The essential foundation for getting your employees to take ownership of their roles is to give them a game worth playing.
Though your business isn’t a game, you must create an environment where people want to give their personal best to support the team effort.
This is not simply a matter of motivating and inspiring your people; every game worth playing has to have rules that are designed to help everyone win.
What are the rules of your game? Does everyone know what the rules are?
The early signs of mismanagement
Most business owners have not put enough care or attention into establishing the rules of their game. The result is that their employees ultimately make up their own rules as they go along. This is an early sign of mismanagement and weak communication, which is a recipe for disaster.
Consider these eight essential management standards that can serve as the rules of your game, and help you create a win-win-win scenario for you, your employees, and your customers.
Rule #1: Establish clear agreements
Managers and employees establish clear agreements about what work is to be done, and how and when it is to be done. These agreements are expressed in Position Agreements and clearly documented systems.
If you are not clearly expressing the exact results, work accountabilities, and standards that your employees are expected to maintain, then you are essentially managing by abdication.
Your goal is to establish an environment that operates under what we refer to as management by agreement, and this can only be achieved if expectations, accountabilities, and standards are comprehensively communicated and formally acknowledged resulting in mutual agreement.
Rule #2: Clear communication
Any changes in the nature or scope of the work (either specific projects or overall levels of accountability) occur only after there is mutual agreement between the manager and employee.
Just as you and your employees make agreements about the work that is to be done, you also have to agree about anything that might deviate from the expected results, work, and standards.
Rule #3: Employee responsibility
Employees take full responsibility for performing the work and achieving the results as agreed upon, and managers are accountable for providing the employee with the necessary resources, guidance and training.
Your employees need to take ownership of their job, but they can only do that if you provide them with what they need to succeed. This is an essential component in any agreement: I, as the employee, agree to deliver certain results, and you, the manager, agree to provide me with the necessary guidance and resources to make that possible.
Rule #4: Report changes immediately
Report exceptions immediately. The employee and the manager are accountable for notifying each other immediately about any changes or exceptions to established agreements.
Have you ever felt frustrated when an employee reveals that they did not do something that was expected of them two weeks after the fact? This simply cannot happen. And just imagine how an employee feels when they realize that you have not fulfilled your commitment to them – that shouldn’t happen either.
Rule #5: Give them space
Managers can assume the work is being done as agreed upon, unless notified by the employee. (See Rule #4).
If you cannot depend on your people doing what is expected of them, then you will always be worried and preoccupied about what is happening in your business, and you will never be free.
Rule #6: Have regular check-ins
Periodic check-ins or ‘reporting loops’ occur between the employee and manager to communicate and keep each other informed about how the work is progressing.
No matter how well you establish the rules of your game in the beginning, you must always have a way of keeping track and confirming that everything is going according to plan. The less you check-in with employees the more chance the rules will be forgotten.
Rule #7: No exceptions
Failure to notify each other of changes, exceptions, or missed due dates is unacceptable. Period.
Your management strategy can only be effective if you are willing to hold your employees accountable for their agreements, and if you are willing to hold yourself accountable to the agreements you make.
Rule #8: Build on trust
Relationships built on trust are developed as managers and employees keep their commitments and successful results are achieved.
Trust, respect, and accountability are not just buzz words that you read in a mission statement. They are ideals to live by, and without them, your management strategy cannot work (and neither can your business). Find a way to implement these Rules of the Game, and make them rules that you live by in your business. If you do, you will take a huge step toward orchestrating your business for consistent predictable results. You will also go a long way toward creating a company culture that people are attracted to and fulfilled by.
To improve performance: no surprises
I think that another result – and perhaps the most dramatic from my clients’ standpoint – is that they discover they have created a working environment in which there are NO SURPRISES.
No surprises for you as the manager, as you focus on coordinating the work of people who are all contributing to a given deadline or overall company objective.
No surprises for your employees, who naturally want to do something according to the rules and just as naturally are resistant and resentfully frustrated when the rules are changed without their knowledge.
And no surprises for your customers, who come to you again and again with expectations that the positive experience they had that brought them back will be repeated.
If you find yourself struggling to understand or implement these rules, download our free guide. It's full of ways to help you manage your team so you can achieve peak performance in your small business.