How to Improve the Biggest Variable in Your Company: People

Your company’s biggest variable for success is your people.  Everything your company is known for is a direct result of their motivation, engagement, training, effort, and skill.  Chances are you have a good group that already works for you, but there are probably occasions, or maybe even some people in general, that simply don’t measure up.  This article focuses on increasing the performance of your staff:

  1. Lead from the Bottom Up.  Employees are motivated when they feel needed, included, and part of the team.  Communicate your expectations consistently, and define what your company success should look like.  The old adage, “Man supports what he helps create” works here.  Get your staff involved in the decisions, and delegate responsibilities.  People want to contribute!
  2. Make it Easy to Succeed and Difficult to Fail.  Even with complicated or complex tasks, try to make it easy for your staff to do it correctly by giving them the tools for success.  This includes training, support, and leadership.  If they work on equipment, make sure it’s properly maintained and not outdated.  Constantly look for opportunities to change something to eliminate ways someone could fail at their task.  Ask your staff, “What do you need to do this better?”  They will always tell you!
  3. Cross Train.  Want a more motivated and professional staff?  Keep them sharp by constantly training them in other areas of your business.  People naturally want to contribute and learn, and by giving them more opportunities to succeed than just the one role they play your staff becomes more engaged.
  4. Be Proactive.  Building a “Do It Today” company culture is a constant effort.  Your leaders must always encourage your staff to try to think a few steps ahead in everything they do.  Whether it is answering a question for a client, or working on a project; everyone needs to look forward and address any needs that might be just over the horizon.
  5. Set a Good Example.  Company management should walk the walk.  Just like children take their cues from their parents, employees take their cues from their management leaders.  If you have a supervisory role in your company, you should set the bar for your staff.  Think about how you focus on detail; how you execute your job; how you talk, act and perform.  Your staff is looking to see what you do, and a good many of them will emulate your actions.  If you operate with high standards of performance, so will they.
  6. Paint the Picture.  This phrase is something I use constantly.  “Paint the Picture” means that you have to illustrate to everyone how success will look like in the future.  This is especially true if you are trying to define a company culture change.  This leads to some great discussions and if you have a highly engaged staff they will think of things that you never considered.
  7. Be Fair and Equal.  If you are a leader and outwardly play favorites, you are adding to the difficulty in getting your job accomplished.  Whether if it’s how you speak to people or actions you take, you need to be consistently level with everyone.  Whether you like it or not, your staff talks about you and a lot of it is in a gossip type format.  If you give them ammunition by not treating everyone equally, this can lead to employee dissatisfaction, apathy and low morale.
  8. Celebrate Success.  Want more success?  Celebrate when something great happens and include everyone.  Thank everyone for their contributions, and publically acknowledge key performers.  A public thank you goes a long way, and helps reinforce how you define success in your company culture.
  9. “Catch People Doing It Right”.  You’ve heard this one before, I’m sure.  It works.  Don’t always focus on what your staff is doing wrong (of course that’s important too…), instead focus on encouraging your staff when they are improving on something.  Positive reinforcement.
  10. Get rid of the deadwood.  Eventually you’ll discover that you have some staff that regardless of what you do, will never improve or measure up.  These people bring your company down, and like a dead branch on a tree, need to be pruned.  Your performance review program and managers should be working with this type of person all along, but eventually the writing may be on the wall.

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