Remember that old interview question, “Are you a team player?” When you run your own business you are the team leader – the captain and the coach rolled into one usually. But on top of that, you also need to be a team player.
That means more than squeezing into your bulging To Do list automated, one-size-fits-all birthday messages or the occasionally staff party. Yes, staff lunch out, a braai at the office or a few drinks after work are good ways to put the work stresses aside and get to know your staff better.
Those basic bonding exercises are taken for granted now. In reality, any wow factor was fleeting in the first place. The days since the automatic birthday greeting impressed any employee are at least one generation back and Victorian industrialists had extensive staff entertainment programmes.
What never goes out of fashion, though, is proving to staff that you are an active part of the team, not just a figurehead. I have now been with Cash Converters for almost 25 years and nearly every day, I say a thank you for the fact that I learned the business from the ground floor up by launching our first pilot franchise.
That quarter-century of experience has shown me that leading a team proactively means you need to be:
This is more than rushing through the shop floor late for your next meeting and focused far away from the employees you are passing by. It is more than just being spotted in the hallway between your office and the carpark or even waving or nodding a greeting to an employee.
In the know
Taking the easy route here is initiating a conversation about the latest sports scores. More personalised is to ask how a staff member’s house move has gone or a child is settling into a new school. It is good for you to be reminded why your employee works for you and for your employee to know that you are aware of him or her having a life beyond a work role.
The time-and-motion pioneers who emerged after the Second World War to translate regimented army mentalities into greater industrial efficiency and productivity have long since been discredited. It rapidly became obvious that workers object to being treated like different parts of a machine.
Staff want to be treated like the human beings they are by someone who has the courage to show their own human side. In your conversations with staff, this also means showing how you are aware of the work they are doing and what they are contributing to your business.
Staff respect a boss who gives the team motivational talk and then rolls up his or her sleeves to spend some time helping accelerate the push to a new goal. As team leader, ideally you should understand and be able to carry out any job within the team. Some of the tasks might not be your speciality but keeping up to date with new techniques, materials or needs in each area means that you can make better strategic decisions.
This is about more than the capital, skills and time you have invested in growing the business. It is about sharing key goals as well as daily tasks so that your staff feel they are investing their working lives in a shared project – and so share the insights and inspirations that could be the next important key that makes your business run more smoothly and productively.