27 Feb

Who’s in charge, who’s responsible? Anybody?

A great little story I would like to share with you.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

This may be confusing, but the point of this story is that if we don’t have a clear understanding of what we, our business partners and team members are responsible and accountable for in the business, we land up looking like everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody. We look incompetent not only with each other, but also with our customers and potential customers. Not a good look for business.

I have come across this situation in a number of small businesses. The business starts off as a one man or woman band and a job description doesn’t seem to be too important at the time, as they are doing everything themselves. Gradually over time the business starts to grow and employees or a business partner are brought in to work in the business. “Everyone” assumes that “everyone” knows their job and what they are responsible and accountable for. Well, not actually.

To prevent confusion, frustration and conflict, follow these guidelines:

  1. Ensure that everyone in the business has a job description. Even the boss.
  2. Ensure that each job description is a clear breakdown of main areas of responsibilities, reporting lines and expected behaviour. To ensure buy-in from the beginning ensure that you involve each person in the design of their own job description.
  3. When on-boarding a new employee or contractor, take them through their job description, don’t assume that they have read it. Explain each area of responsibility, so there is no confusion.
  4. Ensure you have an accountability system built into your job descriptions. Every person working in the business, should be held accountable for their tasks, even the boss. Some may even link performance bonuses and rewards to task completion.
  5. The job description is a working document. It should be regularly updated as the job grows and changes.
  6. Accountability check-ins should be consistent. This can be achieved through regular meetings, one-to-one sessions or reporting.

Don’t let something as simple as not knowing who’s doing what to cause you to look incompetent in front of your customers. Provide your team and yourself with peace of mind, get your job descriptions sorted.

16 Feb

Preparing your business for new hires

Recruiting new people into your business can be one of the best decisions you make, especially if you are a small business and need additional help or missing specialist skills. Extra hands can take on additional load, alleviate time pressures, help to grow your business and allow you to start working on, instead of in, your business.

If done correctly, it can be the answer to you being able to work a -smarter-not-harder-forty-hour-work-week. But get it wrong and it can be a costly mistake.

Turning your business from a one-man-band into employing staff or contractors  will change your business forever. You are not just looking after and directing yourself, you are also directing other people’s actions. You are not just managing a business, but you are managing other people who are managing your business. This changes the dynamics completely, so if you’re not prepared for what comes with a new hire, then think twice about how you will alleviate the pressure or delegate the workload, before you start signing off contracts. Perhaps there is an alternative to hiring?

If you make the decision to hire think about the following:

Reality check # 1 – Direction from day one

New employees or team members want to be told what their areas of responsibility are. This would come in the form of a job description. Yes, you have hired them for the specific skill set, but they still want to be given direction from the beginning. Before hiring a new person, think about what this new role will be doing in the business. Think about the working conditions, roles and responsibilities, how the role’s performance will be measured and what type of contract is needed. Think about how you will manage this role. Then very importantly, hire the person to fit the job requirements and business culture. Don’t randomly hire someone and try and fit the job around the person. You may need to bring in a recruitment expert.

Reality check # 2 – Delegation

Even if you delegate work to your new hire or contractor, you will still need to follow up on their work. You are still responsible for the outcome. Read more about delegation.

Reality check # 3 – Set them up for success

In your head you have a very clear understanding of your business. Its vision, mission and values. You know how you want the world to see you and you know how to communicate to your existing clients and potential clients. If you do not pass this vital information on to your new hire and just assume that they know what to do or “they’ll just pick it up as they go along”, then you are doing your business and your new hire a huge injustice.

Before you bring anyone into your fold, make sure there is a meeting of two minds. Make sure that there is no chance for “assumption” to come into the conversation. Set them up for success, not failure.

This set up would be tackled by developing your own business bible or operations manual. Once this has been compiled, make sure the new hire is actually trained on the information. Test their knowledge. Would you let someone who doesn’t have their driver’s license drive your new car? Probably not, so don’t allow someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of your business, engage with your clients.

Reality check # 4 – Constant communication

No-one wants to be an annoying micro-manager, but you do need to communicate frequently with your new hire. Assuming that no news from them is good news is a dangerous assumption. Make sure that you have regular check-ins with your new staff members to make sure that you are both reading off the same page. This check-in isn’t just for you to ensure they are in the right direction, but team members want to feel supported and heard. They want to know that they are doing a good job and if required they can seek help with any challenges they may face. They should feel that they can also share new ideas and solutions in the safe space that you have created.

Take the time to set yourself, your business and new recruits up for success. Put in the right systems and process to successfully support the on-boarding of new team members. Do it right the first time, you will not be sorry.