As an assistant manager with a small business, a relatively young company that is in a period of rapid growth (pet related businesses are faring better than many others in this economy), I try to keep in mind what I’ve learned, good and bad, from my past supervisors, when I’m training and working with our part-time staff. Building a great team that cares about your company like you do, and can keep things running while you’re away, takes time, and effort. There are many ways to invest in those members of your staff that have potential to grow with the company. Here are a few:
Respect – Earn it, show it. I’ve had bosses in the past that expected it, but undermined me in front of my coworkers or others. My morale suffered, as did my dedication to the job. Work with your staff in several aspects of the job, rather than directing them to do certain tasks. Of course there will be times that you will need to take care of other projects, but your staff will be more willing to pitch in when they know that you are willing to do the less desirable tasks.
Accountability – If you, as a manager, make a promise to your staff, follow through. Or take the time to explain why you weren’t able to do so.
Listen – I’m serious, really listen. There’s nothing that kills morale like feeling that you, as an individual, aren’t a valued member of the team. That your opinions don’t matter, any person could easily replace you, and your ideas for improvement are a waste of management’s time. So when someone presents you with an idea, give honest feedback. If you can’t respond immediately, schedule a time to get back with them, because you may have some time-sensitive things on your plate. And follow through. If you decide to go a different direction, explain why, and thank them for their contribution. Not every idea will be implemented, but if your staff feels like they can come to you with suggestions and you will consider them, they will feel invested in the company, and work harder for you.
Delegate – While sometimes it would be faster to just do some tasks yourself, rather than taking the time to show someone else, and be there for them to answer questions as they get used to performing these tasks, in the long run you not only are developing future managers, you are freeing yourself up to take care of other tasks, that may be more sensitive. Also, you’re showing your staff that you believe in their abilities, and this will pay off in the long run.
Be available – You can’t be there open to close every day, and for everyone’s sanity, it’s best if you can get away & have a life. But discuss with your staff when and how it’s appropriate to contact you when you are away, and who else they can contact in your absence. Respond to voicemails and emails in a timely manner. Make time to check in with your staff when you are there, ask for feedback, and how they feel things are going. They may not open up, but they will appreciate that you took the time to ask.
Choice – If there are multiple projects to be accomplished, rather than deciding who, when and how they should be done, consider asking your staff to choose. You may discover where they excel (or need more assistance), and most people like having some control over their work life.
Standards – Be sure that every member of your staff that is at the same level is held to the same standard. If some people are pulling the weight while others drift, tension will develop. You may wish to have periodic evaluations. This is an excellent opportunity to sit down with each staff member to discuss your and their thoughts on their development. You can review past goals, set goals for the next time frame, and pinpoint any potential issues. This also provides a record, if the issues become such that you are considering termination.
Structure – Do you have an employee or policy manual? Do your staff know how to react when customers are being difficult, or what to do in an emergency? Keep in mind that your sense of what is right and obvious has been colored by your life experiences, and your staff may not reach the same conclusions. Having a set of guidelines for everyone to follow ensures that your team is going in the same direction, providing a consistent product, and acting in a professional manner.
This is by no means a complete list, but it’s enough (I think) to chew on for a bit.