4 Ways to Help Your Employees Make Your Company Great
Who does your business depend on? You, of course. Entrepreneurs will always have the greatest interest in their success and, ultimately, they are the ones who have to make smart decisions. But although you have to be there for the business, it's a great mistake to assume that you're the only one who will be.
Think about every company you've owned, worked for, or patronized. It could have been at a bookstore or restaurant or maybe it was a professional's office where some employee, definitely not the owner, was so helpful, pleasant, and hardworking that it made you want to do business again.
Employees are multipliers. They become de facto extensions of the entrepreneur because they do the many tasks the person running the business cannot. Great employees can make a business. Bad ones can break it. But what many business owners forget is that they can help employees be their best…or worst.
Here are four ways to help your employees become their best and turn into true heroes to your customers.
Listen to them
Remember your own experience in your earliest jobs. I'd bet that one of your biggest complaints was that you were treated as a dope who had nothing to offer. Sure, when you're young, you're short on experience and often common sense. But being completely shut down is demoralizing and insulting.
Not just that, but it's a foolish move for the employer to tune out what workers say. These are the people who are the face of the company to most employees. They are also the people who have the most experience in the strengths and weaknesses of the company in an ordinary way. If you don't enter the world of the employees by listening, you can't learn what you'll need to do to take your company to its next level.
Let them make decisions
Understandably, many company owners and managers have such a drive for success that they feel an urge to control as much of the operations as possible. Taken to an extreme, that turns into the irritation of micromanaging. The attitude is not only off-putting but also ultimately self-defeating. No one can be everyplace at all times, and a company loses sales and customers in an instant.
Don't ask people to wait to get problems solved. Let your employees do what is necessary. That doesn't mean let them all do whatever they want all the time. By all means, set principles and guidelines, but after you do, get out of the way and let them make things better. Sometimes an employee will go too far. In that case, treat it as a learning moment and help the individual understand better what to do next time. There might be some undesirable consequences, but probably far fewer than you get today.
Give them a budget
As Seth Godin recently mentioned, at the Ritz-Carlton hotels, employees get a budget to make things right. From an experience I had last year at a Ritz-Carlton on business, I'll go a step further. I was in Phoenix and chatting with someone from the hotel. At the time I did a lot of traveling and in passing I mentioned that it was next to impossible to bring my classical guitar along to practice. The person offered to have someone go to a mall and pick up a cheap one so I'd have something to use, even after I pointed out that I was going to be there only one night.
I passed on the kind offer, but it impressed me. Certainly most companies might not have the $2,000 budget per guest that Godin mentioned to fulfill whimsy in that way but, for heaven's sake, you can afford something. Trust the employees to use the budget wisely. Maybe they spend a few extra bucks for parking close to a terminal to avoid missing a flight because they were delayed by a traffic accident, as he mentioned, or subscribe to a cheap Web service that speeds customer service. Perhaps they'll send flowers to a customer to say congratulations on the birth of a grandchild. But the good they can do far outweighs the potential ill, which you can detect through regular accounting disciplines before it gets out of hand.
The short form of all this is to trust your employees. Give them an opportunity to do well by customers, the organization, and you. Understand that they may want to see things do better. Most people really do want to spend their working hours in an extraordinary environment. So let them help create it.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.