Many of us started 2020 with resolutions/goals both for ourselves and our businesses, but then our year was turned upside down with the Covid worldwide pandemic and other issues such as lumber prices topping highs we thought we would never see. While many LBM/component businesses are working at some semblance of 100%, what I hear often from owners and managers is their concern about lost direction.
At the same time, we find many of our employees and managers have been at times “shell shocked” by this year’s events and not able to function or carry out the goals we have set. Lean objectives, growth, profitability, etc. have all seemed to drift out of the lane we expected.
For the past several weeks, the pastor at our church has been speaking on “Fighting the Drift.” Though Pastor Morgan’s messages have been about fighting the temptation of allowing our faith to drift, I have found several similarities to what I see happening in many companies. Because of the pandemic, economic hiccups, political theater, etc., our attention to our resolutions and goals drifts because we lose focus. And when managers lose focus, our employees do the same.
With the end of 2020 rapidly approaching and many of you either completing or starting budgeting and goals for 2021, now is the time to refocus and fight the drift we may have allowed in our companies. Excellent managers encourage the best possible performance and, therefore, achieve the best results by setting goals and leading their teams to success. As you set these goals, here are seven management tips to achieve a higher level of performance and focus.
Provide better feedback. If employees don’t know they aren’t meeting your expectations, they can’t improve. You need to provide constructive feedback, which involves more than simply pointing out a mistake or commenting on a strength. Tell employees exactly how they fell short or went above and beyond. For example, instead of “You handled that customer complaint well,” say “You stayed calm, listened without interrupting, and asked the right questions to get to the root of the customer’s problem.” Even if you found that your teams drifted this past year, confront the opportunity and clearly communicate expectations.
Set clearer objectives. You can purchase all sorts of software apps and do tons of work to streamline procedures, but if you don’t establish clearly defined goals for every employee, and yourself, productivity will suffer. Meet with each employee to set three or four long-term goals for the coming year. Then, break those goals down into shorter-term (monthly or quarterly) targets that employees can realistically hit. Monitor their progress and make adjustments if needed.
Delegate meaningful work. You need to make time in your schedule to focus on business strategy and growth. However, if you only assign your grunt work to employees, they won’t find it meaningful or engaging. Instead, delegate responsibilities to people based on their strengths. We also need to delegate so we can mentor/train our employees, cross train, and grow new leaders in our teams.
Give employees autonomy. Stop micromanaging! I find in many companies in the LBM/Component industry that we have too many managers who attempt to micromanage their way to success. It is understandable that you want to protect your business. However, if you’ve hired competent employees, provided adequate training, and established clear expectations, you don’t need to supervise every aspect of their work.
Set employees’ goals and then let them choose how to meet them. They’ll feel trusted and respected and, more often than not, they won’t let you down. In fact, they may surprise you with how well they perform.
Ask your staff for input. Employees can offer invaluable insights into how to improve your day-to-day operations and customer experience. However, don’t ask for feedback and then ignore it. Really listen and, when you hear good ideas, put them into action. If you can’t use an idea, explain why. For example, “I love that advanced machinery productivity idea. Unfortunately, we didn’t include the cost in the budget, so we just don’t have the extra cash flow this month/year to cover the expense. I will revisit it when we have the money.”
Recognize hard work. Find time to acknowledge your employees. There’s no way around it if you want to keep your staff motivated. Although most people want credit for their achievements, not everyone wants to be recognized in the same way. For example, if you put a quiet associate in front of the group to praise him/her and offer a round of applause, they may be embarrassed and upset. Conversely, if you privately commend a limelight-lover’s efforts, they may feel slighted. Your best bet for getting it right is to ask people how they’d like to be recognized (within reason) and then do your best to honor their requests.
Carve out one-on-one time. We all know that business owners are always very busy. However, setting aside just 10 to 15 minutes per week to meet with each of your employees will help you praise strengths, address weaknesses, monitor progress on goals, and gauge their moods and attitudes. Your talks will likely build rapport and trust, which in turn will allow you to troubleshoot problems and work together to overcome any challenges.
Although I think all of us wish we had a crystal ball or a DeLorean time machine to find out what 2021 is going to hold for our businesses and ourselves, by better preparing, planning, and communicating our goals, we can prevent the management drift that plagues those who do not plan.