One of the most devastating things that can happen to a business owner is being disappointed by a trusted employee.
What does this look like? Here’s one scenario:
A person whom the employer feels good about is hired. The usual steps are taken to verify that the employee is what the employer is looking for. The employee seems successful, often for a long time.
Then something changes. It could be in the employee’s personal life. Or the work load of the employee increases, typically incrementally, leaving the employee unable to keep up with the employer’s expectation. Or it could be both. The employee, eager to please and unable to do his work successfully, tells the employer that “It is taken care of” when nothing, in fact, is being handled effectively.
An incident that is not catastrophic brings to the employer’s attention the gap between what he was being told and what actually was happening. The employer starts looking at everything the employee was involved, finding there is a lot of fix-it work needed. As part of that process, past projects are visited and clients are queried. The scope of the rework items grows and grows. The employee is fired or decides to quit.
The company’s focus is now on getting all the needed tune-up work done, preventing it from getting the needed new business it depends on. The company spends a lot of money and man hours doing repairs that feel as if they’ll never get done. The owner is left feeling frustrated and depressed.
How to avoid this?
Tighten Up the Hiring Process
Look at what the company does to vet new employees. Check all references. Create interview questions that are based on the company’s past challenges. Ask open-ended questions, and ask follow-up questions after the prospective employee answers. Particularly with a key manager position, have as many employees as possible interview the prospective employee.
Trust and Verify
The new employee’s manager should gradually transfer more and more responsibility to the new employee. The key word is “gradually.”
Only by checking the work the new employee is doing can the manager verify that trust in the new employee is warranted. Yes, this takes time, but there’s no alternative that has a good outcome.
Early on, the manager and the new employee need to meet weekly. The agenda is the same for every meeting. The manager asks these two questions of the new employee: “What went well in the last week with your work at our company?” and “What in the last week could have gone better with your work at our company?”
The employee provides specific examples of both good and not-so-good actions and outcomes. The manager asks follow-up questions to truly understand how the new employee thinks. Then the manager answers the same two questions regarding the new employee’s work in the last week. Again, specific examples are essential. And asking the new employee what he thinks about what the manager is saying will help the manager learn more about how the new employee thinks.
At the end of the interaction the manager and the new employee agree on one thing that the new employee will get better at in the coming week. Doing this for four to eight weeks helps the manager learn a lot about how the new employee approaches working at the company.
Walk the Four Corners
This concept is from CEO Tools by Kraig Kramers: Simply walk around and check in with your employees, one by one. Be available and be interested in the work they are doing. Do this every couple of weeks, if not more frequently, being careful to avoid micro-managing.
By doing this the employer becomes more accessible and the employees trust the employer more. Because of the trust an employee is more likely to tell the employer something the employer needs to know, before a situation becomes a big problem.
To avoid feeling like no one in the world can ever be trusted is natural after a situation like this happens. However, it is important to put things in perspective as soon as possible.
Your employees and your clients need that from you, as you are a source of inspiration to them. Accept that no matter what you do such incidents will occur. Get focused on what you can control and better at living with what you cannot.