JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s small business show Your Business and founder of GoodSearch.com, shares some tips on managing employees from her new book, It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business.
TIP 69: Set expectations high from the start.
From day one, you must make it clear that you expect employees to do their very best work for you.
I learned to do this early on from a woman I worked with at Cooking.com during my first job after business school. Whenever anyone new who worked under her would hand in their first project, she would ask them, “Do you think this is absolutely complete and your best work?” She then would give the employee a chance to go back and fix the work (if it needed fixing).
The key to making this effective is that she would not look at the work before asking the question. That way it never came off as criticism. It was simply a question—and a strong signal that she did not want to take the time to review anything that was halfway done. And if someone said they wanted a couple more hours to look things over, she was happy to give it to them. Letting her direct reports know right from the start that she wanted top-notch work ensured that people were challenged to do their best. Everyone loved working for her because she set the bar high and supported people in reaching it.
Watch out! There is a very fine line between encouraging good work and being condescending. And it’s all in the delivery. A condescending attitude from you will surely make your employees resent you. And, it’s important to let them know you don’t expect perfection, you just want the best work they can do. That’s only fair.
TIP 73: Keep your staff focused on the right priorities.
Problem: You don’t want to micromanage your staff, but you want to make sure everyone is focused on the right opportunities.
Solution: Tracy Randall, the CEO of Los Angeles–based Cooking.com (and my old boss), has a “daily check-in” with her management team where they each announce the top thing they are going to accomplish that day. Then, once a week, she has a quick meeting with each manager where they report on the top three things they’re going to accomplish that week and that month. The managers go through the same routine with the members of their team. This whole process takes just minutes but gives you the wherewithal to know what’s going on in the office and to redirect anyone who is spending too much time on something that is not important to the business.
In a similar vein, Danielle Snyder, cofounder of the New York company DANNIJO, says that since she’s often out of the office, she keeps track of what everyone is doing by asking all of her employees to create “Friday Reports.” These are quick emails sent at the end of the week updating Danielle on what was accomplished that week as well as on any concerns or ideas for improvements the employee has. These are not meant to be full-length reports, just quick bullet points to keep everyone in the know.
How I use this: When my brother and I hired Scott Garell as CEO of GoodSearch (after running it ourselves for five years), Scott implemented a “check-in” routine the very first month. I realized pretty quickly how much time I had been wasting trying to keep up with everyone’s individual progress on my own. Once Scott had us start quickly listing our priorities, I saw how much time he saved himself.
This is an excerpt from It’s Your Business: 183 Essential Tips That Will Transform Your Small Business by JJ Ramberg, with Lisa Everson & Frank Silverstein. Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Ramberg, Lisa Everson, and Frank Silverstein. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
JJ Ramberg is the host of MSNBC's Your Business and the author of It's Your Business: 183 Essential Tips that Will Transform Your Small Business.