I am one who believes in employee empowerment. The more you can get the members of your team to be comfortable making their own decisions, the more effective and efficient they will be within their sphere of influence. One of the pitfalls, however, is the real danger of complacency on the part of managers/owners assuming that the “store”is being minded by those that have been “empowered.”
Several years ago, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for the highly efficient team I had developed. I noticed that the day to day operations were going like clockwork and I was having to put out fewer and fewer fires. I made the decision that I didn’t need to be there first thing in the morning and so instead of getting into work at 8am, I pushed it ahead to 9am and then 10am. Nothing seemed to change. I did that for nearly a month. I rationalized that I just didn’t need to be there as much as I had been and that was why I had spent so much time developing my team, right? So I started cutting out a little earlier and my hours kind of normalized to 10am to 4. Life was good for me. I was finally getting the benefit of the years of work I had put in.
After a few months on that schedule, I noticed our productivity had markedly fallen. When I discussed it with my General Manager, we couldn’t identify a particular reason. In an effort to dig into it, I changed my hours back to 8am to 5pm. Productivity climbed again within a couple weeks. I was perplexed. I finally called a meeting with my entire team to brainstorm what was happening and I was startled at the result. It boiled down to my team not interacting with me on a daily basis. By changing my hours to 10am, I missed the morning ad hoc discussions as the team got ready to go into the field. Since I left at 4pm, I missed their daily reporting when they returned back to the office. My NOT being present created a perception that I didn’t care about what happened on a daily basis and so the high fiving that I did daily and the words of encouragement and appreciation that I gave in the morning was missed by the team and productivity fell.
My take away is that people need to feel valued and need frequent reinforcement. Within our team, I had created a family environment and without daily feedback, their feeling of need and value waned and productivity suffered as a result. Having facetime with each member of the team on a daily basis has proved to be one of the best methods for maintaining a motivated and productive team. It’s not always easy and takes a lot of time as each member of my team seeks me out to talk about their day but the results speak for themselves. At the end of the day, its all about relationships and the value of people. For the time being, I seem to have found the secret sauce. One of the greatest side benefits is that I’ve significantly enhanced the relationships with my team. When people feel valued they respond and that was clearly the case for me. I am confident you will have a similar result.