What you thought you said vs what they heard


It's happening constantly, written, spoken communications. Emails whizzing around, directives, delegation, reminders. Hey, take care of this for Mrs. Client today, Ok. Remember to clean the staging area later today, Ok. Most of us are trained to execute rapidly to get things moving and make things happen.  

Undocumented Promises. 

Every verbally accepted task is a promise. How do you track all of the little commands, directives, etc? Are they clearly documented, backed up with a note? An acceptance email archived? Chances are that a lot of what is asked of people lives in a few moments when your words leave your mouth and hopefully fall into the ears of your employees...hopefully in the way you want them to. "Is that clear, do you understand what I'm asking?" "I already told you on Monday how to __________!"

But I thought you said...

Guess what, it's completely reasonable for an employee to come back with this remark as long as you allow it to be this way. A client of mine has frequently brought these types of complaints around their people to me, and everytime I reflect that it starts with them to make it different. If you started your business, you probably didn't write everything down so you could remember how to care of follow through. Make sure you're not applying this assumption to your employees, that's a common mistake.

Employees are hungry for some structure, a way to do it every time, a way to follow through. At EMyth we talk about freedom within structure or limits. Like it or not, it's the owner that sets the tone and tolerates the status quo, or confronts and breaks through to find a better way to deliver on promises inside the company.

A Documentary of Delegation

Well this film doesn't exist yet, but the metaphor is what's important. Every day that passes is a chance to collect data, or in other words baseline how delegation takes place today. Take that on first as you consider a few ways to track promises and delegate with commitments, and track the results:

  • If the task doesn't live in a manual or job description, make it more formal by speaking to this fact to the employee, and backing it up with an email or some sort of documented note system. Then assess if it needs to get into the manual.
  • When an employee misses what you thought was a clear directive, look at yourself first and what you could have done better to track the results before you barrage them with frustration or disappointment. This is you, owning your management system in it's current state.
  • Each time you find yourself frustrated by another example or event, capture it in a frustration log to soon prioritize and take action on.


How slowing down creates more velocity


Where did the saying 'running a business' come from? It insinuates speed, you're running right. If you're doing this well, you have managers to inform, and employees to set in motion; you're no stranger to getting things done. The greater the growth, the more there is to do. 

Quick Nick.

I just finished a conversation with a small business owner whose moniker as a technician was "Quick Nick". His skill and expertise allowed him to fly through work while maintaining high standards. After our initial conversation, and a few months of making time in the early morning to strategize and think about his business and prioritize, before his children were awake, he told me that now while at work he's gets things done even faster! 

Context as Medicine.

Here's why... What happened for him is that by regularly and intentionally making the space to think and plan contextually the day's events or the week's trajectory, he's stretched out of the singular focus that the technician's mindset favors. He is literally practicing "getting bigger" than the doing of things and tasks, into why those tasks are done, and how to do them more efficiently, all the while deliberately serving a bigger purpose. 

Deliberate Yourself.

If you look up the definition of deliberation, you find a key element of the main mechanism that has allowed Nick to end up working with even more velocity. It didn't come overnight, but it came, slowly, steadily, after long and careful consideration.

Your time, your choices.

While we each have strengths and weaknesses to consider and work with, exercising your ability to see and access a bigger picture, or how smaller things work within a bigger framework will overtime make you a more efficient and effective leader and manager, and if you're also doing technical work, it can speed that up too!

A leader's ability to execute swiftly in large part comes from cultivating this practice, day by day. Not easy, but that simple.


Why you should thank your most dysfunctional employee

Your manager would like to speak with you.

It's easy to forget the stumbles and screw ups that woke us up to doing things differently. It's also easy to get so focused on doing things 'right' once you've got a good thing going. Employee mistakes and poor habits are frustrating, and sometimes seem unbelievable. If you're still employing them despite all that fuss, they can be some of the most valuable assets you've got.

You know who I'm talking about. The one who always responds with excuses. The one who always is griping about travel expenses. The one who used the credit card because it was the 'right' thing to do and you were unreachable.

Take their cues

What does their predicament tell you about your management systems? What does their overwhelm tell you about your own? These types of employees, while some might eventually need to move on, are giving you important cues for where structure and support may be missing, and help you see blind spots in yourself. Sure it'd be great if you knew all this before you went into business, but here's the opportunity in real time. Listening to your employees is as important as listening to your customers. After all, as Krulak's Law states: "The closer you get to the front lines, the more power you have over the Brand."

Learning as you go

Taking in new information to develop your management strategy and systems as you run the business is a crucial and uncommon skill set. You've already done it to some degree to simply be in business, but did you stop somewhere along the way- when things became...good enough? 

Unlikely gratitude.

Make time and space to collect what you consider to be the dysfunctions and frustrations of your employees. Write it down. Now look at this information objectively against what you do and don't have in place to give employees clarity for their responsibilities. What's missing from your strategy that envisions a great company environment and relationships? How might a tweaked policy, or role clarification help eliminate a frustration in the future by eliminating the lack of clarity?

Find out, I bet you have much more data than you thought to help you grow your company culture.



Doing what we're told

Sometimes my clients say to me, "so what should I do?".  

I've got a lot of different ways I respond, but that's not my point here. 

Getting out of my own shoes and considering what my clients are going through is quieting. To attempt to feel what it's like, to remember when I had my past businesses and didn't ask for help. To be in agreement, asking for support, strategically and around tough decisions that they make every day.  In having someone there to listen, respond, offer, and challenge real and perceived limits.

When people who are honest enough to ask for help, are told to do something, that's the time when they are called on to be bigger than the advice and make their own choices.

Leadership requires both courage and humility, meeting what's real today on the ground, and standing for a version of yourself that is yet to be.



To do lists can be as addictive as smoking...

Manage yourself first

When a department, or the entire company are relying on your delegation and support, you may be missing something that is fundamental but not obvious. As a manager you ask others to be accountable, but how do you support yourself to be accountable?

It's a given that management requires accountability, but ask yourself if you or anyone in your business can clearly define it?

You can care and not be accountable, but being accountable requires some level of care, for yourself and for what you're doing. 

Who Cares?

And what does care look like if you do? Consider this: If you aren't making regular time to care for yourself in your life, enjoying meals, taking walks, spending time with friends or your intimate partner, or however that looks for you, then it's slim chances you're carving out space to care for yourself in relationship with work.  Both are connected.

What does caring for yourself at work look like?  

Depending on your role, level of responsibility and oversight, caring can take on many different expressions. You could set aside 15 minutes in the morning to look at your project list and pull prioritized tasks into the day's calendar, or make your lunch break a time when you enjoy the food, and take a few minutes to regroup for the rest of the day.

Ultimately, you have to find out for yourself what works.  

Where do you start?

A lot of business owners are 'results driven', and speeding towards a cliff.

Do you know the details of your day to day actions, specifically? Do you keep them in your to do list? If so, you might be fooling yourself.

All the organizational tools in the world won't help if you don't get honest with what's happening between you and your work, and how that ties into a bigger result. Many of my clients initially report that their efforts to organize and prioritize have landed them back in overwhelm, only to have the tools pile up and go dormant.

To do lists can be more addictive than smoking. It's not helping you get out of the 'doin' it' work if it's not directly linked to a project list of some sort.  And even then, is that connected somehow directly to your goals and vision? Find out if you're simply feeding a technician's fever for busy work and the instant gratification it brings.

Take a few small but important actions.

Identify those distracting conversations that you engage in regularly.  Turn off the email notifications that beckon every few minutes. Challenge the employees to try again when they put their responsibilities back on your desk to handle. Only after you gather the baseline data for what's not working first, can you know what you're up against, and then be able to take the next small steps toward accountability and care.

Small steady steps lead to big change.