What to do when you find your employees not working

Confession:  This was my biggest problem of being a leader.  I would often leave my office and walk around to check on my employees to see what they were doing, only to find them messing around on tasks that had nothing to do with their job.  Sometimes they were doing things that were part of their job description, but they had more important tasks they should have been doing. 0

And I would get ticked off.  I’d storm back into my office and think to myself “why am I paying these people?  They’re costing me $XX.XX/per day and they’re not accomplishing anything”.

After I cooled down, I would go back to their desks and say (in my most condescending voice) “hey… what’cha doing?”.  I would hear responses like “nothing really” or “I’m just in between stuff” or “I’m just trying to figure out _______”.   Not very often was I OK with their answer.  Their answer was never “Oh, I just figured out how to make the company another $100,000 this year!”.  They didn’t say it out loud, but what they were really telling me is that they had nothing to do.  Woops… that’s the leaders fault, not theirs.

When I hired my first empHow To Hire Great Employeesloyee, I said “hey, you’re going to be helping out around here”.  He knew that he had to handle one division of our company (again as you might have seen in previous articles, took up about 50% of his time), but we never really discussed what he would be doing with the rest of his time.  I knew what I wanted him to do…  I wanted him to do all the stuff that I did, all the stuff I didn’t like doing, and all the stuff that I didn’t know needed to be done and more.  Crystal clear, right?  Wrong.

Not giving your employees a clear and defined job description is the most unfair thing you can do to them (and you, and your company).  I got better at this.  After several years of hiring employees and being frustrated, I finally figured it out.  I spent time during the hiring process to explain all of the things that their job included.  I also talked about the “community” jobs that were the responsibility of everyone, such as taking the garbage out, cleaning up after yourself, answering the phones, making sure the lights were off and things were put away at the end of the day.

I came up with a list of things to do when there was nothing to work on.  Dave Ramsey talks about in his EntreLeadership book about “Key Results Areas” or KRAs.  It is an agreement between the leader and the team member of what the formal job description is.  I love when he talks about his Director of First Impressions (this is the person who answers all the phones calls that come in and sits in the lobby in his office building).  Her job description (or KRA) is very detailed… all the way down to the fact that the call has to be answered in two rings or less, and that no one is on hold for more than 17 seconds.

Think about that.  “All calls must be answered in 2 rings or less, and no one is on hold for more than 17 seconds”.  That does three things:  1) It gives clear expectations on how she should do her job, and gives her the opportunity to exceed expectations.  2)  It sets a bar for the company.  It lets her and everyone else know that the company has high standards for the way that they interact with customers.  3)  It also anticipates the need for growth.  When call volume gets so high that they’re unable to answer the phone in two rings, or people are consistently getting put on hold for minutes at a time, it might be time to hire another person.

Giving your team members clear expectations of their job (and how their work fits into the bigger picture) is the mark of a truly great leader.  Holding them accountable is also important.  At the end of every week, I asked my employees to write up a quick review of what they did that week (another awesome tip I learned from Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership content).  This will encourage your team members to go back and think about how productive they were for the week.  Ramsey also has a couple of other really great ideas for this weekly review, but I’ll encourage you to just read the book to find those out what they are.

Assuming that you’ve hired rock stars that are on your team to WIN, then you’ll never stroll through your office again wondering if people are working or not…. now you should get back to work yourself, your employees are wondering what you’re getting done today.

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