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Stop Doing it For Them: A Simple Way to Get Your Staff to Work Independently



“How do I get my staff to finish the loose ends on a job so I don’t have to?”

“How do I get my team to remember all the steps they need to take on a procedure?”

“How do I get my staff to put all the tools and boxes away at the end of a day?”

These are all questions I’ve heard from small business owners over the past few weeks.

The answer is simple:

Stop doing it for them.

I said simple, not easy.

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a business with protocols and checklists, or at least someone who wants that level of consistent quality in their business. When it doesn’t happen, it’s frustrating and just grates on your nerves. I hear “why don’t they care enough to do the job well?” We sometimes take it personally, or think that our employees don’t care. As with so many things, though, it comes back to us: we pick up the pieces at the end of the day, we tie up the loose ends, so why would our employees think that it’s their responsibility? Yep, you created the practice and you need to dismantle it if you want your staff to work independently without constant reminders and reinforcement.

To change a protocol, wanted or unwanted, you start with communication. If you want your staff to do something differently, don’t assume that they can read your mind (sound familiar?); you need to tell them what needs to change and how it will change. Think of it as if you’re playing a board game and you want to change the rules; you’d have to tell everyone what the new rules are, right? Same is true in the workplace. New rules, new protocols, new responsibilities. Be culpable, recognize to your staff that you let this happen, and that you take responsibility for how things have been done in the past. Finally, remember that habits are tough to change and it may take time. Your staff is not deliberately ignoring your request (if they are, that’s another conversation we need to have!), they have just developed a habit and it may take time to adopt a new habit. Be patient and keep the communication going as your team’s behavior (and your own) slowly changes.

By the way, the solution works for another age-old question, one I heard just this morning: “How do I get my kids to pick up their laundry?”  Stop doing it for them. Like I said, simple, but not easy.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Determine the Shortest Path to Revenue

yellowbrickroadThere is an awful lot to get done in the early stages of a business: there’s the product or service development, your online presence, customer definition, marketing message, videos, blogs, networking, and the building of your business systems. And, oh yeah, eventually you actually need to sell something. It’s easy to get bogged down and we sometimes forget that what we really need to do is generate revenue. I love clean systems and on-point marketing, but there are times you just need to ask:

What’s my shortest path to revenue?

My clients know that I like to cut to the chase and get right to the core, and this is never more true than when a business needs or wants more revenue. I once chose to work for a company that was close to bankruptcy because I wanted to see if I could help turn it around. They had some pretty cool products in development, and when I asked about how we would cover expenses in the next few months, I heard a lot of “well, if this happens….” Or “when we figure out this issue….” I don’t think I was making friends in those early days, because I would say “that sounds great, but what do we have to sell tomorrow?” “Which customers are most likely to want what we have right now?”

Being short on revenue is one of the most frustrating stages of business ownership and owners often feel powerless: that there’s nothing else they can do. We have to cut to the chase and ask key questions:

  • What’s the shortest path to revenue?


  • Is there a shortcut to revenue (without shortchanging service or quality) we can take?


  • What steps can we bypass to get straight to revenue? Perhaps eventually we will add additional features or build out the missing elements, but when it’s crunch time you need to take the shortest line between where you are and what will produce revenue.


  • The objection I usually hear is that it’s not ideal, it’s not what was planned. Taking a shorter path does not tie us to that path for ever, it’s just a path we choose for a period of time.

Keep building new products and services, keep filling your pipeline, but by determining the quickest path to revenue can keep you afloat while your are building your business, making changes, and growing your customer base.

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.