Let’s get something straight, here. Companies are NOT only as good as their employees. You can hire great people and end up with a stinking mess on your hands. You can employ the most intelligent minds and wind up with a daily comedy of errors. Despite what you’ve heard, great employees are downright useless.
Alone, that is.
Think about it. If you were to make a batch of cookies, you’d find that sugar is a pretty important ingredient. But like employees to your recipe for business success, sugar alone, even in all its importance, is useless.
When will people in management get “it.” You can’t hire good people and expect miracles. Great results don’t miraculously pop out of nowhere, just because you hired someone with potential.
Example. Mary hires John. John has an impressive resume. He’s made a lot of money for the competitor. She lures him to her ranks with the offer of higher salary, better benefits, and more convenient work hours.
John shows up on Day 1. Mary shakes his hand, tells him what a great guy he is, assures him he’s gonna be a winner, and heads for the golf course. John doesn’t have clear directives, but he’s a go-getter. He asks questions and figures out a few things.
Day 2: John meets with his subordinates. They’re frustrated, negative, and uncooperative. When he asks for reports, he’s told they can’t get the reports. Seems the software system ordered by John’s predecessor was never installed completely, and what little did get installed sucks.
Eventually, John’s not going to be a winner. He’s not going to get results. Even in all his greatness, if he stays on Mary’s ship, he’s going to sink. Being a smart guy, John bails on Mary. He crawls, with tail tucked between his legs, back to his old employer and begs for his old job back.
Without six other important ingredients, John The Great is useless. Here’s what you need to know:
- Systems drive success. You can ruin prime employees if you don’t have a system of success to plug them into. Next question—what’s a “system of success?” It’s an environment where you’ve provided what your employees need to be able to do their jobs successfully. They need things like computers, phones, vehicles, and equipment that work reliably. They need to understand procedures—how things are supposed to be done—and how to follow those procedures. They need systems that link together other departments and other key players so that when everyone does their job right, outcomes have purpose and meet objectives.
- Culture can make or break a company. Okay, first, get everyone on the same page. The strategic plan with clear goals is a good start. But intangibles—things like how effectively you respond to feedback and how even your temperament is—these intangibles are where the culture can be rich or desolate. Say you have a new initiative. Everyone’s on board. But a couple of people see a glitch in the plan. If you have a culture where everyone’s voice is valued, those people will step forward and reveal their findings…perhaps offer alternative solutions. However, if you have a culture of internal competitiveness or backstabbing or lack of appreciation, these people won’t step forward. They’ll keep their mouths shut, sit back, and watch you fall flat on your face.
- Vision should be believable and inspire hope. Years ago, we had the displeasure of working with a young guy who lived in his own la-la land. He had a vivid imagination, would dream up grand schemes, sell his ideas to others, and then go AWOL. When reality would hit the fan, he’d point fingers, retreat into his imaginary world again, and repeat the cycle. As a leader, you need to be a credible person. When you share your vision with employees, it has to be somewhat believable, and you have to follow up your ideas with something concrete. After a couple of successes, even if they’re small, you’ll find that when you share your vision with others, they’ll buy in AND they’ll be motivated by the hope that your vision inspires.
- Fresh fruit doesn’t come from a dumpster. You have to bring fresh ideas to your company in order to regenerate success. Good employees won’t work to potential if they’re bored or know they’re not going to gain success on the job. Regeneration can come in a number of ways: you educate yourself through conferences or talking with others who can help, you hire new people who can bring new information to the table, you provide your current people with opportunities to learn and grow, thus feeding the firm with new opportunities. Good employees don’t enjoy working with outdated equipment or outdated thinking. And why would any success-seeking person enjoy working for a firm that lags behind the competition all the time?
- Style is more than what you wear. A big mistake that management makes is trying to emulate the style of someone else. You have to recognize your own strengths as a leader and put them to good use. You also have to fess up to yourself about your shortcomings and develop systems that compensate for them. All in all, being honest with yourself about who you are is a key component to getting high performance from others. What worked for Donald Trump, Jack Welch, and Michael Dell is different than what works for you. Find your value and capitalize on it.
- Sometimes you’ve just got to cut the line. You’re never going to do everything perfectly right all the time. You just can’t. But when you’ve done most of the things right most of the time and you’re still not getting the results from some people, you’ve just got to know when to cut the line and let them find opportunities to grow elsewhere. Not every good employee is going to be good for your company. Years ago, we had to let our favorite employee go. Sounds cold, we know. Her personality was fantastic, but she didn’t thrive in our line of business. We took her for career testing, found out she’d do a bang-up job in retail, and cut the line. And as a floor manager in a department store, she found success.
No doubt about it, employees are incredibly valuable. But their value doesn’t just happen automatically. Even the best people can be reduced to uselessness if you miss the other six ingredients. Your job as a person in management is to make sure that employees are planted in an environment where they can thrive.