3 Questions To Ask Yourself When You Have An Overwhelmed Employee

So you thought you were hiring someone with the grit and confidence to tackle it all head on, but now the hire that seemed so promising is caving under the stress. Here are three questions to ask yourself so you know what changes you need to make to prevent a repeat:

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#1 Do you know the personality types of each person you hire?

You may not give much weight to personality assessments and tests, but they’re oftentimes spot on and can provide some value to you as the leader in your business. The DiSC behavior assessment tool is a very popular option and it essentially breaks people down into four personality types using a number system. With the DiSC assessment, you’re left with a snapshot that shows where your employees score high and where they score low, which can help you identify what they like and don’t like in regards to, not just the tasks they’re performing, but the environment in which they’re performing those tasks and the way they’re being told to carry those tasks out.

The four personality styles that make up the DiSC assessment are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Why would knowing which traits are highest in your employees help you prevent overwhelm and burnout? Because when you know which personality types you’re leading, you’ll know how to adapt your management and communication style to better fit each employee. You’ll be able to craft your interactions to each individual in a way that speaks to and supports their needs and preferences.

For example, an employee with a high C score likes to have all of the details before getting started and has a fear of being wrong. Knowing this, you could ask that employee if they have all the details they need or if there’s anything else they need from you before they can confidently move forward with the job or project they’re working on. Someone with a high D, on the other hand, may become bored by all the details and just want to jump right in. How you present a job to each would and should differ so you can be a more effective leader of each individual.

#2 What expectations have you created?

No one wants to screw up, but for some personality types (like high C’s, for example), the fear of failure can be paralyzing and prevent them from taking any steps or actions. On top of considering the innate traits and levels of pressure that are self-induced by each personality type, you need to consider the type and level of pressure that you’re consciously and subconsciously placing on your employees. Ask yourself what your attitude towards failure is and what you’ve expressed to your team regarding failure. Have you presented failure as something that’s undesirable at all costs and apocalyptic in nature or as something you can learn from? Failure often leads to innovation and improvement and teaches us more than our successes, but no one wants to be the one to fail or take risks that could lead to failure if management portrays failure as something to be avoided if you want to keep your job. Yes, put systems in place to prevent mishaps, but don’t make mistakes the unforgivable sin in your business. How you approach failure will largely determine how your employees do, and without that big lurking F hanging over their heads, they’ll be freed up to focus on the task at hand.

#3 Do you encourage open communication?

When an employee is overwhelmed, you have to consider whether or not it could have been avoided if you had a culture in place that encouraged open and honest communication and mutual support. If your employees can come to you when they first start to feel overwhelmed, the escalation that leads to breakdown and burnout can likely be avoided and you can get your employees the support they need to do the job with confidence.

Is transparency a word or a practice in your business? Do you encourage teamwork and support? Can your employees come to you or another person in management when they’re feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or in need of more support? Even if it’s not you, make sure your employees have someone they can go to to talk it out and get the support they need.

Better Leadership Is Within Your Control

Look, HR stuff can be frustrating and time-consuming, but knowing your employees and creating a culture that encourages transparency can help you better lead your team, provide a better work environment, get more value and productivity from every employee you manage, and prevent burnout, overwhelm, and other common workplace problems. Take the time to understand your employees and adapt your leadership style and culture, and you’ll find it saves you a lot of time and a lot of frustration in the end, which is what we all want, isn’t it?

Why You Should Invest In & Get To Know Your Employees

I get it, keeping distance between you and your employees makes things easier because you’re able to remain unattached and cut ties when needed. It’s true, relationships mean work and sometimes they mean problems, but by keeping your employees at a distance, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase employee loyalty, purpose, and production; find greater purpose and support for yourself; and improve the customer service you deliver. Here’s why:Employees-In-A-Circle-Looking-Down-At-The-Camera-And-Smiling

If you don’t take the time to get to know your employees,

You won’t be able to easily identify their strengths, passions, and where they might better fit in your company (or outside of your company).

We know a business owner who thought he had a lazy, problem employee on his team. But what he one day found out is that his employee was bored and wasn’t able to engage in what interested him. He had this incredible passion and ability to innovate and craft new pieces of equipment that could make the team’s job easier, but if the business owner had just fired him for being lazy and problematic rather than getting to know his interests and strengths, the entire company would have missed out on the amazing things this employee had to offer. You could have a similar issue. You could have an underperforming employee who is bored out of his gourd and just waiting for an opportunity to do something that he’s passionate about, but if you don’t invest in getting to know him, you’ll never know where he could best use his strengths.

You may even find that you have an employee who would really thrive outside of your business. We’ve had to let people go because the more we got to know them, the clearer it became that they were miserable in their job and that they had other passions and opportunities that would better suit them As the leader of your company, you may need to help uncover that for an employee and have that conversation.

You won’t know what motivates them.

As the leader of your company, one of the most important roles you have is that of the cheerleader. You have to keep your team motivated and inspired, but not everyone is motivated by the same things. If you don’t know your employees and which ones are driven by perks, praise, public recognition, money, etc., you won’t know how to motivate each individual. And if you don’t understand what motivates your employees, you can’t be the effective leader you want and need to be.

You’ll isolate yourself.

Support and motivation goes both ways. If you isolate yourself in your business by refusing to get to know your employees, you eliminate the possibility of your employees supporting and motivating you. On the flip side, by developing relationships with your employees and being transparent with them, you just may find that you enjoy the support and sense of community you have at work and that your position as the leader of your business is a lot less lonely than it was. 

Your employees won’t be as loyal.

Loyalty is a big issue, especially given the cost and time associated with onboarding a new team member. But how can you make your employees stick like glue? One of the best ways to get someone to invest in you is to invest in them. If you’re not willing to invest in your employees, what makes you think they’ll be willing to invest in your company?

When you take the time to get to know your employees, find out what motivates them, what their personal and professional dreams are, what their family is like, etc., you show them that you’re invested in who they are and who they want to be. You show them that they aren’t just a cog in a machine — they are an individual that you value as a part of the team. And when an employee feels like a valued member of the team, he or she is less likely to just up and leave at the first sign of a better salary or better benefits.

Your customer service will suffer.

Another problem that arises when your employees don’t have buy-in and don’t feel invested in is that they’ll feel unfulfilled in their work. You may not think it’s your job to make sure your employees feel fulfilled, but have you considered how their sense of fulfillment affects the level of service your customers receive? When work is unfulfilling and meaningless, it’s hard to bring your best to the job you’re performing and to your customers; but when you feel invested in, empowered, and like what you do matters, you’re like a cup that runneth over. There’s no stinginess or need to protect and preserve yourself — instead, you’ll be energized and willing to bring your best to those you’re serving.

Two Tips To Get You Started

So if you’ve been hesitant to build relationships with those on your team, it’s time to break the ice. You don’t have to become best friends — in fact, you shouldn’t — but you do need to talk and, more importantly, listen. And if you’re wondering how you can get to know your employees without coming off as creepy, here are two suggestions:

  1. Beer Friday. Here at Spark Marketer, we occasionally indulge in Beer Friday. We wrap up a little early, grab a beer from the fridge, and just socialize with each other. We may talk about work, we may not; there’s really no agenda. It’s just a time to sort of unwind and get to know each other. If you go the Beer Friday route, just be sure to communicate up front that this is a relaxing end of the work week gathering and not a rager. If you have employees who are recovering alcoholics or who don’t drink, naturally you can remove alcohol from the equation and have a pizza lunch (something else we’re big fans of) or some other laid back gathering.
  2. 1 to 1s. We’re big advocates of having 1 to 1s, which are just brief, regular meetings with each employee, one on one. During these meetings, you may want to discuss any problems or challenges your employees are having, what they need from you to do their job better, and just what’s going on with them in general. Ask about their family, their goals, what they’re reading, etc. If you really listen to what they have to say, you’ll be surprised at how much can be learned from a 15 minute meeting once a month.

What are some of your favorite ways to get to know your employees? Let us know!

Why You Should Invest In Leadership Training & Education For Your Employees

It may be a given that, before performing technical skills, your employees need to be adequately trained and experienced so they can do the job right. But education and skills training isn’t only important from a technical point of view — you should also be investing in the growth and development of your employees in other areas — like leadership. Why?

Well, if you’ve hired anyone in the last 10 years, there’s a good chance you have Millennials on your team. And while everyone seems to think that Millennials are unique, surprise, surprise, studies are showing that Millennials want the same things you wanted when you entered the workforce: opportunity, growth, and purpose.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that “when salary or other financial benefits are removed from the equation, work/life balance and opportunities to progress or take on leadership roles stand out” as most important for Millennials. Think this only relates to the male sex? Think again: When it comes to determining where to work and whether or not to stay with their employer, “Women are as equally likely as men to rate opportunities for career progression and leadership roles as a major factor; the genders are also aligned on the value of professional development support…”Man-Wearing-Glasses-And-Reading

So if leadership opportunities and development are so important to the newest generation of workers, why aren’t today’s leaders responding?

The majority of Millennials surveyed in the aforementioned survey feel that their “leadership skills are not being fully developed,” and of the Millennial workers looking to move on to a new job in the next two years, 71 percent stated that they are “unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed.” So what’s up? Are we just not listening? Or are we assuming that this generation is unlike us and uninterested in leadership development and leadership roles? Either way, we’re really missing the boat.

Here’s the reality: If you want to truly stand out and excel as a leader today, you have to listen and you have to look for opportunities to delegate and invest in the growth of your employees. Give them opportunities to lead; invest in leadership training and development; find out where they’re interested in expanding their skills and knowledge; and ask them what aspects of your business interest them or where they’d like to improve personally and professionally.

Support them in those efforts. Invest in them. You don’t have to break the bank, but investing what money you can into classes, courses, or other training opportunities is an excellent way to show your employees that you’re invested in them and what they want to be. Choose a couple of employees to go with you to the next big trade convention. Some companies even gift employees with a reading and development stipend every month so they can continuously grow and learn.

Tight on funds? Start a work library and fill it with a few books here and there as you can afford it. Don’t just invest in books directly related to your work — ask employees for their reading wish list and get a few of those. Create an environment that encourages employees to read, learn, and better themselves and that lets them know they’re supported in their efforts. And what you’ll find is that your team performs better and is able to take on more tasks that you would otherwise have on your plate. A better, well-rounded, more fulfilled, more productive team and more time for you? It’s a win-win.

Are You Investing In & Supporting Your Team?

So before you think disloyal employees and problem employees are simply a generational thing, ask yourself whether or not you’ve investing in the development and growth of your team. A bored and unchallenged employee is sure to be underperforming, problematic, and disloyal — no matter what age he or she is. But an employee who feels invested in will have no problem investing in you, because they’ll know they’ve found a place where they’re free to grow, expand, and shift.

Why You Should Ask For Employee Input When Developing, Updating & Evaluating SOPs

SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures are defined by Merriam-Webster as:

Established or prescribed methods to be followed routinely for the performance of designed operations or in designated situations.

Doesn’t sound too exciting, but SOPs are definitely something to get excited about — especially once you have them in place.

Here’s why: They’re designed and adopted to make your life and the life of your employees easier, to give your customers more consistent service and results, and to give you more freedom and time. With SOPs in place, you can delegate and know that your team is capable and empowered to do the job just as you’d have done it yourself, without you having to do it yourself.Worker-Holding-Tablet-And-Smiling

But you should never think of your SOPs as finished, think of them as living documents. They’ll play such an important role in the daily workings of your business that you’ll want to revisit them regularly to make sure they’re still as good and as useful as they can be.

Wherever you are in the SOP development stage, whether you’re just starting out or you’re revisiting, updating, or evaluating already established SOPs, inviting your employees to get involved is always a good call. And unfortunately, it’s also something many business owners forget or don’t think to do. Here are five reasons why you should involve your employees in the creation, development, and evaluation of your SOPs:

  • #1 Your employees bring insight to the process. Some business owners choose to stay out in the field while others work more on operations, but no matter which category you fall into, involving your employees in the development or evaluation of your SOPs can give you valuable insight into the way things are done or could be done better. Your employees know some of the processes and procedures you’re writing SOPs for well because they perform them every day — make use of their knowledge!
  • #2 It ensures clarity. Going through your SOPs and developing them with your employees helps ensure that the SOPs are clear to all on your team, not just to you. It’s amazing what we can sometimes take for granted as a given when we’ve done something for so many years, but by involving your employees in the process, you’ll know if you missed something or if some particular step needs more clarity or explanation.
  • #3 Your employees may know a better way. When you’ve done something one way for so long, it can become a thoughtless procedure that you do almost on autopilot. You’re not likely to try new ways of doing things, but the people on your team who may be newer to the job might. They may see ways that the system or procedure can be improved — but if you don’t ask them, you’ll never know.
  • #4 Your employees may see areas of waste that you missed. Just as your employees may see a different way of doing things, someone with a different perspective or who’s been in the business for longer or shorter may see ways that you could cut down on waste or save time on the job. Ask your team how they do things, why they do thing the way they do them, and where they think time and effort could be shaved off the process.
  • #5 Your employees will have more buy in. Sometimes SOPs can feel like a set of rules handed down by Moses on the mountain. But if you involve your employees every step of the way, as the SOPs are developed and updated, you’ll lessen the possibility that it will feel this way to your employees. Think about it: when you’re involved in the development of something and your opinion is valued and heard throughout the process, you’re more invested in the end result and more likely to adopt, right? It’s the same for your employees.

Wait, I Don’t Have Any Employees — Are SOPs Really Still Necessary?

Here’s the thing about SOPs, even if you don’t have any employees, you should still have SOPs. Why? Well, who knows, you may end up hiring down the line, and with SOPs in place, you’ll have one less thing to worry about during the on-boarding process.

Having SOPs in place will also make your business more valuable should you choose to sell, because you’ll be selling your systems and the way you do things, rather than handing over something that’s worthless without you there to make the wheels turn.

So employees or no employees, make SOPs a priority for your business!