Managing people is one of the most challenging parts of being a small business owner.
It goes way beyond just managing subordinates or employees; it goes into how you manage your vendors, contractors, and how you manage yourself.
Management was the area that I struggled the most with when I was a solopreneur. I was a terrible self-manager: I was overly critical and overly hard on myself. Being overly hard on myself led to long term mental and health issues because of the impossible standards I held myself to. In addition, I created some serious issues for the people working for me, because I was “only holding them to the standards I hold myself to.” In short, my self-management skills were non-existent and my business suffered because of it.
But the beauty of management is that when you master it, you will empower yourself and your team to perform at a much higher level and increase your return for the same investments of time and money.
Culture Fit is Key!
The most important piece of managing people is the need for a culture fit.
The people you bring into your organization need to match the culture you want to have. Otherwise you'll constantly be fighting and having to overmanage people. You’ll end up spending energy and time in a business area you don’t need to spend it in.
Even solopreneurs need to have culture figured out, because you are establishing the culture you’ll be bringing people into.
So here’s how to figure out and pass on your company culture…
A mission statement is what you do, and it goes far beyond your functional skill (E. G., housecleaning, plumbing, power washing, hair dressing). If your functional skill is coaching and consulting with business owners, then what is it that you’re using that skill to do? Maybe it’s to provide business owners with a better quality of life by improving their business. But whatever it is, it goes beyond your functional skill.
These are your immutable laws. It’s your “We stand for righteousness, truth, and the pursuit of justice!” The concepts your culture is built on.
Elaborate on your mission statement and core values. Now that you’ve got a list of your core values, you need to explain those things and define them out. Elaborate on a piece of paper so you can hand that to every incoming person, thereby creating a strong culture. And when I say elaborate, I mean it! You need to give examples and go into detail, documenting what something like “integrity” means and how you live and breathe it in your company. Elaboration helps to create a shared language in your organization, and a culture where you hold yourself and your team to the same core values and the pursuit of the same mission statement. It brings your team together.
Set Clear Expectations and Guidelines Based in Reality
The reality part is the hard part here.
The expectations we set for ourselves are often way out of reach for our skill levels: as entrepreneurs we set goals and expectations like building a website, despite having no idea how.
Set goals and expectations that fit the skill sets that you've mastered.
Do the same thing with your team.
You’re setting yourself and your team members up for failure and frustration down the road if you ask a team member to build up your social media following when the team member doesn’t understand social media. Understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses helps you set realistic goals and expectations.
Once you learn how to set realistic expectations, start making the goals super clear and attach timelines to them.
Along with timelines and crystal clear goals, you’ll need to set up Standard Operating Procedures (I’ll get into those in my next article!). SOPs result in goals being achieved, and they are designed so that you can pass tasks and goals to your team members without micromanagement. If you (or they) can't create at least a step by step process (Step one is ___, step two is ___, etc.), you don’t know the process well enough. And you have to know the procedure to set realistic expectations for it.
It's important to be able to state the goal as well as the steps that lead to that goal, while also setting realistic time frame expectations.
Check-in at Least Once per Month
If you have team members, you need to be running short one-on-one meetings with them.
I understand, we often don’t want to run one-on-ones in small business because we see our team members all the time. We assume that if they had something to say, they would just let us know.
But that’s not necessarily true. Sometimes they are just too busy, or they don't think about what they need to share with you.
To keep communication working well, set up a monthly one-on-one with your employees and with your reoccurring contractors to go over these things:
What went well
Show them what they’re doing well so they don’t feel like you only see what they need to work on.
What could be improved
Show them specific ways they can improve their performance so that they can take those steps in the next month.
What do we do next?
Give them specific tasks to accomplish over the course of the next month so they have direction with their work.
Here's the trick: you have to meet with yourself and do the same thing.