Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Set clear expectations BEFORE the work begins!

  The idea of setting clear work expectations before a new employee begins work is paramount to success in any business, especially in today's work environment.  My neighbor is a business owner in a health related industry.  His daughter is home from college for the summer.  Along with the daughter, her boyfriend came along to work with my neighbor in his business because jobs for college students are tough, he did not want to be away from his girlfriend all summer and most importantly, he had the requisite skills needed by my neighbor's business.
   As my neighbor was telling me about this project, I asked him if he had identified clear goals and expectations for his new "professional" employee.  My neighbor has several employees who work for him, however, this is the first time that he has had a "professional" employee who helps him in the office doing a wide variety of administrative and managerial tasks.  Interestingly, my neighbor said NO, he had not yet established clear goals and expectations for his new "professional" employee, however, that was a task that needed to be done.  I shared with my neighbor that identifying clear goals and expectations was the first step with today's millennial generation employees.  Millennial generation employees want to have a clear definition of the task, the goal and most importantly, how they are performing with the various tasks.
   It is important for any employee to know what the goals and expectations are before they begin to work.  However, what is more significant and important in this scenario is the fact that the "professional" employee is the owner's daughter's boyfriend----- and perhaps, may become the owner's future son-in-law at some future date.  Experiencing hard feelings, misunderstandings, and frustration at this point does no one any service.
   There is some difference with hiring a close family friend (boyfriend) and just another employee.  However, what is not different is the fact that clear goals and expectations need to be established, understood and agreed to BEFORE any significant work commences.  The reason here is multi-purpose.  When everyone on the team knows what the goals are, then there is little room for misunderstanding and "not knowing".  However, if you have not clearly defined the goals, expectations and work product results, then there is only one individual who is to blame-- that is the individual that you see when looking in the mirror!
   It makes no difference if you have a summer employee or a permanent employee, clearly identify the goals, expectations and final work products BEFORE you turn the new employee loose on the company!  You will do yourself, the employee as well as the firm a great service.  Everyone will know what is to be done, how the task is to be done and what the final product(s) are to look like.  That way, no one will be surprised!!
   An added ancillary benefit, especially if the employee is a close family friend or family member is the lack of hard feelings and frustration when something inevitably goes wrong.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Decision making stability!

  I was on the airplane the other day and visited with a lady that I had not seen in several months.  She had told me that she had left the firm where she previously worked.  When I asked her why, she said, "Because the owner could never make up her mind."  WOW, I found that interesting, because, as I knew the owner, she was a lady who could make a decision and stick with it--or so I thought.  Of course, I was always a customer, never an employee.

    As we visited more, my friend said that she really enjoyed working at the business, the owner knew a great deal about the industry in which the business practiced, however, she was a horrible boss and manager.  In fact, my friend said that the manager had also left the firm because of differences with the owner on decisions.
   As I began to think about what my friend told me, I became interested in why the employees were so frustrated, after all, the owner was the one who paid the checks.  My friend said that was never an issue, the boss is the boss, however, the staff became increasingly frustrated when they were given instructions to do one task, completed the task as they were directed, then were told to basically re-accomplish the task again in another fashion or form.  My friend said that after many times of that type of behavior by the owner, any fun or workplace enjoyment associated with being at the business had evaporated.
   When you give your employees direction, is the direction clear, concise and understandable?  Do you listen, really LISTEN to what the employees ask, understanding that perhaps the employees have some ideas that may improve the task and be more efficient?  Do you compliment your employees when the task is done?  If the task turned out different than what you had originally envisioned, do you blame the employees  OR do you reflect upon the direction you provided?
   My experience is that if you carefully reflect upon the direction that you initially provided, you may find that the task was completed in the way you explained, however, not what your original intention may have been!
   I have found that the best way to insure that all folks involved in any task are equally excited about how the task is to be completed is to insure that you have each employee "feedback" to you what your final expectation is.   If you give direction to the employees to paint the supply room red, and say no more, you may be surprised with what becomes the final product.  However, if you ask the employees if they clearly understand the task, I have found it better to have them repeat back what your expectations are, clarifying any misunderstandings before the actual task accomplishment is begun.
   In the case of my friend, she missed being at the store where she worked, however, she did not miss the constant changing of the owner's mind and having to re-accomplish a task many times.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, carefully look in the mirror before complaining to your staff.