Lightning In A Bottle
When our company decided to add plumbing and air conditioning to our heating business, we found an owner we liked so much we bought his company! He was personally great at sales, operations and technical standards. But he was not great at getting his techs (now our techs) to follow his lead.
When I asked him to do more ride-alongs, he would say, “I'm too busy.”
I'd reply, “But you have all the time in the world to fix techs' mistakes? Here's what I know: Every time you climb in their trucks and ride along, they sell more and they do better work.”
However, the logic of my argument never increased his willingness to do the weekly ride-alongs. Why was he so resistant? He just hoped the techs would figure it out on their own without his having to spend time training.
Unfortunately, he is not alone. Since becoming a full-time business coach, I still encounter the same resistance among the contractors I work with and those who contact me. They're commonly frustrated with their employees.
The source of that frustration? They just wish the staff would know what to do without needing any input. Those contractors are always looking for the pre-made perfect employee who needs no additional training and will know exactly what the boss is thinking and how he wants things done without having to be told. It's called telepathy. It's also like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. It doesn't happen.
Hey, it's only natural to want an instant employee, no assembly required. You want the already-fully functional employee. But, is it really possible? Face it, you don't really want an employee, you really want a clone - don't you?
This person would have your drive, ambition, work ethic, be willing to work long hours, need little guidance and would be able to do the work flawlessly (the way you'd do it yourself). You wouldn't have to say anything and customers would love him (or her).
Let me ask you something. If this magical person really existed and could do all this, why would he be working for you? Wouldn't he just head down the road and be in business for himself?
Yes, some of you are lucky and may have one employee who kind of meets this description. And to that I say, “Congratulations!” But, how many more of them do you think are out there? And can you grow your company by hoping to catch more lightning in a bottle?
When you hire people, have you noticed that you get the whole employee? You don't get to pick the parts you like. That's why we need to commit to be in the employee business, which means we're in the training and communicating business.
Working with contractors, I think too many are weak at training and communicating, so they try to avoid it. After all, they didn't start their own businesses to become trainers and communicators. They typically started out learning how to fix stuff and how to talk to customers. And they got good enough to buy a white truck and hang up a shingle and they were in business.
But, the fact is they didn't know that having their own businesses meant having to deal with employees. They need to use the same amount of effort to become really good trainers and communicators that they used to become proficient technicians.
So, until science does a better job at cloning more than sheep, here's what I suggest you get really good at:
- Create written systems in which you can train people so they don't have to use telepathy to read your mind.
- Get in the habit of holding meetings at least once a week to communicate.
- Create a time and a place to train employees on the actual work they'll be doing.
- Learn how to delegate tasks in a way that will give employees the greatest chance to succeed.
- Hold people accountable to the written standards.
- Reward people if they meet or exceed the written goals.
- Actively seek out employees' ideas on how to do things better, faster and cheaper at your company. You might just learn something. I know I did.
- And when your employees are doing something right, never miss the opportunity to say “Thanks,” especially if you want them to repeat it.