I’ve owned and sold two companies, one that employed about 15 people and the other that employed around 25. While my businesses weren’t big by any standard, I did employ enough people that not everyone reported directly to me. The businesses were complex organizations, with several layers of management and personnel challenges.
Over the years, I learned a lot about what to do—and not do—to handle my staff effectively. Let me help you learn from my mistakes by revealing the lessons I learned from making them. These are my top five what not to do's:
Expecting Too Much
If you're under the assumption that your employees are going to think and act like you and then you reprimand them when they don’t, you're making one of the first mistakes I made. Remember, your company is your baby. It’s your vision and your dream, and you’re willing to pour every ounce of your energy and time into making it successful. You’re willing to sacrifice holidays and family time, and lose sleep in order to nurture your business. You believe that if you make the investment, your business will pay off, right?
The problem occurs when you expect the same level of dedication from your staff. Your employees aren’t driven by the same motivators you're driven by, though. Your staff is motivated by a predictable paycheck. You’re putting in your all based on the potential payoff, but both the risk and the reward are yours, not theirs. You simply can't expect your staff to think and work like you do.
If you want a staff of entrepreneurs, then you have to face the fact that you'll eventually lose them as they leave to start their own businesses. One way to harness—at least temporarily—the enormous creativity and innovation that’s produced by entrepreneurs is to operate your business as an incubator of sorts. You can offer your staff of entrepreneurs the opportunity to work with you for a period of time in exchange for the promise to support and help launch their ventures (perhaps even in exchange for a share of their ventures).
Being Overly Generous With Titles
Entrepreneurs sometimes have to be creative when they want to reward loyal staff, but it’s a huge mistake to give an employee a title that doesn’t accurately reflect their position in your company. For instance, if you’ve just promoted an intern to a full-time position, you don’t want to call him your Chief Marketing Officer if the position only requires posting to and maintaining Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts for your business.
The risk you run by aggrandizing his title is that your former intern may research industry salaries and see that marketing managers typically earn $80,000 annually. And if he looks at his newly hired salary of $35,000, he's going to feel slighted and undervalued. In addition, your clients may be taken aback to see that last week’s intern is now your Chief Marketing Officer. Employees’ titles should accurately reflect their true position in your organization.
Your employees know their anniversary date. You should as well. If your employees sense that they attach more importance to their job than you, the owner, do, they’re going to be disappointed if their anniversary date comes and goes without the appropriate annual review. You have to make a point of recording your staff’s hire dates and then scheduling reviews ahead of time. Staying on top of review dates gives you the ability to address performance problems and offers you the opportunity to give valuable praise to employees you’d hate to lose.
Training ... Then Praying
Inadequate training can—and often does—result in both discomfort for your new employee as well as disappointment from your clients who receive substandard service. Rather than letting your staff sink or swim with training you know to be inadequate, the best approach is to train and support your staff so they’re successfully launched as members of your company. You need to implement a program that brings your new hires up to speed on the company culture and teaches, guides, debriefs and monitors them. Let your staff know you value both them and your clients enough to ensure that company representatives are properly trained.
Messing Up The First Day
A good new hire will show up early and be excited and ready for their first day of work. Don’t disappoint them! Prepare your existing staff so your new hire is greeted by name. Have their desk prepared and their business cards ready to go. Don’t bury the new person under a mountain of nonessential paperwork, but rather have a plan for them.
Ease them into the office culture, and make it your goal to impress them. You want them to leave the office after having been wowed by their first day. You want them excited to come back and begin working with a cohesive staff in a welcoming environment. Don’t miss the opportunity to show your new hire that you have high expectations of every single staff member and that you value your employees enough to take the time to get them properly settled.
Let’s face it: You have your hands full bringing in and developing business and delivering products that exceed your clients’ expectations. If you can head off personnel problems by avoiding the worst management mistakes, you'll have more time to devote to the tasks that really matter.
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