The joy of staff

2020 Focus area 4) The joy of staff

Paul Green Content, staff

This series of 5 articles is designed to help you reflect and focus on what’s most important to you in 2020.

Previous articles:

2020 Focus area 1)
Know what you want, and have a robust plan to get it

2020 Focus area 2)
Getting new, quality clients, with less stress

2020 Focus area 3)
Get your clients to stay longer, spend more and become MRR

Here’s the fourth focus area, then.

Staff. If ever there was a true frustration in a business, it’s staff.

You can’t do it without them – a business without staff isn’t really a business, it’s just a job with greater control.

But my God they make it difficult sometimes, don’t they?

Most of the staff I’ve had in various businesses have done a great job most of the time. But there were days when frankly the business was moving backwards, not forwards, because of the people working within it.

Maybe it’s because a few people are off sick at the same time. Or because you have to fire someone in order to get rid of a problem (and no, it’s not as hard as the media makes it out to be. You just have to do it by the book to keep it legal).

You have to remember two golden rules when it comes to your team.

Firstly, no-one will ever care about your MSP as much as you will

No matter how well you reward them, it’s ultimately your business and not theirs.

This isn’t a matter of ownership; it’s for the same reason that someone else’s child may be beautiful, but not as beautiful as your own child.

Secondly, whatever problems you have with your staff, they have been caused by YOU

You, as the owner, are the single biggest influence on how your team acts and behaves.

Whether this is natural to you or not you need to be a leader.

People want to be led; they want to know where a business is going and what part they can play in it.

People who are part of an MSP that’s developing and changing and going places feel more challenged and rewarded by their work.

It stops being just a job and starts becoming a part of their life.

Some people will opt out along the way. That’s OK; they were never the people who were going to help you achieve the success you crave.

But the people the business needs are the ones who will be attracted to it, and will thrive working within it.

Which of these types of staff do you have in your business?

The key to better staff is engagement with what they are doing.

The more staff you have, the harder this is. If it’s just you and a bit of help, then you’ll probably have very engaged staff. But if you’ve got 10, 15, 20 – or more employees, then there will be level of disengagement creeping in.

Scary. It’s one of the reasons why when you buy 40 hours a week of someone else’s time, you never really release 40 hours of your own time.

I’m sure you’ve heard of a research company called Gallup. Every year they do an engagement study. They’ve interviewed millions of employees. And researchers have discovered that there are only really three kinds of employee.

The best are…

Engaged staff

That’s the label Gallup gives them. These are the best staff. They treat the business like it’s their own (in a good way).

They find problems and fix them. They care about the business and what it’s trying to achieve. You can rely on them in every possible way.

Only a few of your staff will be truly engaged. The bulk will be the next category…

Not engaged staff

These people turn up and do their work, but it’s lacking passion. They are almost sleepwalking their way through the day.

The more staff you have, the more these people will make up the bulk of your workforce.

They walk away at 5pm and instantly forget the business. It’s hard to get them to go the extra mile. Their loyalty snaps quite easily. They are easily lured elsewhere (after all, the grass is always greener).

The label of “not engaged” has nothing to do with their technical skills. They’re just not that “into” your business.

One final category of staff then. The worst…

Actively disengaged staff

This is the level you should be most scared off. I prefer to call these people Internal Terrorists.

Because they’re unhappy with their life and job, and they are very busy living out that unhappiness.

These are the people you and your staff tend to find yourself working around. They are the barriers to progress. They are the wasp chewers who spend more time whinging than working.

When someone has been Actively Disengaged for some time, often the only answer is to fire that person and rid yourself of their toxic presence.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say, it’s virtually impossible to dramatically grow your MSP with them inside it.

The answer is greater engagement to have fewer team meetings. And more 121 meetings

One of the most inefficient ways to get your staff to do what you want, in the way you want it to be done, is to hold a team meeting.

No matter how big or small your team, getting everyone together to talk about the business and changes you’d like to make is not easy.

For a start there’s always someone missing. Either they’re off sick or there’s a crisis they need to deal with.

Then, getting the environment right for the meeting is difficult or expensive (especially if you have loads of staff).

And then often, those meetings are hijacked by the same loud people every time. They’re either the ones who love what the business does and like to enthusiastically talk about it. Or the ones who are quite negative about the business and don’t care who knows it.

Which of these people “takes over” the meeting depends on your personal leadership style.

The effect is that your meetings are easily hijacked, and the message about change and growth that you wanted to hammer home gets missed.

Especially by the very people you were desperate to hear it; the under performers who quietly keep their heads down at these kinds of meetings.

Get your team together to keep them motivated, celebrate success or have a social event. But if you are serious about improving their performance, you need to coach them 121 on a monthly basis.

Performance coaching is severely misunderstood in the UK, probably due to the prolific rise of the life coach in the early 2000s.

Forget life coaching – we’re talking here about meeting your staff 121 and using a specific questioning framework to get a better performance from them, long-term.

Top sports stars use coaches to help them improve their performance. Andy Murray credited his coach Ivan Lendl for his first Wimbledon win. He already had the skillset and fitness required. All Lendl did was help him change his attitude under pressure – the 1% change that ultimately made the difference

Coaching answers the question of “how do I get this person to do this, even though I don’t think they will want to.”

Because the whole point of coaching is that you never TELL people what to do. You ASK them.

You can’t persuade someone to do something as effectively as they can persuade themselves

Performance coaching is about you (or a senior member of your team) regularly meeting your people 121 to give them the support and guidance they need to change.

This needs to be done in the right environment. That’s probably not your office. Unless you have a dedicated meeting room with no interruptions allowed, it won’t do. You should only be interrupted if the building is on fire, not if there is a “perceived crisis”.

A better place to do 121s is Costa or Starbucks. It’s a light, friendly place to have what should only be a 20 minute meeting. And it gets everyone away from the day-to-day working environment.

Most owners can only cope with coaching a maximum of 5 to 7 people on a monthly basis. If you have more than seven direct reports, then you need to find senior colleagues who can coach as well. You could coach them on their coaching.

The whole point of coaching is to help someone to achieve something. They need to know when they have “won”. So you need to help each member of your team to decide on a goal they are working towards. They will be more engaged with the goal if they decide it themselves. Just make sure their goal fits into the business goals.

The structure of a coaching session is very simple, based on ASK not TELL. There are five core questions that I recommend you ask:

  1. What’s the goal you’re working towards?
  2. What were you working on from the last time we met?
  3. What’s gone well?
  4. What’s not gone so well?
  5. What are you going to do differently next time?

Of course, you don’t just sit there churning those out parrot fashion. Coaching sessions will soon become false if you do that.

But the 5 questions give you a framework with which to have a conversation. You’re getting intimately involved in their work, their mind, their performance. You’re giving them the opportunity to change the way they work.

Sometimes you need to drop into tell, especially when you need to demonstrate technical skill. After all, you are probably the most senior technician in the business.

But every time you tell someone something, you run a huge risk that they simply won’t remember it.

As the old training adage goes:

Tell me: I forget

Show me: I remember

Involve me: I understand

Rising superstars love to be coached. They love the 121 time spent on them and their development. They love that their ideas can be actioned, and feel an integral part of the business. They feel more valued. Which means they will stay with the business longer.

Under performing staff hate being coached. When it’s you and them, 121, and you’re asking all the questions, there’s nowhere to hide. That’s OK. They’ll either shape up or ship out.

And losing under performing staff is nothing to worry about. There’s always a better hire waiting out there to replace them.

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