibility, you just don’t give it to them. In a recent poll of field employees, 66 percent were asked to make decisions, but only 14 percent felt empowered and trusted to make decisions. They were afraid their bosses would yell at them for mistakes. Therefore, employees didn’t take on more than they had to. The root of most “people” problems is the boss, not the employee.

Who owns the problem? When the boss owns every problem, only he can solve it correctly. When you solve other people’s problems, they rely on you to solve all their problems. When people aren’t responsible for anything, how can they be responsible for solutions? Do your employees rely on you to solve their problems? When you solve employees’ problems, they can’t grow and improve. When you treat employees like children who can’t think, they act like children and only do what they’ve been told to do. It’s your job to train your employees and make them responsible. You have to let go to grow.

You can’t do it all yourself. Small business owners start out as sole proprietors, making every decision. Successful business owners quickly realize they can’t do it all themselves, and need empowered people they can trust if they want to grow. Larger companies have multiple levels of responsible people who make most everyday business decisions. The owner (rightfully) decided he wasn’t the only smart person on the planet. The No. 1 reason employees don’t accept accountability or responsibility is that they don’t know exactly what the boss wants them to do. The No. 2 reason is that the boss doesn’t trust them.

5 steps to develop accountable, responsible employees 1. Establish Clear Expectations and Understanding Tell them, show them and draw visuals to assure they get it. A good leader holds meetings to explain how to do the job, the implementations plan, procedures, and productivity requirements.

2. Create a Scorecard and Tracking System To make people accountable and responsible, ongoing project targets to track, review and measure like a scoreboard must exist. Team members need to know where they stand, in order to meet the goals and expectations. I created a “Hardhat Scorecard” to track job progress. Use one to create and track goals and accomplishments. (Email gh@hardhatpresentations.com to receive a free scorecard.)

3. Define Levels of Authority Which employees can buy materials or tools, and how much can they spend without approval from the boss? With defined rules and parameters, employees can become empowered team leaders. Given little or no authority, they are un-accountable and un-responsible.

4. Be a Coach, Not a Controller People want to be coached, not controlled. The best coach usually wins the most games. The more you control, the less your people do for themselves. The more decisions you make for them, the fewer decisions they make. The more questions you answer for them, the less they have to think and learn. Is that what you want?

5. Celebrate and Reward Success You know what else good coaches do? They regularly recognize, praise and encourage their players. Make it your priority to look for the good, instead of pointing out the bad. Start weekly recognition programs for people who save the most money, do something excellent, have the best attitude, make the best decisions, or go the extra mile for the customer. Some weeks you decide the winners, and other weeks let your employees choose.

By implementing these simple steps, your people will grow and want to take on more responsibility. The key is your decision to make it happen by letting go of accountability. Get started right now by taking three things off of your “to do” list, and delegate them to someone else. Enjoy!

George Hedley is author of “Get Your Business to Work!” and “The Business Success Blueprint For Contractors,” available at his online bookstore. As an entrepreneur, popular speaker and business coach, he helps business owners build profitable companies. Email gh@hardhatpresentations.com to request your free copy of “Everything Contractors Know About Making A Profit!” or sign up for his free monthly e-newsletter. To hire George, attend a Profit-Builder Circle boot camp or be a part of an ongoing coaching and mentoring program, call 800-851-8553, or visit www.hardhatpresentations.com. George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations 3300 Irvine Ave. #135, Newport Beach, CA 92660 Return to Table of Contents
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