How to be a Better: Boss – Part 2

[This is the 2nd of a 3 part series on How to be a Better: Recruiter (Pt. 1); Boss (Pt. 2); Investor (Pt. 3).]

In the previous article in this series: How to be a Better: Recruiter (Pt. 1); I stated the following (paraphrased):

  1. All jobs should be important hires;
  2. Redefine the role to make the above true, if it isn’t already so;
  3. Allow staff to allocate whatever reasonable time is required;
  4. Emergencies & core business aside – prioritise recruitment;
  5. Aim for divergence of perspective over intellectual homogeneity;
  6. Ensure the most knowledgeable, smartest, & wisest people make your short list, so so there’s no bad choices, and so there’s no missed opportunities;

  • I then demonstrated how typically unforeseen consequences may be foreseen – and indeed reduced in probability / risk – if you treat everything as serious, using the hypothetical example of the janitor;
  • I next asked you to care for and nurture all members of staff, as if they were yourself or your own children or friends – to create an environment & conditions in which they can achieve their own goals;

… and now I want to add to this list by telling you to turn people into partners & to flatten your company hierarchy.

Bad Policy & Politics:

Most companies take the attitude that when they hire you, they’ve fully bought and paid for everything that you are, especially during work hours … when you meet companies like this, or see jobs where you’re treated like this, run a mile – seriously, just don’t go there.

If for whatever reason you can’t avoid the above, keep your head down, close your mouth, listen, pay attention, and give them nothing outside the immediate & strictly defined scope of your job.

Why? Because anyone who runs their company or treats staff this way, deserves nothing more … and you certainly shouldn’t empower & reward them for being such dicks.

In such cases, look only for opportunities to reform their fucked up politics, or gain personal advantage before you get the hell out of there; if they cannot be reformed, most definitely get out at the earliest time which suits your own agenda.

If companies don’t like hearing that, that’s their own damn fault for being the kind of dicks who exploit people and don’t care enough to warrant your respect … no one asked them to be such losers, no one held a gun to their heads, and you don’t have to support them in their insanity.

It isn’t hard to run a better business model than that.

Advice for the boss?

I summed it up at the end of the last article:

don’t be a cunt to your staff

It really is that simple … and being a cunt is exploiting people just so that you can have more & more & more.

  • No it isn’t fair some people work and yet can’t adequately live & thrive on their pay;
  • No it isn’t fair or reasonable that others take more than their fair share of the profit;
  • No it isn’t just “the law of the jungle” for the strong to exploit the weak;

… you’re being a dick, and there’s no upside that isn’t vastly outweighed by downside – you’re probably just too stupid & narcissistic to see it. So don’t expect any sympathy from intelligent staff if you don’t care enough to do things better.

The Recruitment Process & First Days / Weeks of Employment:

Set yourself up for a positive relationship with your new member of staff:

  • RELOCATION:
  • If they’ve had to relocate, help them in some way, and proportionally to their financial need for that assistance; ie – don’t leave any new member of staff in financial and other stress from day one, just in order to be there:
  • What do rentals cost for something decent in an area not too far away?
  • How much does it cost to relocate themselves, their family (if required), and furniture?
  • Do they need to be set up with a vehicle or temporary accommodation?
  • Is the climate different from their previous location & do they need new clothes?
  • COMMUNITY & COMPANY INDUCTION:
  • Your company and possibly your town or suburb – or even country culture & language – may be entirely alien to them, so help them acclimatise; ie – don’t leave it up to a new person to just figure everything out, give them a hand:
  • What are their personal, professional, family & social needs?
  • How do they fulfil those needs in your community?
  • How does this differ from what they’re used to?
  • Are they an introvert or extrovert?
  • Assign them or help them find suitable mentor(s).

You get the idea … 

If your staff are truly an investment, then protect & nurture those investments.

Employee Expectation:

The purpose of all the above is initiate a set of employee expectations that:

  • I am welcome and at home;
  • I am cared for & important;
  • I am a part of something important;
  • I can trust my employer & colleagues.

Why would you even want to risk sending any messages contrary to these?

The Risks?

You may be asking yourself:

  • But what if they soon leave?
  • What if they weren’t worth it?
  • What if they cause trouble anyway?

Well firstly, the whole point of the recruitment process (from part 1 of this series) and these later points, is to reduce – and if possible remove – any such probability; the reality is that you’re already exposed to such risks even though you likely don’t do any of this stuff for anyone except those at the top.

The Costs:

Try to think of it firstly in terms of the cost if you don’t – which may require some considerable contemplation to break your own belief paradigms – and secondly just remember that if something is better but you can’t do it now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way of adapting your business model gradually, bringing on other partners, or deepening / evolving your  relationships (with existing partners & clients) in order to discover it.

The cost is the easy part once you know what it is you want to do and you’ve planned out the details, the hard part is breaking your belief paradigm that you can’t, that your market or industry cannot handle it … but such is the topic of another conversation entirely, which I’ll cover in part in the next article of this series.

Employee Partnership:

The other major point here is that you’re setting up every single employee as a potential future partner, and from day one you should make it apparent to them that such opportunity exists for everyone in the company … because no matter what they do – when they’re ready, you can potentially turn them into a very real sub-contracting partner (ie – not fake just to avoid paying sick leave, holiday pay and other benefits), and now you’ve got a new division of business that you’re a part owner in or otherwise direct/indirect benefactor of.

Mistakes:

A great guy I used to work for once said to me:

“Trevor, if you never make any mistakes, you’re fired … because that’s how I know whether you’re trying or not”

So in addition to all the above, you’ve got to give people permission to fail … just so long as you’ve also taught them – if they don’t already know – how to distinguish between appropriate & inappropriate times for experimentation, by keeping in mind the notion of potential & probable consequences of failure, and the flow-on effects of such.

Questions & Training:

  • Never rush training if you can avoid it;
  • Never restrict opportunities for training;
  • Stop making people feel uncomfortable to ask;
  • Ask your staff: “what reservations do you have – if any – about being completely open with me, and what guarantees or other actions can I take to help resolve such reservations, and thus improve our communication?”

Don’t assume that just because you say “feel free to tell me anything”, that people will actually feel free to tell you anything … it takes more than that to build trust.

  • Ask your staff continually: “what new skills, knowledge, equipment & support can help you do your job better, and why?”

Because while there may be another way of helping achieve the objectives & solve the challenges, your first point of call is always to ask an open question that allows them to frame it any way they want & that seems logical to them … your job is to find out the true answer to why, even if they don’t know it, don’t know they don’t know it, or don’t know how to articulate it … just begin by assuming they need permission to think & speak freely, they’re no use to you otherwise.

Flatten your Hierarchy:

The ideal scenario in your business should be that on the one hand people do gravitate to specialisation in areas best suited to their skills and abilities, on the other hand they also understand and appreciate to a reasonable degree what others do in their roles, especially those roles with the closest & most significant interactions and consequences.

A great way to achieve this is to set up job exchanges & buddy programs, where people swap jobs &/or assist with each other’s work. The other advantages of this is that it:

  1. breaks the monotony;
  2. builds relationships;
  3. helps avoid conflicts & misunderstandings;
  4. helps build appreciation of process and thus allows prediction & preemption of actions.

As time goes by you can also gradually create an organisation in which, the longer your staff have been around, the more other people they know how to cover for, and which reduces risk associated with illness, injury, death and other unforeseen absences & emergencies.

The Customer Advantage:

Simultaneously to the above, you’re also building a company in which, no matter who the customer’s first point of contact happens to be:

  1. The more likely that member of staff can deal with their issue;
  2. The more of their issue that member of staff is qualified to deal with;
  3. The better staff understand their own limitations dealing with that issue;
  4. Thus staff more easily & quickly find any further assistance required;
  5. Thus the less time & frustration for the customer;
  6. Thus the less cost & risk to the company.

If a company was to formalise such a system, including tests to qualify at various skills & further educational support; there would be a greater impetus from staff themselves to learn (as this directly contributes to the possibility of advancement and perhaps even pay rises), and you could significantly flatten your company hierarchy, thus massively improving both efficiency and productivity.

  • Is it more complicated? Yes.
  • Is it better? Doubtlessly.

Conclusion:

A company doesn’t have to be a place of faceless people walking past you in a corridor who don’t want to be there.

It doesn’t have to be a place where you’re great at what you do but you’re horrible at adapting to market changes.

When you experience a problem: look deeper – investigate & contemplate longer – before deciding you really know: what’s going on, what caused it, and what to do.

I’ve experienced (internally) & encountered (externally) countless companies who were shooting themselves in the foot daily through company culture, policies, politics, systems & procedures – stop being one of them, there is another way.

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