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8 Mistakes Founders Make Managing People

8 Mistakes Founders Make Managing People

Managing people is hard. They’re all different. Odd. Want different things. ‘If only they were all like me, we’d be fine’. Many business owners think like this. And, so do most leaders and most managers. You’re not alone.

The real point is whether you want it to change – everyone to be like you. I suspect not, and it can’t happen anyway. So, what do you do? You know that people are your best asset. And your biggest pain in the behind. But if you want success, the ‘ceiling’ on your business is how much your employees can deliver for you. And that depends a lot on how engaged they are. And that depends on how you manage them.

Andy Palmer, an expert at Making Business Matter has provided us with his insight. These 8 mistakes will make you feel better that you are not on your own, and hopefully help you to avoid what makes people management go wrong. In turn improving your business success and motivating your workforce.

#1 – They run everything through me. That’s why I am so busy

This happens because you want it to. It’s your business after all. You created the processes and the structures, or at least, allowed them to be created.

Many business owners won’t admit it. They love being in the thick of it. Having a finger in every pie. That’s partly why they started the business. To feel alive.

The problem is that if you take a hard look at your business, you are also the bottleneck. If everything comes through you, then the ‘ceiling’ of your business is restricted by how hard you work and how much can get through you in a working day.

Action: Tell your staff their boundaries. Make it clear that you don’t want everything coming through you. Important things, yes, smaller things, no. Encourage them to decide. Tell them that you trust their decision. After all, that is what you are paying them to do!


#2 – They all know what we are trying to achieve

Do they? If I sat them all down and asked them individually what your business is trying to achieve, would they all say the same? No, they would not.

The All Blacks rugby team have a reason to work together. They are a team aiming to win games. Each member of the team cannot achieve the goal without the other members.

What is your goal?

Action: Define your simple goal and share it with your employees a lot. Then ask them what part they play in achieving that goal and what they need from you to achieve this.

A manager provides feedback to his employees

#3 – My staff know how I feel about what they do

They don’t. They guess. Tell them what you think of them often. Short and sharp. Not 2-hour discussions on the dreaded ‘feedback’. Instead:

  • ‘I really value when you produce that report because it means that I know where we are losing money’.
  • ‘When you answer that customer quickly, it really helps to promote everything that I want this business to stand for’.
  • ‘By not replying to my email, it means that we could not get the order completed for our main customer, which might mean that they don’t order again’.

Action: Tell your people frequently what they got right, and wrong, and the impact of getting it right/wrong.


#4 – Everyone likes working for me

This is what you want to believe. It is understandable. You want to be liked. Everyone does. The problem is that if you try to be everyone’s friend you’ll struggle to challenge them on their performance. You will either flight (avoid) or fight (Have a go at them).

You need to remain their boss. Professional. Supportive. Challenging. Not their friend.

Action: Define your boundaries, share them, and be very clear on what you expect from them.

 An office worker checking her watch

#5 – I watch the clock with my staff to make sure that they are working hard

Don’t. You do this as a hangover from yesteryear. In times gone by managers believed that they got their best from their staff by them work long hours. Be honest, would you rather someone works 60 hours per week, or worked 40 and achieved their targets? Choosing the right answer means that they need targets. If they don’t have targets, how can you measure their performance? Answer: you clock watch.

Action: Don’t watch the clock, watch their performance vs their targets.


#6 – We don’t have targets because they know what they are doing

Targets are important to achieve real progress and not to allow the business to plod along. Usain Bolt didn’t achieve his gold with a ‘Let’s see how I get on’. Goals and targets drive people and give them job satisfaction.

Use SMART targets. In my experience, everyone has heard of them. And no-one does them. A target cannot be, ‘Get that thing complete in 2 weeks’. A smart target is one that adds real value to the business. Is timebound. Is specific. For example, ‘Decrease the cost of our computer expense by 5% within 3 months’.

Action: Start small. Explain SMART targets to your staff. Ask them to volunteer one SMART targets for themselves. Measure the success with them and reward that success.


#7 – We don’t assess performance because they know what they are doing

If you do some sort of performance review, great. If you don’t, start. Assuming you do something in this arena, don’t do this…

I was 21. I went in for my first performance review. My manager gave me 42 additional actions/projects to do. Crazy, crazy, crazy. What did it teach me about appraisals? That they are a place to be given more work.

Action: Performance Reviews should be a summary discussion of all the feedback you have had. Not new things. Feedback on performance, e.g. How you did vs your targets.


#8 – We all know the key products

Hyper specialisation is the key to small business success. You cannot be the ‘Jack of all trades’. And you’ll struggle to compete with the big boys being the cheapest. And if you haven’t defined a niche market, at least have a niche product that you can be known for.

For my business it is Category Management training. It’s a product that is specific to the supermarkets and their suppliers. Very few companies offer it, and even less do it well. We are known for it and do it very well. Many clients know us for this product. They see how good we are and then they ask – What else do you do? Perfect!

Action: Identify your ‘tip of the sword’ product and talk about this more than any other product. Then your staff will start to do the same.

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