Succeed By Setting Expectations For Your Staff

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We’d like to think everyone on our staff has the same stake in the success of the business as we do. “We all want the people who work for us to act like owners,” says Eric Beck, with Total Integration LLC.

That’s easier said than done of course. Whether it’s because an employee doesn’t understand what they’re expected to do, doesn’t have the training or skills to do it correctly, or there are other communication problems, issues invariably arise. An assignment isn’t completed or it’s done wrong and you or another staff member end up spending time correcting the problem.

Many times, Beck says, the owner or manager reacts by getting angry and showing everybody who’s boss. But that can be counterproductive too. “Power works but it doesn’t solve everything. If you’re the general all the time, it won’t work for long. If your staff is scared of you, they won’t tell you the complete truth about things. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. And you can’t make good business decisions without the best information,” he says.

Communication and setting explicit expectations for everything will make a big difference. Most of your staff members want to work hard and help your business succeed, Beck says, but without a good system in place, you essentially discourage that. “You have to be organized – set clear expectations for who does what. A good system educates the user – help them understand why this task is important to the business or the customer.”

Handing the staff a checklist of duties isn’t enough on its own. Beck says it’s important to have a timeframe for every task on the list. Also, it’s important to make the expected outcomes very clear. “Otherwise, how do I know I did it right? We assume they know the goal of the list.”

Finally, you need to monitor the results. “You have to manage the staff and follow up on their results. Reward great results well. But there has to be a consequence when someone continually falls short of clearly stated expectations. Sometimes, you have to fire someone, but that’s also a learning opportunity about expectations for the rest of your staff,” Beck says.

Richard Jones is the group editor for Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines.

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