Enlisting employees in changing your small business

Employees are often unwilling to embrace new ideas. This presents a challenge to the owner who wishes to improve his small business. If employees will not make changes in their behavior, improvements are very difficult.

The key to overcoming fear of change is to create an incentive for employees. While money is not the only incentive, it is usually a powerful motivator. If the desired changes will result in increased profits, a bonus system to share those additional profits with employees can help them overcome their fears.

Enlisting employees in the entire process is perhaps the most effective measure that an owner can take. When an owner acts like a benevolent dictator and imposes change on the employees, they often resist. However, if the employees are involved in the process of identifying and planning the needed changes, they are much more likely to “buy in”.

Involving employees can begin by simply asking them what improvements they would like to see. This will do several things: you will be seen as more approachable and caring, employees will feel more appreciated, and you will create a more team like atmosphere.

Owners typically embrace change much more readily than employees. Consequently, the owner must address the concerns and fears of his employees. He must help them see the benefits of new ideas. If he can make them willing participants the changes will be far more effective.

At the same time, he must set realistic expectations regarding the speed and extent of change. In this regard, slow but steady change is ultimately more effective than rapid change that is quickly abandoned.

Employees are a part of your team. If you want them to perform at their best, help them help you. If you work together, not only on the floor or in the factory, but in the “board room” as well they will be much more willing to help you build the business you want to own.

Getting stuff done

If you have trouble getting stuff done, the problem might be the type of stuff you are trying to do. Or when you try to do that stuff.

While this video is intended to be humorous, it demonstrates how easily we can get sidetracked from getting our stuff done. One thing can lead to another, and pretty soon we haven’t gotten our stuff done.

This is where prioritizing and planning can help. Much of the stuff we do isn’t urgent, or is simply spur of the moment and therefore inefficient. By prioritizing we can identify what really requires out attention. By planning we can group together tasks to improve efficiency.

A simple example of planning is to run multiple errands in one trip. Another example of planning is to schedule some “down” time– play a game, read something humorous, or tackle some task that doesn’t require a lot of attention.

We all have stuff that we need to get done. How we plan, prioritize, and schedule our time will have a lot to do with how much of that stuff we actually get done.

Important vs. urgent

There are four ways to categorize any task:

  1. Not urgent and not important—such as playing computer games.
  2. Urgent but not important—such as answering the phone. It needs to be done now, but may have no significance.
  3. Urgent and important—such as getting an extra gallon of paint so the crew can finish the job.
  4. Not urgent but important—such as working on systems for our business.

Tasks that are not urgent and not important should generally be avoided, unless they are for purposes of relaxation. They are simply a waste of time.

Tasks that are urgent, but not important can also consume a significant part of our time. Yet they contribute little or nothing to our long-term goals. These should be delegated or outsourced whenever possible.

Tasks that are urgent and important are a major cause of stress. These tasks need to be done now because the failure to do so can create other problems. These tasks should be anticipated and addressed before they become urgent. By anticipating you can deal with them while they are important but not urgent.

Tasks that are important, but not urgent help us build our business. Planning and systems building do not need to be completed today, but these tasks move our business forward. Failing to spend time on such tasks ultimately forces us to deal with more tasks that are urgent and important.

As owners of a small business our goal should be to spend as much time as possible on this last category of tasks. The more we do so, the more efficient and smoother our businesses will operate.

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