All of those resolutions you made for yourself for 2014 — get healthier, save more money, and find work-life balance, etc. — are certainly worthwhile endeavors. But the best thing you can do for your business this year is become a stronger manager.
That’s because excellent managers encourage the best possible performance and, therefore, achieve the best results. Here are seven management goals to set for 2014.
- Provide better feedback. If employees don’t know they aren’t meeting your expectations, they can’t improve. You need to provide constructive feedback, which involves more than simply pointing out a mistake or commenting on a strength. Tell employees exactly how they fell short or went above and beyond. For example, instead of “You handled that customer complaint well,” say “You stayed calm, listened without interrupting, and asked the right questions to get to the root of the customer’s problem.”
- Set clearer objectives. You can purchase all sorts of software apps and do tons of work to streamline procedures, but if you don’t establish clearly defined goals for every employee — and yourself — productivity will suffer. Meet with each employee to set three or four long-term goals for 2014. Then, break those goals down into shorter-term (monthly or quarterly) targets that employees can realistically hit. Monitor their progress and make adjustments, if needed.
- Delegate meaningful work. You need to free up some of your time to focus on business strategy and growth. However, if you only assign your grunt work to employees, they won’t find it meaningful or engaging. Instead, delegate responsibilities to people based on their strengths. For example, have an employee who’s adept at social media take over posting to your company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or ask an employee who is a strong leader to take over training new hires.
- Give employees autonomy. Stop micromanaging! It’s understandable that you want to protect your business. However, if you’ve hired competent employees, provided adequate training, and established clear expectations, you don’t need to supervise every aspect of their work. Set employees’ goals (see #2) and then let them choose how to meet them. They’ll feel trusted and respected — and more often than not, they won’t let you down. In fact, they may surprise you with how well they perform.
- Ask your staff for input. Employees can offer invaluable insights into how to improve your day-to-day operations and customer experience. However, don’t ask for feedback and then ignore it. Really listen, and when you hear good ideas, put them into action. If you can’t use an idea, explain why. For example, “I love that promotional idea. Unfortunately, we didn’t include the cost in the budget, so we just don’t have the extra cash flow this month to cover the expense. I will revisit it when we have the money.”
- Recognize hard work. Find time to acknowledge your employees. There’s no way around it if you want to keep your staff motivated. Although most people want credit for their achievements, not everyone wants to be recognized in the same way. Pull a shy fellow up in front of the group to praise him and offer a round of applause, and he’s likely to hate it. Conversely, if you privately commend a limelight-lover’s efforts, she may feel slighted. Your best bet for getting it right is to ask people how they’d like to be recognized (within reason) and then do your best to honor their requests.
- Carve out one-on-one time. Hey, we get it, you’re a busy small-business owner. However, setting aside just 10 to 15 minutes per week to meet with each of your employees gives you time to praise strengths, address weaknesses, monitor progress on goals, and gauge their moods and attitudes. Your chats will likely build rapport and trust, which in turn will allow you to troubleshoot problems and work together to overcome any challenges.