Endeavoring in any enterprise often shouldn’t be a solo venture. That’s a mistake most entrepreneurs and small business people make. The reasoning is sound. The rationale goes like this: “We’re a start up — there isn’t much money — I can’t afford to hire anyone to help me.” I felt that until there was a possibility of signing three accounts in one week. That current staff was inadequate to get the job done, so I decided to hire people to work on the accounts.
As decisions go, it was a sensible. The drawback was I didn’t hire people — just ‘occupants’ to sit at the desks. Relationships are developed with people. An ‘occupant’ knows that their tenure will be short lived, either because they are going to quit, or will be terminated. A relationship with ‘people’ is an investment in the future. If one can’t see employees as anything more than occupants, that revelation will never occur. Small wonder people walk away.
There are always good and bad warning signs where employees headed. A good sign is when, in speaking about the business, the employee uses the phrase “we are,” or “our company plans to,” That’s not a Freudian slip. It’s an indication that they want to belong. A bad sign is when the work is never done, or excuses are made justifying the delay. That particular individual feels justified walking off the job, or not even showing up.
We’re getting to that point where we need to fill a staff different position or two. I want colleagues, fellow laborers toward success. My former business partner suggested freelancers. That didn’t seem adequate. A freelancer may have other jobs lined up. They can be hardly expected to disclose their future ambitions. Will they truly answer that question: “Where you see yourself five years now?” Will they assume I’m trying to get into their personal business or concerned about where they fit into the fabric of company’s future?
Asking the question may aid me in establishing trust. Business relationships with colleagues, not ‘occupants,’ is healthy for the company. If you want to elevate the working relationship where the ‘employee’ is a colleague, there are at least six things that can may aid this more fulfilling working relationship.
- If it isn’t viewed as intrusive, ask the co-worker’s interests to discover a mutually beneficial way of matching your business needs with their interests. If they are unsure of where they want to end up in their career, opportunities that may be consistent with their experiences. The end design is to motivate the co-worker into going the extra-mile. Like it or not, you are a mentor.
- Assuming you have such a person on staff, partner that individual with the employee. That will assure that there is support within the organization.
- Include them in meetings. Their perspective and opinions may give a new insight on your business.
- Give them research oriented projects. I’m in advertising and before I pitch a company for business I need to know as much as possible on the company and its industry. A good researcher is invaluable.
- Have an open door policy. Again, you are a mentor.
- Have performance reviews but prior to that give regular feedback on status and how they are performing their jobs. I am always delighted when I find out one of my co-workers left to start their own agency. Usually, they didn’t have the gumption to do it until they became your co-worker. Regardless, feedback is important for professional development.
I read and hear people in the ad industry bellyaching about what they do is “just a job,” “trained monkeys can perform the same creative work.” Hogwash. I came from a background where work was to be an enjoyable experience because its part of who you are. Sometimes it’s okay for to veer away from rigidness and cynicism. When that day comes, if we are truly watchful, we will get colleagues and not “occupants at the desk.”
Catch you later,
Bernard Alexander McNealy