Harness the Power of 'Uncommon' Sense
Today one of my clients asked me about a dilemma that frustrates and confuses many entrepreneurs: How can I teach my employees the skills and qualities that are innate in me but not in them?
In other words, the client meant: Why don't they seem to have common sense?
I've coined the term, "uncommon sense," because I don't think there's anything common about it. What many people don't realize is that high emotional intelligence, forward thinking, and the ability to do it all are natural qualities in the entrepreneur.
News flash: Not everyone possesses these qualities. But that does not diminish their ability to be a good employee who can make intelligent decisions within their area of expertise.
Let's take a look at an example of this widespread dilemma:
Jane has a strong technical aptitude and does her work flawlessly. She is able to problem-solve as a programmer, but when a client voices a concern or asks a question that is outside of Jane's comfort zone, she fumbles every time. In fact, you have lost a few clients because Jane hasn't returned calls or answered their questions satisfactorily. Jane is disgruntled that she has to field these calls and diligently avoids them.
For you, soothing a client's ruffled feathers and staying on top of customer care is easy. You have the answer to most any question and know how to quickly put others at ease. But you have hired Jane for her technical skills, and guess what? A strong technical aptitude and an outgoing disposition are not always found in the same person. I am not saying that "techies" can't be sociable, but in a work setting they typically prefer to be left alone to do their work. They simply are not always comfortable, or able, to "chitchat" with a client and address issues that don't feel significant to them.
It's important to hire the right personality-type for the right job. Hire a more social personality-type for a sales job; an analytical personality for technical and finance-related jobs, and so on.
So what's the answer to my client's question? The solutions will vary depending on the scenario, but try the following suggestions to bring consistency and efficiency to your operation--not to mention happier employees.
1. Hire Right
Consider not only the skill set and experience needed to perform the job but also the qualities and personality type. There are many assessment tools available for use in the hiring process. I particularly like StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, not only for prospective employees but for current employees as well. Always make sure you are playing to your employee's strengths.
2. Create Documentation
Define and document every job. Have your employees create the initial documentation, and review and revise it yourself. This keeps things consistent, creates expectations for performance, and reduces errors. It's also makes your company a more turnkey operation, thus more valuable to a prospective buyer.
3. Communicate and Demonstrate Your Corporate Culture
You have high standards and a certain style for customer care, quality product, and internal communication. Demonstrate these standards in the way you treat your employees, and they, in turn, will learn to handle customers in the same fashion. Create a statement that describes your corporate culture, and make sure your employees are well aware of your mission. Make it fun; no one wants to work for a company that practices martial law!
4. Divide and Conquer
If you have a "Jane" on your team (someone who performs well in one area and poorly in another), consider dividing job responsibilities. In the above scenario, I would suggest this entrepreneur take away the customer service piece of Jane's job and give it to someone who enjoys interacting with clients. This person doesn't have to be an expert at the technical part; he or she will interact with Jane to get the answers. Customers want to know that they are important to you, so give them someone who can make them feel important--because they are!
Remember, what may be innate in you is not simply common sense for others; these are qualities that not everyone possesses. And, my friend, that is why you are the entrepreneur and they are the employees. Both are critical to your company's future.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.