Managing people is one of the biggest challenges of any business. Your employees can make or break you. The people problem is even more important for early stage businesses. You can’t make a hiring mistake when you are just getting started – period. However, as you grow, you must add people. You will greatly limit your ability to scale if you don’t know how to manage people properly. Managing people is a complex problem that’s hard to replicate successfully. Here’s a few tips to help you manage people more effectively:
- Manage processes, not people. You should never manage people. Never! If you have to manage someone, you have one of two problems. Either you don’t have good processes in place which means the employee can’t work without your help or the employee needs to be micro-managed which means you need to fire them. You’re not a baby-sitter, you’re a mentor. You work for your employees. They don’t work for you. Your job is to setup good processes with good expectations then get out of their way. Your job is to empower, remove roadblocks, and mentor.
- Mentor the individual. People are people – not robots or machines. You can’t treat everyone the same so don’t try. Each person is wired differently with different strengths and weaknesses. For some people you need to be blunt; for others, you need to constantly encourage. It’s your job to understand what makes each one of your employees tick so you can relate to them in a way they understand and respect. Always be consistent – just vary the way you interact with each of your employees based on what is most effective for the individual.
- Lead by example. Servant leadership is the only real form of leadership. You must walk the walk and talk the talk. Don’t let your employees out work you. You should always be available and willing to help. You want your employees to be brutally honest with you and know that it’s okay to vent. Shut up and listen. Be there for them. Their job is tough. Help them by mentoring them through the situation. Have their backs at all costs. If they fail, it’s your fault. If they succeed, it’s because of them. Be a real leader. Never ask your employee to do a task you wouldn’t do yourself. The best leaders actually invest time doing the work their employees do, so they can relate to their employees better. If you’ve done the work, you will be a better mentor and help improve the processes. It’s always nice to start a conversation with “I used to hate when that happened. Here’s how I used to handle it…” Respect and trust are earned!
- Delegate. Yes, you can do the job better than most, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. You’re not scaling your business if you can’t delegate the core business tasks to your employees. Nobody wants to buy (or inherit) a business that’s all about you. Coach, mentor, and train your employees. It’s a process to get them where they need to be. Don’t be short-sighted. Build a system of processes that your employees can follow and improve upon. Otherwise, you’re not building a real business.
- Employees should help improve the processes. You’re not better – you’re just responsible. Make sure your employees help you and the company get better. Make it part of their job to improve processes and make suggestions. If everyone participates in creating great processes, everyone will buy-in and it will be ingrained into your culture. When issues arise, people won’t point fingers at other people, they will focus on fixing the process that allowed the issue to occur.
- Protect your employees. Your job is to remove any roadblocks and hindrances for your employees. Set them up for success. This often means fighting battles for them and having the foresight to prevent issues from occurring.
- Really care. You have to care about your employees and you must be genuine. Your job is to help them grow and succeed. You must always have their best interest in mind. Sometimes this means helping them find another job. You can’t be protective and short-sighted. If you help them succeed, you and the business will succeed. Caring means you have to make hard decisions. You don’t have to be liked, but you better be respected. If they know you care, they will trust your decisions even if they disagree with you. Also, don’t be greedy! Share the wealth with your employees. Pay them more than they are worth.
- Critique and praise in real-time. If there’s an issue, deal with it immediately (always in private). If they did something well, praise them immediately (praise is often better done in public, but it depends on the individual). Don’t wait to provide feedback in employee reviews. There should never be surprises, especially in employee reviews.
- Fit is everything. If the employee isn’t the right fit, deal will it immediately. Help them find another role or job. The more you put it off, the worse it will get. If you’ve taken the advice in this post, you’ll find solace in the fact that you did the right thing for the employee in the long-term. Even if they don’t like your decision now, they will thank you later. Great leaders focus their time and energy on their best employees. The squeaky wheel shouldn’t get the grease. Weed out the poor performers quickly so you can invest your time with the future leaders.