It’s impossible for business owners and managers to be aware of every mistake their companies make, but chances are somebody on the staff will be. Often, rank-and-file employees are the first ones to see mistakes that fly under the radar of busy owners, and just because they can see these mistakes doesn’t mean they’ll vocalize them.
If you’re worried about what issues you might be missing, here are seven common mistakes your employees can see clearly that you might not see at all.
With so many other things to deal with as a business owner, you might not notice that frown on your customer’s face. But your employees will notice it — and probably hear about it in short order. By the time a customer complaint comes to your attention, it might have already passed through a couple of layers of management or seniority. Successful business owners not only put processes in place to deal with customer complaints swiftly and effectively — they also instill cultures that can prevent complaints from occurring in the first place.
Not Adapting to Change
All business owners and senior managers should stay abreast of new trends and technologies, but not all have the time to do so when they’re focused on day-to-day operations. This can be a big mistake if the competitor down the street gets the jump on a next-gen product or trots out the latest workplace perk to lure top job candidates. Employees are often the first to learn about new trends because they hear about them from customers or peers. This usually takes the form of a frustrated customer saying, “You don’t offer any gluten-free options?” or a network contact saying, “Your employer doesn’t offer flexible work schedules?” Successful leaders put a premium on monitoring market trends and adapting to them quickly.
Business owners who micromanage their people probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. But employees know it – and likely resent it. One of the worst mistakes an owner or manager can make is hovering over employees and obsessing over every little task. Micromanaging rarely improves productivity and almost always adds stress to the workplace. Being an effective leader means training your team members properly and then trusting them to do their jobs. This frees you up to focus on big-picture items like winning clients, getting an unsecured line of credit and navigating your company to the next stage of growth.
Failure to Delegate
On the flip side of micromanaging employees is not doing enough to delegate specific responsibilities. This is another mistake that can lead to stress, confusion and inefficiency. Employees are usually the first to know when roles are not clearly defined because they end up spending way too much of their time trying to sort through who should do what by which deadline. As a business owner, take time to clearly delegate tasks, assignments and responsibilities so there’s no confusion. Put it all in writing and update as needed so your associates are always clear about their roles.
A business with no employee spats probably doesn’t exist. Workplace feuds are a reality that most employees are well aware of but it’s something many business owners know nothing about until the situation has already grown toxic. Employee feuds contribute to stress, low morale and decreased productivity. It’s important to keep your radar up for tension between employees and then work quickly to resolve the issues that created it.
Not Following Up on HR Issues
If you’ve enjoyed any success at all as a business owner or manager, then you understand the importance of keeping your employees motivated, challenged and engaged. You also know that the best way to do that is to communicate regularly about what they like and dislike about their jobs. But that information means nothing if you’re too busy or distracted to follow up and find out how things are progressing. Your employees certainly know whether issues linger long after they’ve been brought to your attention – and whether you’ve taken the time to follow up with them. Make it a point to follow up with employees so you’re in the loop about which human resources issues need to be addressed and what’s being done to address them.
Lack of Feedback
People work for obvious reasons like earning a living but also because work gives them a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. That’s why billionaires still head to the office even though they could put their money in the bank, live off the interest and never work another day in their lives. One way employees get a sense of accomplishment is through feedback from their bosses – up to and including the owner. A lack of feedback is another mistake your employees will see long before you do, and one that can make employees question whether you’re satisfied with their performances. Providing regular feedback boosts morale and productivity.
The Bottom Line
As with so many other issues facing business owners and senior managers, communication is the key to dealing with mistakes your employees see that you might not. Hold regular meetings with your team members to learn where the company is going wrong and what can be done to correct it. Establish actionable processes to fix problems and follow up to check on their progress and ensure they’re being implemented. You might not eliminate every mistake – no business can – but you’ll at least be aware of them in time to limit the damage.
Written by Vance Cariaga, Seek Capital