As the owner of a small business, your employees look to you for leadership and a clear vision of where the company is going. Unfortunately, there will inevitably be times when not everyone in the company will see things your way. That’s o.k., provided you maintain open lines of communication and present your vision in a clear, logical and consistent manner.
Here are 5 solutions to common mistakes that can undermine your authority and lead to conflict with your employees.
Avoid giving conflicting messages
As an owner, you know that circumstances can arise that require you to modify your game plan. Unfortunately, some employees may see even the slightest deviation as a drastic departure from your original course. It’s your responsibility to ensure that everyone stays on the same page. Communicate openly and honestly about any changes in policies or procedures and make sure your reasoning for such changes is thoroughly understood.
In some cases, this may require periodic meetings with individual employees to make sure they understand the reasons for the modifications and that they are executing their responsibilities appropriately.
Don’t change priorities and expectations
For your employees, knowing what is expected of them allows them to prioritize their activities and achieve certain goals. But changing customer needs, urgent issues and new opportunities can require you to reshuffle the deck at a moment’s notice.
Let your employees know exactly why the normal routines and procedures are being modified and how much you appreciate their willingness to work through such temporary upheavals. As always, encouraging open and constructive communication can lead to greater efficiency and a deeper sense of teamwork.
Abstain from undermining your employees authority
You’ve no doubt spent time and money training your employees to abide by a variety of company policies. But there will be times when it makes better business sense to bend or even break a longstanding rule than to miss an opportunity or lose a sale. Unfortunately, breaking a rule that your employee has already attempted to enforce can cause them to feel frustrated and resentful.
When these situations arise, you should start by commending the employee for adhering to the stated policy, and then explain your rationale for making an exception. You might also consider asking them for suggestions on how to avoid such situations in the future.
Never offer loosely defined deals
How many times have you negotiated a deal with a major vendor or large customer only find out later that your employees had a very different idea of how it should be executed?
In these cases, a lack of clear communication between you and your employees can lead to frustration for all parties as your employees repeatedly come to you for approval on a variety of small details. In the worst case scenario, such miscommunications can lead to the complete collapse of the deal.
You can avoid such embarrassments by involving your employees as early in the deal-making process as possible and getting buy-in by all parties involved.
Remember you don’t know your customers as well as you think you do
As the business owner, you understandably think you know your customers as well as anyone in your company. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. As your business has grown, you’ve no doubt delegated much of the customer-facing activities to your employees.
Make it a point to spend time “in the trenches” with your employees, dealing face-to-face with customers on a regular basis. Listen to what your employees tell you about your customer’s wants and needs, and how your business can better meet them. It can be a valuable and eye-opening experience, and it can help ensure that you and your employees share a common view of your companies value proposition.