If you’re the boss, then you have to make hard decisions that your employees may not understand. Getting them to see your point of view is important, but not always possible. You can’t spend all your time coaching and nurturing your staff. If you did, you would neglect your customers and miss marketplace changes.
Still, certain actions, when left unexplained, can drive employees crazy.
Provide conflicting direction
You set the direction and provide guidance on its practical implications. You give additional insights that clarify the path. But some employees view any additional information as a deviation from direction, causing confusion and frustration.
Solution: Be clear about the company’s direction in ways that your employees understand, embrace and execute. Explain that there is more than one way to implement your vision. Establish decision-making frameworks that equip people to plot and follow a course that is consistent with your direction. Elaborate on how to translate strategies into plans for various work groups and individual employees. Meet with employees periodically to compare their business plans with your vision.
Shuffle priorities and expectations
Knowing your priorities and expectations enables employees to plan their activities, control their schedules and achieve performance goals. But evolving customer needs, new opportunities, urgent requests and industry changes lead you to reorder priorities and revise expectations.
Solution: Acknowledge how difficult transitions are but reinforce how essential adjustments are to the success of the business. Reexamine, redesign and renegotiate incentives as appropriate. Cultivate flexibility in your employees. Reward them for being able to shift gears in the middle of a project, assignment or day’s workload. Show that nimbleness makes the company more profitable and helps employees achieve their goals in changing environments.
Make exceptions to customer service policies
Customer-facing employees are charged with enforcing policies for the purpose of protecting the company’s interests and ensuring consistent treatment of customers. Inevitably, a customer requests an exception or argues that the policy does not apply to a particular situation. You override a decision made by an employee or make a concession to the customer.
Solution: Explain your rationale for making a policy exception or interpreting a situation differently than your employee does. If appropriate, acknowledge that the employee made the right call based on policy guidelines but that you have chosen to make an exception based on the nuances of the situation.
Give incomplete, unclear instructions
You give broad instructions regarding projects and assignments in order to encourage creativity among employees. Some thrive under these circumstances while others flounder.
Meanwhile, you wonder why certain employees make no attempts to move forward, try a novel approach, or ask clarifying questions. The truth is that they perceive that ambiguity relieves them of accountability. Those who struggle believe that inaction is preferable to outright failure.
Solution: Communicate goals. Clarify expectations. Check in with employees during early phases of new initiatives. Give thorough, thoughtful responses to questions. Quickly address problems in a non-threatening way. Publicly commend those who show innovative thinking and bias toward action.
Forget to train employees on marketing promotions
Employees are not given adequate information on your marketing promotions yet they are accountable for determining customer eligibility, explaining details, helping customers sort through various options and fulfilling agreements. Customers, on the other hand, are knowledgeable of your company’s promotional offers as well as those of your competitors.
Solution: Never assume that your employees think and act just like your customers. Before launching a promotion, train employees on its purpose, goals and all details related to successful execution.
Negotiate deals with sketchy details
You negotiate a great deal with a major customer and leave your employees to work out the details. When they decide on the specifics, you discover that your team’s perspective on servicing the deal is much different than the customer’s expectations.
Solution: Recognize that big-picture thinking needs detailed execution to generate profitable sales. Consider becoming the detail person yourself. Better yet, invite an employee who understands your vision and excels at handling details to participate in customer meetings.
Fail to understand how customers think and act
You make decisions on marketing offers, website navigation, invoice design, etc. that seem to ignore how customers really think and act. Your predictions and assumptions about customer behavior are much different than those of you your customer-facing employees.
Solution: Listen to your employees tell you about their observations of customers. Act like an undercover boss for a while, working in a front-line position to interact directly with customers. Then, make informed decisions that mesh your vision for the company with real-world behaviors.