Is your business not growing as expected or not able to deliver as well as before?
Outside of what is going on around us and the hard constraints we face – labor shortages, planning around the pandemic, increased costs, lower demand etc., every small business has unwritten rules that dictate how people behave. Often things (norms, time constraints, stress, personal wellness or mindfulness) are so ingrained that, you, as a leader, don’t even think about them. Unless you take time to do this occasionally (15-20 minutes every 3-4 months), you risk creating a disconnect between how people think they should act and how you want them to act.
Your business is not going where you’d like to go…
The beauty of being your own boss running your business is that everything you see happen is probably because of something you did. It gives us pride, makes us feel fulfilled and even stands as proof for how we’ve meaningfully impacted the lives of our customers and of the staff/ team members who work with us. On the other hand, if your business seems to be changing for the worse (you feel that things just feel different), or work is getting done in a way that made you uncomfortable, or that people aren’t doing what you thought they would, that also means that it is something you yourself have missed.
Start by asking yourself what norms your employees might hold in their heads.
For example, what do people think the best way to succeed is? Are they allowed to disagree with the boss in meetings? Are they delivering work in the way they thought they would? Do things look the same as before or have they changed really?
Once you’ve got these responses, test your assumptions by asking employees what they think. (This may be easier if you aren’t the one asking.) Ask your business partner or a key customer for their opinion. Why not? If you are noticing something that others aren’t, then you’d feel better that it was just something that you can get over. However, if others whose opinions you trust also start feeling the same, then you’d know right away that you were absolutely right, and something needs to get fixed!
Write down what you hear and reflect on which norms help the company achieve its goals. If some norms don’t align with what you expect of people, figure out where the false perceptions come from, and then implement an internal communications plan to change them. Use management meetings, all-hands memos, and companywide addresses to get everyone on the same page.
You are doing everything, but your team is falling behind…
Between work, family, and our personal lives, it’s no surprise that many of us feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. If you see that your business is constantly falling behind of you find that your team’s to-do list never seems to get shorter, you’d start feeling overwhelmed very quickly – especially if it is your own small business.
It is time to step back and try a new approach.
For example, consider whether certain tasks are stressing people (or even specific individuals) out more than others. Maybe you have a stellar salesperson who does not do well with certain tasks asked of them. If so, turn this situation around by increasing focus on those (stressful tasks) first: Finish a big project as soon as possible, or break down a complicated goal into more manageable steps. Why? Getting such tasks done right away and not letting them linger in your mind (or your team member’s mind) will avoid them becoming bigger problems in the future. It will also help you (and your team) feel positive and liberated after getting the stress task over with.
It is easy to miss this – when people are avoiding things, or are stressed with something and don’t speak out, they tend to carry that in their minds and let that affect their other tasks that are not typically stressful. Soon, you have a situation where you are constantly trying to catch your team up, or as a business owner, you end up stepping into things that they aren’t getting done. A few days of this will surely end up becoming a big problem!
You should also consider whether perfectionist tendencies are getting in the way, either for you or for your people in the team.
For each task, think about what “good enough” looks like, and be honest about whether spending more time on something will meaningfully improve it.
Share this openly with your team and show them that you are taking time for them, and that you are helping them with this. If spending less time will not make things better, just take a breath and tell your team to accept it and move on.
Finally, ask yourself which to-dos are truly a good use of your time — and then delegate those that aren’t.
Could you send an employee to a meeting you don’t need to be at, or outsource meal preparation at home if you don’t like cooking? Thinking about how you’re using your time can help you use it more wisely.
25, 2021 Blog