This week I fell into one of the most common boss/employee potholes. You know, the ones where you freak out because your employee did something that might affect cash flow then realize you gave them ZERO information to know how to handle the situation. And of course, did it all by email, late at night when they weren’t available to respond anyways…yeah, you know THAT pothole.
In case you don’t…it goes like this:
Boss reads email employee cc’s her on at 8pm an night. Sees employee suggested a client reschedule a meeting due to lack of returned information.
Boss mentally goes “Ahhh! But we are a bit slow this week why did she suggest cancelling. We don’t get paid until that meeting occurs!”
Boss responds to employee (at 8:02pm) by email: Hey, please don’t suggest rescheduling meetings without running it by me first.
***Pause here…we constantly discuss the problems client’s not returning information in a timely fashion causes to our work flow, stress level and quality of work…so her suggestion was a totally reasonable suggestion based on the information she had. In fact, she was trying to proactive PROTECT our work flow, stress level and quality of work.***
Employee responds in the morning: Ok, no problem.
Boss realizes she gave absolutely no information to employee to help her know how to handle a situation going forward since the conversations about timely information and now an email about not suggesting rescheduling something is completely contradictory and let’s be honest, emotional based on a slow week. In a crazy, busy week I could just as easily have responded “hey if we are missing that much information don’t start the work we will just have to re-do it.”
See how that can be totally confusing to your employees, not only with contradicting information, requests with no context, most of which is based on our boss-emotional reaction to usually cash flow or stress.
So, I rewound the conversation and ended up sharing with my employee what I think was really helpful insight. I explained HOW and WHEN we got paid and how I try to balance not delaying completing work that allows me to bill and client but also when OUR CLIENT gets paid, which greatly impacts how quickly they pay us. Then I shared where I try to balance between the billing/getting paid part of a decision and the not having to redo work because of missing info part of a decision. And I shared that how busy we were greatly impacts whether I’m to the left or the right of that middle line. I talked about ‘screening in’ and ‘screening out’. About how if a week is a little slow, I might be willing to have us do work without all the info, knowing it will require some additional revisions, to keep cash flow level. And to help our clients be able to bill THEIR clients and keep their cash flow level. It’s all a mesh and balance of work quality, systems, cash flow, integrity to our clients, etc. This ended up being a great conversation so my employee can see what goes into a decision and be able to better discern how to handle certain situations or to at least know when o check in with me first. I mean, we always tell our employees to take initiative but often when they do we immediately chop them down…without realizing it’s the information they need to be able to have better discernment, from our boss perspective, that is what is missing.
So YOUR boss/employee pot hole around discernment might have different elements but I’d venture to guess if you take a good look that’s what is missing, causing the pothole to appear. You’re seemingly varying responses to the same situation (from your employee’s viewpoint) that make total sense to you because you are looking at all those factors that make up your response. But are you SHARING THEM? This is a huge teaching moment to allow your employee to understand what goes into your decisions and how to analyze the information.
Then, you have to come up with a way to make sure that information is accessible to your team. Do I mean open up your books, no. (Unless you want to.) But I mean making sure the employee knows where on that balance line you are (screening in/screening out, etc.) In our case, we added an agenda item to our weekly team huddle where we check in on new cases received (pipeline of cash flow) and cases in process (cash flow that will come in within a week or two). Because guess what, the next time I check my email at 8pm I may not remember in the moment to let my employee know if where we are on that balance line. But if it’s a weekly team huddle agenda item we can’t miss it. And she is prepared to handle the week in line with how I will handle the week. And it also probably helps her think I’m not totally, randomly flip flopping on our processes and systems constantly. Now she gets the why. And can hold me in check if I get too far out of balance and our quality of work or work flow will be significantly affected.
What can you do to help your team have discernment based on the factors you, as the business owner, make decisions on? And how can you make sure that information is assessable to your team and a constant awareness of where you are on the balance line is shared?
(And, here is an extra helpful suggestion – don’t respond to emails to your team at 8pm that have any emotional component…so if your mental response includes “OMG or WHAT?!” just call them in the morning and talk about it. Too much mental chatter happens on both ends when it’s handled by email, particularly out of business hours. J)
We call team members who are trained to evaluate and implement ideas and growth “intrapreneurs.” To learn more about how we can help you get the right team squared away and all trained in your practice just click here and we’re happy to schedule a one-on-one discovery call to help you with the next step!
Laney Lyons Richardson