A member of our CEO Affinity Group noted that one of her “growing pains” was employee ownership of problems. “Instead of figuring out how to solve issues, or working together to answer questions, my employees invariably turn to me,” she says. Dealing with constant questions from employees when you’re a small company is much easier than when you start to grow. When you’re in growth mode everyone is stretched and adaptation is essential. Here are some of the suggestions that were offered during the meeting:
* Letting go – make sure you’re really ready to let go of the responsibility and power of decision making. Yes, you made all of the decisions when the company was small. But you can’t continue to grow if you’re still making employees come to you for all the answers. If you hire the right people, trust them to make the right decisions. READ MORE.
* Employee empowerment – make sure that employees feel empowered to make decisions. Are they authorized to take returns, offer discounts, or refunds? Does your company culture reward those who go above and beyond to make a customer happy? (Do your back room staff understand their roles in customer satisfaction?) Build a culture of empowerment by recognizing those who make the effort to solve problems. READ MORE.
* Lessons learned – make sure that once your employees are comfortable with making decisions that you don’t question, punish, or in any way undermine the decision. People make mistakes, so instead, have a regular “lessons learned” session where employees can share what they’ve learned from a wrong decision. READ MORE.
* Mentoring – when integrating a new employee into a position where decisions are regularly made, assign a seasoned staffer as the newbie’s “go –to” person. Sometimes this is the department manager, but in a small shop it’s usually the person sitting nearby. READ MORE
* Process-mapping – once a department starts to grow to more than two or three people, you’ll want to have a department operations manual. This is easily done by putting the people in the room for a couple of hours and have them write down every step in their job. They should anticipate what might go wrong, and include possible answers – one of the answers should be “only ask the owner when…” That way only the most unusual or most expensive questions will be brought to you. Have the group walk you through the process once they’ve completed the manual so that you can add any other contingencies. READ MORE.
* Communicate – make sure the lines of communication remain open between you and the employees. Regular meetings with open dialogue can help keep small problems from becoming big ones. READ MORE.