Small Business Ownership 101: Managing People

First Financial Bank
Your business can’t function without hiring and keeping the right people – and your team can’t work efficiently without good leadership.

It’s your job to learn how to manage people in such a way as to bring out everyone’s strengths as much as possible to optimize both their contribution to the team’s objectives and their satisfaction in their role. A good leader is an invaluable asset to a team. Here are ten tips to help become the best one you can be.

1. Be Consistent and Lead by Example

If you want your team to show up on time, you better be pulling into the parking lot at five til . If you want your team to clock out for lunch, make sure they see you consistently abide by the rule yourself. If you want the dress code adhered to, make a point of adhering to it.

In 2018, one-hundred-thirty individuals were given the opportunity to assess different leaders in various circumstances for a study on the effects of leading by example. This study reached the conclusion that: “the more leaders contribute, the more followers contribute.” Your team will follow your example whether it’s positive or negative. So take decisive action to lead by example.

2. Be Sure They Have SMART Goals

If team members aren’t clear on priorities and desired outcomes, they can accidentally focus on the urgent but unimportant – and not complete the essentials. To prevent missed or misunderstood goals, use an approach that has been well-tested over the years: SMART goals. When working with your team, be sure the goals you establish are:

  • Specific: Describe exactly what you want them to do, and if unclear, exactly how.
  • Measurable: How is successful completion measured? This should be measured in time, dollars, units and/or other measurable data points. There should be no question whether it is completed or not because anyone should be able to measure to confirm.
  • Achievable: If you insist on someone meeting goals that are impossible – or well beyond their capabilities – you are setting them up to fail. Be realistic. As someone gains skills or has more experience you may get the opportunity to up the ante, but base the goals on what is truly doable in the time available and with the tools/skills allotted.
  • Relevant: If your accounts payable clerk’s goals are wrapped up in how clean the office is, the goal is not measuring what they were hired to do or successfully measure their competency in handling your A/P. Tie goals to their specific job requirements and responsibilities.
  • Time-bound: Define and communicate the amount of time allotted for achieving the goal.

In addition to helping with the day-to-day work, having (and documenting) the achievement of SMART goals allows you to take the guesswork out of evaluating and coaching your team members. They know what you expect and how to get there successfully.

3. Take Time to Get To Know Your Team Members

In the current job market, you want to keep and optimize the value of every employee. Each team will have a range of personality types, competencies, and communication styles. It’s important as their manager to become familiar with these so that you can best coach and communicate with your people.

Pay attention to how each person takes coaching or course corrections (when they are off track). Learn which employees have the skills, experience and motivation to thrive by being given free rein to accomplish a task how they see fit – and which employees need more detailed guidance and handholding for every step. By managing to their strengths, they’ll be more successful – and so will you. You just want to be sure you provide equal opportunity to succeed through treating them equitably but not all exactly the same. The differences in your team should be celebrated for their potential value to your business.

4. Praise Your Team Members Publicly

Receiving praise and recognition for a job well done is satisfying and motivating to most employees. Complimenting a team member for a job well done in front of their colleagues is not only encouraging to that team member, but can demonstrate to them what they need to do to also be recognized and rewarded. And when you praise them, be specific about what they accomplished (remember those SMART goals) and put it in context to how the achievement helped the business.

Again, you want to be sure to be even-handed. You may have a team member that outshines the rest of the team consistently. Each person’s positive contributions, even if not of equal value to your business, need to be recognized. An overly dedicated focus on one person over others can backfire with that person being an outcast – and your team resenting you because they think you are “playing favorites”. If someone is a superstar and consistently outperforms their peers, it may be time to consider giving them more opportunity in the form of a promotion, more responsibility (with corresponding earning potential) or offer to train in a new set of skills.

5. Share Constructive Criticism in Private

Ever heard the expression “Praise in public and pummel in private”? Though you are not going to literally pummel someone, you do want to have those difficult conversations in private. Embarrassing a team member, even if you feel they deserved it, is uncalled for – and won’t win you any loyalty or increased productivity from the rest of your team. It can also make you appear to be a bully to any customers, vendors or partners who witness the interaction. It’s just plain bad for business.

Take a deep breath and take them aside. Be calm, cool and collected. Explain clearly where they went astray based on the task’s requirements. Be respectful, but don’t water down your feedback. Most mistakes are just that – mistakes with no intent to do harm. Correct the course and help them understand where they went wrong. Provide them with any additional training they need to improve. They still may feel embarrassed, but you gave them an opportunity to save face by having this conversation in private. And the rest of your team will respect the approach too. No one is perfect and they’ll know when (not if) they mess up, you won’t shame them in public.

6. Do the Work Only You Can Do – and Delegate the Rest

As the owner, this business is your “baby” and you’ll most likely have the most relevant experience and knowledge about the inner workings. So there are some tasks that only you can do or that your experience sets you up to do best. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to – or should.

Delegating is a valuable tool for managing and growing your business potential. There will always be the day-to-day work of running the business, but if you want to have a chance to stand back, take stock and work on ideas for future growth, you need the time and energy to do it. Give your team a chance to shine and grow – and your business too.

7. Set Communication Standards

Constant interruptions by your team to ask you mundane questions or “keep you in the loop” is not only annoying, it gets in the way of you accomplishing your own tasks. Instead, communicate how and when it’s appropriate to chat with you. Provide specific ways to let you know about non-urgent issues (for example, an end of shift email or regularly scheduled 5 minute “stand-up” meeting). For questions from new employees about how to accomplish their jobs, pair that new person with a “mentor” each day – someone working that day who knows that job and can answer most of the typical questions. Of course, if you have a management or team leader structure in place, those individuals should be the first stop for the rest of the team. Regardless of what type of communication process you put in place, share it with your team and be consistent until it becomes a habit. Yes, you’ll still probably need to handle the important or truly urgent, but it should cut down on some of the incessant interruptions and distractions.

8. Make a Point of Resolving Conflict Quickly

Disagreements among team members are an inevitable part of life. Resolving those conflicts quickly can help refocus your team on doing their jobs and working together productively. One approach is just separating the two people and sending them to their separate corners. It may work short term, but in most cases, it is not likely to be as productive as helping them find a real solution. You can help facilitate but only they can truly solve the issue. Take a little time to learn about conflict resolution approaches as part of your “HR” role. It is a skill that can serve you and your business well.

9. Ask for – and Accept – Your Team’s Input

People like to be heard. Sometimes simply listening, even if you don’t choose to do what a team member proposes, will gain you their respect.

Good ideas can come from unexpected sources. If you’ve hired people with skills, experiences or expertise that you don’t have, they can provide you with valuable insights and ideas. So make a point of listening to your team members’ suggestions. And be humble enough to implement the best approach, even when it’s not yours.

10. Inspire Trust, Respect and Loyalty

What does it take to inspire trust, respect and loyalty in your employees? It’s simple – give your team the same and do it first. Be honest and authentic. People can smell flattery and falseness from a mile away. Don’t assume the worst about your team. You are the owner and will always have more invested in the business than they do. But they are there to do a job and get compensated for it. If they do it well, you and your business will benefit. So show your team that you respect their work and their time, and they will return the favor. Be willing to get into the trenches with them when the situation calls for it, be humble enough to take their input into consideration, and be consistent and equitable no matter which employee you are dealing with. These traits are building blocks to earning your team’s trust, respect and loyalty.

Making plans to start your new business? Check out this article for help in building your business plan. Ready to chat about your plans? Give us a call: 800-562-6896


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