Managing Talent Around The Goal

Businessmen ScreamingOne of the biggest headaches I hear from the business owners I work with is around managing talent.  Building effective systems can do wonders for a business.  For one, it creates predictability.  For another, it can keep headcount low, a major cost factor.

However, we need people to get things done.  They help create leverage if they are good.  They can also create heartache and pain for others (Check out The No Asshole Rule.  Fun read.) if they are bad.  People are fickle.  They largely act in self-interest.  Thus, most of their behaviors when it comes to work can be frustrating if your systems for management have gaps.

I have found that a lot of the gap comes from unclear expectations.  Start with this one premise: Owners and employees think about completely different things.  The owner mindset is about delivering to the customer and maximizing revenue.  The employee mindset wants to get paid and leave at 5 (try asking a cashier how their day is going and you will see).  Those are two different goals if left unchecked.

I use a few recurring questions to help lead people and get them on the same page.  Here are a few that can be helpful as you seek to manage talent:

  • “What is the goal?”  When you don’t sense the right commitment or effort, ask this simple question of your team members.  Ensure they tell you with conviction and it is the same as your goal.  If not, make sure they are clear.
  • “Tell me what you heard.”  Communication is often taken for granted.  People’s listening skills tend to be poor.  Test their understanding and ask them to articulate what they heard to ensure there is a good handoff.
  • “When?”  There may be ideas tossed around and big hopes and wishes proclaimed.  Use this one question to pinpoint a date.  Assign the date.  Make it an accountability point.  Remind.  People will get real fast or you will get results.  Attach concrete dates to ensure things get done with accountability.  Ensure your systems support your follow-up.
  • “If  you were me…?”  … what would you do?  … what would you be thinking? … how would you move forward?  Help your employees think like an owner.  Make your cares their cares.  Conversations can be highly circular if you don’t drive empathy.
  • “What are you going to tell the customer?”  Watch for how the responsibility “hot potato” is passed.  Leaders naturally take on responsibility.  For those that are about self preservation, give them responsibility, even if it is temporary.  You will see a difference quickly.

It is important that your sales, marketing and operations systems provide real-time accountability with clear metrics and goals. This is a cornerstone for effective management.  These questions can be transposed with metrics, documentation and follow-up.

Take yourself out of the equation and make the goal the main thing.  It is effective management and aligns talent with the goal.

What are some of the frustrations you have experienced in management?  How have you aligned your talent with the real goals?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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