The cost of fire fighting is big!

As small business coaches, we have had clients that struggle with employee management and how to improve employee productivity. They seem to have spent more time solving or fixing problems than they did finding new sales prospects. Every time they put out a fire, another spark would ignite a new situation that they would have to deal with. Some clients had employees who refused to arrive to work on time, disappeared from the job site, or cut corners (which ended up costing the company extra money in the long run). Some clients have had employees who stole or mistreated materials and/or equipment from the small business.  Sometimes, it gets so bad that clients are ready to close their business and sell off everything!

Many small business owners struggle with similar difficulties in maintaining control over of their employees, let alone knowing how to improve employee productivity. In fact, we have seen how these employee problems can result in a significant loss of profit in a small business.  When a company lacks strong leadership, it is prime for a tragic loss that we call the “ten thousand dollar mistake.” It happens when you have the wrong person in the right place at the worst time possible; they do something that costs your business a lot!

Fire fighting is a prominent problem in small business and we have included specific focus on it in our leadership training. Here are some of the topics we help our clients with.

7 management practices that can improve employee productivity

If your business is not built on a strong leadership foundation then you will be continually distracted by trying to get your employees them to work effectively. Try these tips to help you gain the control you need to improve productivity.

  • Accept the leadership challenge

Your leadership of the company will be tested from time to time.  If you are experiencing employees that are not listening to your policies, it’s usually because they are testing your leadership; they need a strong leader to follow.  You will need to calmly take the challenge and correct them as required. If you lose your cool – you lose leadership – and that will cost you. So make sure you stand firm.

  • Set firm boundaries

Without firm boundaries, employees will make-up their own, and they’ll never be right for your company.  It’s your job as leader to decide what the operational practices are and then to educate everyone about them.  Do this often and reward those who exemplify the type of characteristics that are improving employee productivity. This will help you build a strong company.

  • Make consequences match the offence

What if you educate them and they still are pushing back? Arriving late for work… again. Let them go home and think about what they’re doing wrong. It’s common for a business owner to feel that they can’t afford to not have one of their employees at work. If the employee decides to take advantage of this, they’ll try to get away with all sorts of things. At times you’ll have to let them suffer the consequences and give them time to do the right thing -even though it will cause you extra stress today. Waiting to deal with behaviour that is off balance from the company standard will create multiple misunderstanding towards your leadership. Employees can and will assume that if you’re not dealing with their push back, that they can get away with it. What is even worse than this, they will assume that what you say has no backbone to it. With mis-beliefs like this it’s no wonder that they lose respect for your leadership.

  • Be consistent – Always

It’s important that you are consistent with everyone on your team. No matter how important they are to the company, no matter how many other team members they have on their side, be consistent with your correction and direction. It’s important that everyone knows that the new rules are the best business productivity solution that you could have; it’s not personal. What is personal is how you implement the behaviour correction for those who are not keeping with the companies set of acceptable business practices.

  • Hold people accountable to producing results

If you have ever asked a business coach or manager how to improve employee productivity, most will say you need to have firm objectives and performance standards followed by solid accountability. Accountability is the glue that keeps the change process moving forward. Without it nothing happens effectively. Make sure that you discuss what needs to happen, when you expect it, and then get them to agree to make this a priority. Without this two way communication, there is no way accountability can help accomplish company goals.   

  • Create the buy-in with weekly meetings

Have a weekly meeting to review how the last week went, improvements you want the team to make, and discuss the goals for the current week. Regular meetings can help keep attitudes in check and build a healthy company culture. Make sure to make the meetings positive and if there is a need to correct someone, do it privately.

  • Plan for staff changes

Yes, when you change the way you are managing the company and begin improving employee productivity, expect that those who are not happy with your new leadership stance to leave and find another job.  You can usually tell who it will be because their frequency of sick days will increase, they’ll be hanging around other peoples desk for no apparent reason, and may even start speaking out in staff meetings. It’s your job to identify those people early and make sure that you have the right people in place that you can bring in to fill in the position if necessary.  There is nothing more frustrating when a key person takes an unofficial holiday (a sick day) just to mess you up.  If you are able to bring in other people you will have a business productivity solution that can keep your production stable until things settle.

We have worked with several small businesses to help them change their management and leadership style. One company that we worked with had an employee take 3 days off of work every time the owner spoke to them about inter-department cross training during slow times. By the time we started working with this company, the owner was scared to talk with this employee, because it meant that they would have to work nights or weekends to fill in for the absent employee. These subtle types of push back on leadership are physically and emotionally draining. That’s why they must be dealt with quickly and directly – or they will get worse.

Your small business is one of the best leadership skills training courses you could be enrolled in. Unfortunately, real life gives you the exam before you get the lesson. The best way to understand this is that everything that happens in your business management is a result of the principle of Cause and Effect. If you see the effect or result of your leadership and it’s not what you wanted, you need to ask yourself, “What did I do to make this happen?” Then make the appropriate changes in your leadership behavior to get different and better results.


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