Managing Individuals: How Small Businesses Can Get ahead through Clever Management
Small businesses don’t have a lot of financial resources. If you run a small business, you need to make good use of the resources you do have if you want to get ahead. And the most valuable resource you have is your employees. It is they who determine what your customers’ experiences are like and what kind of view they form of your business. It is also your employees who will work hard, or not, to improve productivity when you’re in a jam. The surest way to gain an advantage over your competitors is to have better, more experienced, more motivated, more loyal employees. And how do you get such employees? The secret is to manage individuals, not groups.
The Benefits of Managing Individuals
A lot of managers motivate their employees by setting goals for all their employees to meet, promoting the highest performing employees, and firing the lowest performing ones. This style of management wastes human resources. Your employees all have different skills and styles. Some are better at meeting some goals than others. Some respond to one kind of motivation and some to another. If you manage your employees with a one-size-fits-all approach, all you’re doing is making sure you employee a narrow range of skills instead of a broad one. Why limit your resources like that?
Set Individualized Goals
To get the most out of your employees, you need all of them to be top performers. However, you’ll never get a team of top performers by firing all the worst performers until you luck into the team you desire. The only way to get a great team is to help the employees you do have achieve greatness, and the only way to do that is to help each one develop their unique strengths and skills. Set realistic and unique goals for each of your employees, taking into account their particular strengths and weaknesses. Give them constructive feedback and, after they meet the goals you set, set higher ones. With this approach, even low performers can learn to be great.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When you use fear to motivate your employees, you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot. An employee worried about getting fired is more concerned about covering themselves than doing their best. They may be just coasting until they can find another job. Positive reinforcement works much better.
When one of your employees does a good job, approach them directly and tell them what a good job you though they did. Such recognition makes them feel particularly valued, and eager to work harder to get such recognition and praise in the future. When your employees feel like you have noticed them individually, they feel more like a real part of your company, and the more they do that, the harder they will work for it.
Get to know your employees individually. When you see one of them struggling, don’t rebuke them. Instead, reach out to them and find out why they’re struggling. Try to help them figure out what’s going wrong and how to fix it. Mentor them a little. Let them know they can always come ask you for help without being afraid for their jobs. If your employees know they can be honest with you when they need help, they will get help when they need it. That’s how they gain the knowledge and experience needed to become great employees. That’s also how you form the kinds of strong individual bonds with your employees that will make them want to go the extra mile for you.
Your employees are, more than almost anything else, what will make or break your small business. Getting to know them individually, managing them with a personal touch, will take a lot of time and effort. But it is time and effort wisely invested, and it will pay great dividends to you down the road.