Do you find that the minute you get a minute, you’re being asked for a minute? 

You’re a busy small business owner. In any one day, you’ll be dealing with clients, ordering, banking, and of course, you’ll be dealing with employees. You know that you need to effectively lead your team to get the best productivity out of them; but at times do you find that the one time that you get a minute, you’re being asked for help from one of the members of your team? 

It’s those times when you have only ten minutes between meetings and you just want to catch your breath, have a quick recharge, or catch-up on something important – only to have it filled up with a staff member interrupting to ask a question. It seems that everything has become an emergency and no matter how much training you do, it continues. This problem is so common that most business owners will experience this frequently until they learn to deal with it effectively.

So why does this happen?

Well, to put it simply: You’ve trained them to do it. Bet you didn’t expect to hear that?

The truth is: We train our clients how to treat us & we train our employees how to treat us; in reality, we train everybody how to treat us (on purpose or by mistake).

Now, we know that you didn’t set out to train them on how to disregard the need to take responsibility and ownership for their work – this happened over time. It started with a simple issue that you handled so quickly (because you can). Then it happened again and before you became aware of it, you were the go-to person. You became the go-to for anything and everything that required any thinking or required making a decision. Yep, it happened fast. Now your employees won’t think anything through – or take a reasonable risk or course of action – they just simply run to your office.

Now what?

How to get your team to take ownership of their roles

The good news is that you can quickly re-program this behaviour. Let’s take a look at the necessary steps to get things back on track:

Communicate the necessity for the re-charge time

Clearly book time for yourself in your calendar that says something like: Time to Breathe, Catch-Up Time, or Me-Time.  Inform your staff that your re-charge/catch-up time is important, and it will need to be respected so that you can be the best you can be. It may even be a good idea to suggest that they do the same from time to time.

You may have to initially inform your staff when you are taking your recharge time and re-iterate that you do not wish to be interrupted. Know that it will be tested. You will have it interrupted by someone who feels like the interruption falls under a five-alarm fire category and therefore they are justified with the interference (because everything is an emergency). Of course, most of the issues or questions that come to you are not emergencies at all. Listen to them – from start to finish (and determine in your head if it was in fact relevant enough to warrant the interruption). If it didn’t justify the disruption, then re-iterate that the re-charge time should not be interrupted and then discuss the solution.

Be firm

When you get the second interruption, again you will need to listen to the situation fully and determine if they could have handled it by themselves. If so, assure them that they have enough skill and knowledge to make the decision. Say something like, “I trust that you have the ability to make this decision, but maybe you’re not comfortable in making it? How about you make the decision and come back to me to discuss your solution.” When they return with a good solution, advise them that they had it figured all along and they should act next time and not bring it to you.

You don’t want to be left in the dark on important issues however, so it is important to clarify what circumstances are fit for an interruption (such as issues with a particular top client). These boundaries will prevent important things being kept from you.

Deal with resistance

Resistance to change will probably occur and it would be best to anticipate it. When you find the employee in your office again, still not taking ownership for what they need to do, you will again need to listen to them and wait until their done. Ask them that if they were to have to make a decision on this issue because you were not there, what would it be? Encourage them and help them understand that they need to step into the decision making process. Tell them that the next time they have a problem that they want to come to you with, have them bring along with them the best possible solution(s) they can think of too. Then the two of you will work it out together. This will not only help them build up their confidence, but it will help them understand how you make decisions.

Helping your team with this skill will make your job easier and your team will feel more accomplished. It’s a double win that will make you wonder why you didn’t change this sooner.

Enjoy your free time!


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