Leadership

3 Fun Lessons to Running your Business Better

3 Fun Lessons to Running your Business Better

This article will focus on business owners who have been in operation for a while, particularly entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

Here are a few questions for you. When you come to work, do you feel the energy of your company and employees, or has that become stale over time? Are you connected to your ‘human resource’? Can you sense their morale and comfort in your environment? Can you identify your future leaders and feel confident in the longevity of your company? Are you sure that your employees feel valued and appreciated?

If you’re unsure how to answer some of these questions, this article may help you uncover how to get a current perspective and adapt to improve your company. Perhaps you, too, will find a way to have a little more fun at work, improve your environment just a little bit and break out of the day-to-day routine. 

Your employees don’t just need you to lead the business. They want a connection with you to feel confident about the company’s future and their future. They also want to feel valued and rewarded.

Can I build renewed excitement in my company?

This may sound like a headful, but it may be easier to do than you think. I will explore four specific topics designed to open up more meaningful communications from your employees, create depth among your most talented people and raise morale for a more enjoyable work environment. 

Be sure to read and think about my last tip. It is my favorite and could be of great value. So, smile and pay particular attention to that one. These concepts are not complex and can be quickly injected into your entrepreneurial or small business operation. So, let’s begin to rediscover your company.

What will strengthen my communication with my employees?

First, as a senior leader, you can energize your company by connecting directly and often with your employees at all levels of your business. As your business grows, it can be more challenging to see the details of your business the same way you once did. Scope and time availability make that more difficult. That is normal. But, if you engage your employees in a meaningful way, they can help you see your business from a fresh perspective. It may even reignite your passion for the future of your company. But, more important, it should give you some new specific areas to focus on and make immediate improvements.

 

Approach # one. Initiate direct communication.

Employees will be much more comfortable approaching you if you first come to them. Rather than describing this conceptually, let me give you an example of how you may want to approach this. This discipline worked very well for me. 

Once every two weeks, I would block off about an hour at 4:00 pm, walk out to the work area, tap an employee on the shoulder and say, “Would you come to my office, spend a few minutes and chat with me for a bit.” Now be careful with this. When you do it, smile because the person you’re tapping on the shoulder will likely be surprised and might be pretty intimidated. They don’t know why you’re there but respect your position. So, a big smile will help break the ice and slow their heart rate. 

Once we entered my office, continuing to smile, I would then always ask this question. “Can you tell me something about our business or your area of responsibility that I need to know but probably don’t? Take your time to think about that and tell me whatever you want to tell me.” Then smile and wait. 

The discussions that followed were enlightening. I learned concrete things that could make our company more efficient. I also learned about our employees’ business activity distractions that we could correct. The input also, on one occasion, helped me create a different, more appropriate business structure.

However, the first few employees I pulled in for these conversations tended not to say much. They were guarded and reticent to be completely open. You should expect that. They are trying to figure out if you have a specific agenda. You should also note that I had no particular target audience for these sessions. I preferred it to be random.

But because of natural networking, word spread among our employees about these meetings, and I soon had people asking for an invitation to talk. Of course, I would invite them. That natural networking spread quickly among the employees proved to be an excellent thing. Not only will you learn from your employees, but you will also learn about your employees. You will know what is working and what could use a little work.

 

Approach # two. Establish a regular dialogue with employees who regularly touch your customers.

Meet with members of your Customer Service Department from time to time. Ask them about their experience with your customers. Be specific and ask to hear the best experiences and the worst. And then try to get a feel for trends that suggest how your customers feel about your company, products, and services. 

This will not only give you insights into your service levels. It will also provide a perspective of how well your product may be positioned in the marketplace. You may also feel the trend of your best and worst products and why.

Please make sure the Customer Service team knows you are there to thank them and encourage them as a vital part of the company team. Always ask what they may need to do the job more effectively. I always found that the employees on the customer-facing front lines had valuable and actionable perspectives. This could help refine your marketing efforts and market research.

Do I need to be a more approachable executive?

But what happens next is perhaps a more significant result of exercising this process. You will be viewed as a more approachable manager/executive. And that sets you up to communicate better for the long term with all your employees. In scheduling this, I would suggest you do it regularly, almost in a way that people can predict when you’re going to show up at someone’s desk and start the conversation or visit that Customer Service department.

You will find that office interaction will become more casual as you naturally meet more of your employees personally. Your office will have a lighter mood. I can assure you.

Over the years, I learned that the boilerplate “Corporate Open Door Policy” is practically useless. Employees are reluctant to approach an executive with a problem unless they know that person well enough to strike up that conversation safely. This reluctance is natural and often reflects the employee’s respect for you, your position, and your time. Perhaps your Human Resources department should not be the only door open to everyone. Give this consideration.

Can I connect with younger talent in my company?

Let’s move on to a different concept to rediscover your company. Many successful businesses have a mentor program to prepare managers for the next level. It is probably structured to build the future skills they will need in those more responsible roles. 

But I want you to consider having a “Junior Mentor Program”. Qualification for this program could be as simple as including bright employees and non-managers who’ve consistently been performing very well. Include younger team members for participation in that group. Let them know this is an opportunity to see what leadership and business operation are all about without the associated pressure. 

And here is the key and the fun part. Participate in that training yourself when you can. Please get involved and enjoy it with those people. When you do that and look back on it, you’ll be very comforted that the future of your business is in excellent shape. And the excitement generated by the group will be infectious to you and others. It certainly was for me.

As component of your Junior Mentor Program, you may want to include some younger talent in creating a business plan, a departmental budget, or a forecast. This is meaningful activity and skills development for employees. When you do, encourage active participation. Help them be comfortable thinking aloud, offering a business idea or two, and asking questions. I can’t think of a better way to train future executive talent than to expose them to live-fire organizational business activity. This will pay significant dividends over time. And it will likely build loyalty to your company for the investment they receive. 

What can I learn from this Jr. Mentor Program?

You will be very encouraged by the young talent that you have. You may decide to follow a few that you recognize have potential and help them along as their careers progress. You may realize at some point that your company’s future is bright. And you will see it because you opened the door to better direct communication.

I like the junior mentor program concept for one more reason. And this was a surprise to me. A few employees who participated in the program told me, “Dave, I appreciate you including me, but not for the reason you think. I learned that I don’t want ever to have managerial responsibility. It is not for me. I’m very comfortable where I am and don’t want to be responsible for people.” While this always caught me off guard, I think it’s a good thing when people recognize what will make them happy and can stay on a path that will be more fulfilling for them. 

These concepts are obviously about growing knowledge depth and experience in your company while opening the door to more meaningful communication. Having talent depth will create a competitive advantage for the long haul. However, this isn’t just a good idea. It should be an active component of your overall business plan development and will make business continuity planning easier for you over the short and long term. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can benefit from this as well.

Can team building create a more effective organization?

On to our third concept. Take your management team on a retreat away from the office environment. There are professional planning firms for this who can quickly put it together for you once they understand your business profile. They can also tailor an array of activities that your team can enjoy.

It is an opportunity for your team to get to know one another personally and without the barriers that titles naturally and appropriately create. It displays the human factor of your company. Retreats can be one or two days and can also span a weekend. It can be what you want it to be. There are no rules here.

One such retreat I recall included the entire management team completing a personality profile. The different personality categories were explained by a professional. We were then grouped by categories and mixed with other types, where we talked openly about how we differently viewed specific scenarios. It was enlightening and a terrific bonding experience. It was like looking through another set of eyes.

You may want a retreat to set the stage before a significant project, undertaking, or business transformation. Our teams seemed to work just a bit better as a unit after our retreats.

How can entrepreneurial companies benefit from team building?

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, having a retreat that precedes changes in product, services, business structure, or business plan can be beneficial. And if you need to delegate more, you will get to know your team members better and can make choices better suited to their talent, strengths, and weaknesses. Seeing the personal side of your team members can be very helpful.

You will also find that the office environment is a bit more casual and enjoyable after a retreat. Your team knows one another better, making teamwork and communication easier.

You may already be thinking that the retreat concept could be valuable in smaller segments of a larger company. It can help team dynamics at any level of a business.

Can I quickly build employee morale in my company?

This last tip is my favorite. The results we experienced with this one will always bring a smile. 

Establish a “Wall of Fame”. Please put it in the most prominent place in your building. It should be placed where people will naturally pass often during the day or where employees come and go in and out of the building. Pick the most visible place that you can. 

The “Wall of Fame” will be where you recognize your employees for just about anything you like; innovative ideas, time and money-saving concepts and ideas, outstanding customer service, extraordinary teamwork and effort, acts of kindness, and community service. Anything!

Here’s an actual example of a “Wall of Fame” worthy recognition. One of my managers received a call from a customer with a glowing review of an employee who did extraordinary work for them. That manager came to me and described the call. I then called the customer and asked that they write an appreciative letter explaining the situation with details. I would let that customer know that the letter would be presented as an award to this employee for that service. I would explain our Wall of Fame and invite them to attend the presentation. At some point, we decided to invite spouses to attend as well. 

Now you are ready to gather as many of your employees as possible to witness you presenting this award to the employee and then hang a framed copy on the “Wall of Fame”. 

Over time, we noticed our employees talking and pointing to things on that wall. I am sure that it fostered improved morale at our company. Make this a place where your employees are happy and proud and will celebrate with one another. Be creative and liberal with the awards. This concept sends a positive message to your employees and their families in so many ways. Enjoy it.

To summarize: 

These concepts will open up meaningful communication within your company. And don’t forget the side benefit of creating a more approachable executive management team. 

The Junior Mentor Program will build depth of skill in your business and will be an investment in the retention of your most talented resources. 

Anything you do to build camaraderie, morale, and office harmony in your company will pay long-term dividends. The “Wall of Fame” is just one way to make that happen. You can reignite your company and strengthen your attachment to it in a meaningful way. 

This could have far-reaching effects on the potential longevity of your company. Give them a try.

To conclude:

I enjoy talking about this topic. If you’re ready to speak with me, click below to schedule a session. https://calendly.com/dave-kerford/

Also, join our Bulletproof Business Community. It is a forum for wisdom and insights from our C. suite and business leader members who are forming or have formed what we call bulletproof businesses. As a first step to joining our community, click below to sign up for our newsletter. 

Enjoy! 

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