How many times have you wished your employees would do things your way? The way you treat customers, the way you make sales, the way you deliver your product or service, the way you solve problems, and, if we’re going to be honest, the way you think?
If you’re like most business owners who want to create a self-sustaining business—one that gives you the choice to be there or not—you know that having a team of people that does things your way is fundamental to letting go.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting your employees to do things your way. It doesn’t mean you’re a control freak or discouraging individual expression. It doesn’t mean you can’t welcome creativity or relish the contributions your team makes to your company’s success. What it means is that you’ve figured out a lot of the routes from Point A to Point B in your business. And until you’re shown a better way, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your people take on your way as their own.
At its best, your business is a world of your own—a place to discover the intersection between your values and standards, and the fulfillment of your customer’s needs.
The success of your company depends on everyone unapologetically owning the way we do it here. It’s your brand, the expression of your values and standards, your response to your customer’s need for consistency and predictability. They want to know that every time they do business with you, regardless of who they meet with or how they interact with your company, they’re going to have the experience they’ve come to expect.
If you go to a restaurant or a mechanic or a spa and have a fantastic experience followed by a mediocre one, you’re less likely to go back again.
I’ve been training people at EMyth to sell our Coaching Program my way for decades. The EMyth Sales Process is a system. It produces consistent, predictable results. It’s so embedded in the culture of the company, it’s about as close as you can get to an EMyth institution. At the same time, it’s continually evolving as I better understand how to connect with business owners, as we adapt to meet their changing needs, as the numbers tell us what’s working and what isn’t, and as our salespeople contribute to improving the system through their experiences meeting with business owners.
Getting your people to do things your way is a challenge. I don’t have to tell you that not everyone wants or is able to do things the way you want them done. Here are some things I’ve learned that can improve the odds.
Build systems inside a “systems culture"
You can’t communicate instructions to an employee verbally and expect them to take in more than a small fraction of what you have to say. You also can’t expect to create a business that operates without you unless the way we do it here is documented in step-by-step procedures, including scripts where appropriate. And it isn’t enough just to document them—you have to be sure that everyone who’s expected to follow them is fully trained and behind them.
It’s helpful to think of a systems-based business as a binary situation. It either is, or it isn’t. If you create a system here or there, your employees’ understanding of the way we do it here will be by default rather than by design. You have to go all in and systematize everything. You have to turn everything you know into easy-to-understand processes and principles.
A business that’s systematized across all domains—Leadership, Marketing, Finance, Management, Lead Generation, Lead Conversion, and Customer Fulfillment—is a strategy decision. It’s the decision to create a systems culture that reflects your values and your standards of performance. It messages to your people how serious you are about how you want things done.
Hire people who appreciate learning a proven way to be successful
One of the most significant systems you can create for your company is your hiring system. The people you hire obviously need to have the technical or position-related skills you’re looking for. But—even more—they need to align with your culture. If your business has a clearly defined way we do it here, then the employees you hire should feel at home in it. They should be people who:
- Don’t feel a particular need to do things their way
- Recognize how systems can leverage their skills to produce exceptional results
- Feel excited to learn processes that support their success
- Have the ability to follow the logic of a process (versus people who are oriented to “winging it”)
- Can make scripts sound natural and be inspired by step-by-step instructions
- Are comfortable with what they don’t know
- Love and genuinely care about producing results they’re accountable for
- Are attracted to your way we do it here, your vision, and what they can learn from you and the leaders in your company
- Can contribute to the continuous improvement of your company’s systems
Imagine going through your hiring process looking for—and building systems to identify—candidates with qualities like these.
See the people who currently work for you with fresh eyes
When you decide to make the shift from OldCo to NewCo—from a business that operates more like “the Wild West” to one where your way produces consistency and predictability—you’ll most likely discover things about your current employees that you didn’t know. You’ll watch some of them breathe a sigh of relief that you’re finally introducing the structure they’ve craved. And you’ll watch others become more and more alienated by their distaste for structure.
It’s all okay. Not everyone is going to join you on your new adventure. And that’ll likely test your commitment to building a business where your employees do things the way you want them done, so that the way we do it here isn’t dependent on your physical presence.
Look at each of your employees through the lens of the above list of hiring requirements. Ask yourself, as many of the business owners we’ve worked with do when this moment arrives, “Would I rehire this person today?”
Invest in the people you’re committed to
Developing people takes time. As much as we’d like to believe that the right people can make growth leaps, change most often happens in small steps. Teaching people your way requires patience: the willingness to build trust, to get to know them as people, to say the same things that you know work over and over, without much evidence that you’re having the impact you so desperately want to have. Eventually, your patience will be rewarded. You’ll start to see yourself in your employees. And it will be so worth it.
When you’ve documented your way of getting things done and hired the right people, they’ll invest in their work, your company, and your way to the degree they feel your wholehearted investment in them.
Create a clear picture of what your way means, practically
As much as you might want to, it’s not possible to clone yourself. No one who works for you will ever do things or think about things exactly the way you do. The unique contributions that people make are real gifts to your company. There’s an important distinction between the spirit of your way and the letter of your way. To capture the spirit of what you want your team to embody, you’ll need to identify what business processes and principles are nonnegotiable, and where there’s space for people to be themselves and to grow into the best version of themselves. Finding that balance—standing for how you want your company to operate while respecting the sovereignty of your people—is an aspect of effective leadership that every business owner can practice and learn.
Find your resolve to make it happen
It’s completely possible to build a company where your employees approach their work, handle both recurring and exceptional situations, and produce position-specific results in the way you’d like them to. It took me a long time to be able to say this with confidence. I had to understand the difference between appreciating what I know and being able to transfer it to others. Successfully transferring knowledge requires meeting people where they are so they can learn the processes and principles that will guide them to achieve the highest standards in small steps.
To even start the transfer, I had to get to a place with myself where I was no longer willing to accept anything less than the spirit of my way. I had to question my motivations and get clear about what I really know and the knowledge I really have to offer. I had to make sure that my need for even greater freedom from my business wasn’t clouding how I work with my team.
I’m still learning what it means to meet each person and their particular needs where they are, and to offer them the right amount of my way so they can effectively absorb and integrate it into how they operate. I’ve made plenty of missteps and learned from all of them. I feel grateful to my sales team for the opportunity their openness and skill have created for all of us to discover what works.
What’s one aspect of your way that you’re committed to systematizing and training your team in? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.