Monday, 18 May 2015

Billy’s Forty-Seventh Law: Don’t overlook your steady performers.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me that she felt underappreciated at work.  “I do exactly what is expected and yet I don’t think that I am perceived as a ‘rising star’ in the company.”  Although my friend works for a larger firm, I wondered just how common this might be in smaller enterprises. 

Some people are good at their jobs.  To use ‘familial language’ they are the sensible sons and the dutiful daughters.  They are always on time.  They are low maintenance. They always show up for work and put in extra time.  Often we overlook these individuals for praise or promotion. 

There are many career books and seminars coaching people on how to get the recognition they deserve in the work place.  I can understand this in a large corporation or organization.  In a smaller enterprise, this should never happen.  In large companies, the individual plans and executes his or her own career path.  In smaller enterprises, there is no excuse for this.  There should be no need.  As an owner or a manager in a smaller enterprise, the skills, abilities, potential and performance of each individual is apparent.  There simply is no place to hide.

The problem is management.  Just as we are acutely aware of the individuals, we should also be careful to manage well. We must not quit managing just because we do not need a change in behaviour.  These sensible sons and dutiful daughters are keeping our companies in business.  Consistency and reliability count.  Sometimes, as leaders (as someone once said, you manage tasks you lead people), we fail to do the obvious…lead those already going in the right direction. 

Many entrepreneurs manage by exception.  They only lead when something is wrong.  They fail to lead or manage when things are going well.  Now think of people.  If we only take action when the extraordinary occurs, such as a huge success or a major failure, we send the message that we are only interested outlier behaviours, and not in the 95% of behaviours and actions happening within the ‘normal’ range of activity. 
This is just plain dumb…yet it happens all of the time.  I know two things about all companies.  Firstly, they have people they should fire and have not done it yet.  Secondly, they have the steady performers whose contribution is invaluable yet who are not recognised and underappreciated.  This is a management failure…a leadership failure and a commercial failure. 
Many superstars are working for smaller firms, for less money than they could make for large corporations for life style and personal reasons.  As smaller enterprises, you probably cannot compete on wages, so we must work twice as hard by competing on environment. Recognition is one of the most important management roles in any organisation.  It is the most important thing in a smaller enterprise. 
By the way, if one of these ‘Steady Eddies’ begins to falter this is a warning sign.  Address the issue immediately.  You may be the source of the problem.    

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