If you’ve been lucky enough to start and grow a business to the point of hiring employees, you’ve likely asked yourself the question: How do I get my people to do what I want?
The short answer is you can’t—you can't get your people to do anything. The only way to get your employees to bring their best selves to their work so that your business is able to run the way you want is through effective people management.
Management brings your strategic objective to life. As the leader of your business, your role is to create the environment and build the systems that make your “way we do it here” crystal clear. That way, you’re creating a place where your people are engaged and inspired: They know where they fit in your vision, what’s expected of them and how company success is tied to their personal success. Your business becomes a place where doing it your way is more important to your people than not doing it—and where your way becomes a way of life for them too.
Identify how your business runs today
It’s no easy feat to plan a management strategy. Maybe you’ve tried to do this, and it’s caused confusion and frustration. That could be because you didn’t start by considering what’s currently true in your business. What’s every function and form of accountability needed to make your business run? How are those held by people who currently work for you—and how many of those functions do you hold yourself?
Identifying exactly how your business runs can be incredibly challenging because you need to be able to see it objectively—and chances are you’re too deeply involved in the tactical business activities to see the larger picture. You may even be holding more roles and responsibilities than anyone else. And to build a business that can function independent of you, you need to start replacing what you do with systems and other roles.
So often, we see small businesses make the mistake of creating positions based on people—Ellie does this, Drew does that—rather than positions based on results and responsibilities. This creates an unsustainable people dependency, because what happens when Ellie and Drew leave? When you rehire, you’ll be faced with the impossible task of hiring for that exact same person.
One great benefit of considering what’s true about how your business runs today is to answer the question: Is my business people dependent? Then start working to make it systems dependent.
Set the standards of your “how we do it here”
More than anything, standards provide clarity. Do you feel stuck in your business because your team isn’t performing or producing results that measure up to your standards? If not, you’re not alone. Many leaders feel that their employees aren’t meeting standards—and when they say it, their employees don’t even know what standards are being referred to. This is a sign that your expectations aren’t clear.
Part of leading a business is empowering your people to do things the way you want them done. You need to make your how we do it here completely clear. Identifying and setting standards through your management system gives everyone in your company—and especially your managers—the direction that you want the company to go in.
These could be:
- Quantity standards are specified by a number: Pay 95% of current liabilities within 30 days of the invoice.
- Quality standards are the tangible quality standards and intangible characteristics of your business and products: Answer all customer inquiries within two business days or Keep all customer-visible spaces clean and uncluttered.
- Behavioral standards tell your team how you expect them to show up and perform the work: Employees will respect each other’s time, space and need for concentration by not scheduling any meeting during the solo-work hour every day.
Your standards are the results you expect your team to produce. Michael E. Gerber called these standards the "rules of the game" that everyone agrees to, and they’re foundational to a strong Management System.
Manage your standards through systems
Writing down your standards is a big step in making those aspirations come true—but they don’t guarantee performance. Once you have your rules, you need a way to implement and measure them. Is your standard really appropriate? How’s it working? What adjustments do you need to make? This is where your systems and processes come in.
You may worry that systems will stifle your people or make them feel like gears in a machine, but nothing is further from the truth. Systems free your employees. They structure the routine things so your people are free to pay attention to the elements that matter. You'll see them become more innovative and creative—and more accurate, productive and confident in their work.
Here are some key systems that help you establish standards:
- Company values: Your values set your quality and behavior standards, and describe yourself and everyone in the company at their best, highlighting what’s most meaningful.
- Your strategic objective: Your strategic objective establishes the overall set of standards for your business—these show what you want the business to look, act and feel like.
- Key strategic indicators: Your set of KSIs is the measurement system you use to quantify intangibles, and provides clarity on the vision or company standard for each one.
- Position agreements: These position-specific standards relate to each position and describe and measure individual performance.
- Quality management: Quality management brings together standards and key indicators to set a level of quality and see if and how you’re achieving it.
Develop and manage people effectively
Every business owner has difficulties with their team. You can probably think of several examples right now of something frustrating that one of your employees has done this week—or even today. Think of these issues as opportunities. The best ways to solve frustrations or bust through resistance is to have clear expectations for each role—set through position agreements between managers and employees—and to offer every employee regular weekly meetings to discuss issues that come up for them.
At EMyth, for example, every team member participates in the regular company meeting, and has a weekly one-on-one employee development meeting where they can talk about anything that may be getting in their way. It’s dedicated development time—both for their individual growth, and to build an effective relationship with their manager.
If you really want to earn the emotional investment from your team to build a company in your vision, these meetings are incredibly important. It’s where you show them that you hear their concerns and wants, and that their opinion matters. Caring for their individual growth is the emotional piece of how you deliver accountability through your people.
So, what's the most honest answer to: How do I get my people to do what I want?
Show them what you want, give them the direction and structure to achieve it, and invest in their growth along the way. This is how you create a people management strategy that'll allow you to slowly move away from working in the business—and still have it run just the way you want it to.
For more on how to build and manage a high-performing team, check out these other favorite blogs: