Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Christy Rutherford @coachchristyr. Christy is a globally recognized leader and Women’s Leadership Development Expert. She’s also a keynote speaker, leadership coach and author, publishing five #1 best-selling books on Amazon in eight months. Christy is a certified Executive Leadership Coach from Georgetown University and has been featured in Forbes. Learn more here: www.christyrutherford.com.
SmallBizLady: Small businesses need everyone to perform at optimal levels to be effective. How can they get the best out of their employees?
Christy Rutherford: Workplace engagement is big topic of concern for organizations and disengaged employees cost billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. Whether people dislike their jobs, are distracted, or just aren’t willing to give their full effort, it can be frustrating. I’ve found the key to increasing the potential of your personnel is to simply treat them better. This is not a ground-breaking discovery or a big revelation, and it’s worked for me again and again throughout my career with hundreds of people in different offices and states. I’ve found that when you take the time to get to know your personnel, they will feel like you actually care about them and will give you maximum effort.
SmallBizLady: How do you motivate people and encourage them to take on more responsibility?
Christy Rutherford: Have you ever heard of the book, The Five Love Languages? When you find out what’s important to your employees, you will know how to inspire and motivate them. Some people are motivated by praise, others time off, some by personal face time. Most business owners treat people as a collective group and not as INDIVIDUALS. Depending on the size of the business, but if it’s less than 10 people, I recommend 30-minute one-on-one conversations and ask them 4 questions. If it’s more than that, have the conversations with the team leads. Ask them these questions and shift how you treat them:
(1) What are your immediate goals?
(2) What do you want to accomplish while you’re here?
(3) Where do you see yourself in 2 years?
(4) What would make you want to get out of bed every morning wanting to come to work?
SmallBizLady: Are leaders born or made?
Christy Rutherford: Many people think great leaders are born, but great leaders are made. They are made through making the decision to keep striving for excellence regardless of the challenges and obstacles faced. The greatest leaders are created through adversity. They grow and develop in challenges and then the world takes notice. As small businesses look to develop leaders, they have to understand that it will take time and that it won’t always be pretty. Can they withstand the growth pains? Can be mitigated with mentorship and training?
SmallBizLady: When small business owners are frustrated with their employees and want them to take on more leadership roles, what should they do?
Christy Rutherford: I love to say, you can’t complain about what you won’t train. There are countless issues that small businesses will encounter, and human dynamics will exacerbate them. Small businesses hire for certain skills and talents (their strengths), but typically complain about their weaknesses. It’s best to utilize and exploit an employee for their strengths, but you should always take some time to develop their weaknesses. This is done through training and it can be little to no cost. Having a book club where you meet monthly to discuss a “personal development” book will grow them in their soft skills area while your organization thrives in their technical skills. It all matters.
SmallBizLady: How can you identify high potentials?
Christy Rutherford: The first thing small business owners need to do is categorize their employees as the A-Team, B-Team and C-Team. A-Teamers are relentless and will go after their goals with ferocity and persistence. They are self-sufficient and don’t need a lot of oversight and are capable of working well independently and in teams.
B-Teamers do their work in alignment with their job description and perform well, they just don’t do anything more than that. They can be counted on to do the job, but they will complete the work in the time given and are not looking to be impressive. They are there to do their jobs, do a good job and then go home. C-Teamers are there to do the job, collect a check and go home. They do just enough not to be fired and the organization pays them just enough not to quit.
Once you have a TRUE picture of what your team looks like, you can move forward with who wants to be a leader and who just wants a check.
SmallBizLady: What is the number one trait that will ensure small business owners have loyalty and not high turnover?
Christy Rutherford: Have integrity. When you say something, can people take you at your word? It’s important to keep in mind that leaders are held to higher standards and everyone in your circle should be able to count on you. Say what you mean and do what you say. A little white lie isn’t so little when it comes to leaders. Leaders are looked up to by their peers and juniors and are heavily leaned on by their higher up. No one likes someone that isn’t dependable and are okay with telling flat out lies. You may still be in a leadership position with this type of character flaw, but you will not be respected.
SmallBizLady: Small businesses have limited resources, what’s the best way to ensure their training budget is best utilized?
Christy Rutherford: Many businesses have standardized training that occurs year after year. Leadership training should be strategic to their current needs and not a shot in the dark. If the company is training on topics that are not relevant to their current needs, they’re wasting money and their employees time. Employees may be overwhelmed and frustrated with specific areas in the office that need to be streamlined or adjusted to create efficiencies. Team members may be at odds because they need areas of personal growth that may not be attached to their job title.
If employees are trained on “communication skills,” when the root cause of their frustration is due to their lack of time management and delegation, the training will not produce the results you seek.
SmallBizLady: If small businesses have Millennials that aren’t performing as leaders or seem entitled, what advice do you have for them?
Christy Rutherford: First of all, don’t call them Millennials, call them junior leaders. Speak in the language that you want to see. If you want to get the best out of your junior leaders, then it’s imperative that you invest time into them. Tell them exactly what you expect from them and get a feel for their personal preference and what they need to perform at their best.
Young leaders are willing to work hard but need to be inspired and uplifted. If you aren’t investing your time into them to ensure they grow into the leader you expect, then why are you expecting them to be what you are not willing to create?
Giving them “Millennial training” and not knowing how to motivate them personally does little for you and them. You’ll continually be frustrated that they aren’t performing, and they’ll continually be frustrated that they aren’t meeting your standard.
SmallBizLady: How do small business owners lose the respect of their employees?
Christy Rutherford: Leaders have courage. No one likes a push over and no one respects a weak leader. If they’re considered a weak leader, there’s going to be dissention and dysfunction. On the flip side, if they’re strong and aggressive and steamrolls everyone, they won’t be respected either. When it comes to being a great leader, I’ve never met a leader who checked 100 percent of the boxes of being a perfect leader 100 percent of the time. The illusion of being a perfect leader is like chasing a unicorn and I truly believe that if you’re willing to be aware of who you are and will grow through the challenges that you face, you’ll be an effective leader.
SmallBizLady: What can small business owners can do today that will make the greatest difference in building leaders in their organizations?
Christy Rutherford: Have a mission statement and goals that give people a reason to want to wake up in the morning. Re-evaluating the mission statement and setting high goals will give the need for people to want to work together to achieve it. Also, look for the people that want to be leaders and give them what they need to be successful. High achievers naturally stick out and rise above their peers, and when they show you who they are, believe them. Expect greatness from your personnel and many will rise to the occasion.
SmallBizLady: How does one bad apple spoil the whole bunch?
Christy Rutherford: Leaders are EXPECTED to manage the productivity, respect and culture of an organization and if you see disrespect and don’t address it, you lose respect and credibility. I’ve seen people who were willing to allow 30 people to suffer at the hands of one crazy person. One apple can spoil the whole bunch, and one leader can emit a toxic cocktail in an organization and destroy the whole culture. Aggressive and toxic leaders only exist where they are allowed. Even if they are a valued person on the team, they are replaceable, and MUST be addressed immediately in order to be seen and respected by everyone else.
SmallBizLady: If someone always find themselves constantly having to oversee their personnel and remind them of what they should be doing, what’s the best way to shift that?
Christy Rutherford: It’s been said that people work just enough not to be fired and companies pay them just enough not to quit. Small business owners are responsible for inspiring and motivating their personnel to give their best effort. It won’t happen through talking down to them, yelling or getting an attitude. It’s about learning what motivates them to give their best efforts. People will rise or fall based on the expectations of their leaders – expect poor work, you’ll get it – expect high performance, you’ll get that too. It’s up to the leader to figure out who each person is individually and not treat everyone the same.
SmallBizLady: To motivate their employees, some small businesses give incentives. What’s the best way to incentivize employees to perform better?
Christy Rutherford: When thinking about ways to motivate people, some businesses go directly to paid incentives (raises, vacations, time off, gift certificates, raffles). Giving people money or material things is nice, but it doesn’t get to the root cause of what’s going on with them and it doesn’t inspire them to want to work harder for you. People need to know that you care about them. They’ll take it but giving them a $300 television at a company picnic doesn’t show them that you care, giving them a $300 gift certificate for groceries when you heard that their refrigerator went out and they lost their food shows that you care. It also shows other people that you care because you took the time to do something about a problem that they didn’t ask you to solve.
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