Over the last twelve months or so, I have to admit to toning down my addiction to reading articles on social media or at least choosing my sources wisely. Let’s face it, a lot of content is simply not worth the effort. What this means is that when I do come across a useful article, it really captures my attention.
The article I am referring to was on LinkedIn written by Scott Hoover titled ‘The Difficult Size Of 7 To 35 Employees’ . Why did it make my day?
Firstly, Scott is an experienced CFO (and Pastor to boot!) and succinctly described common challenges of business owners in the Zone Of Pain – 7 to 35 employees and possibly up to 50 or more – where the company is too big for the owner to personally track and manage everything, but too small to truly have others do it without them being involved. In particular, he highlights several frustrations including having a weak pulse on the company. With already too much to do, it can be particularly stressful trying to have the right data at on’e fingertips for decision-making and improving things. It’s definitely worth a read.
However, the thing that really jumped out at me from this article is that Scott was able to articulate better than we could the reasons why we decided to create My Employee Life in the first place. You see, we too are a company under 50 employees, and we were having our own Zone Of Pain struggles with three things in particular:
- We needed a better way of making sure we were all clear about important things like expectations, commitments, and standards, to give everyone a fair opportunity to do a good job. We were spending too much time on things that didn’t really matter, juggling things that weren’t really important to success. This isn’t about more data, it is about making sure everyone is on the same page. There is nothing that wastes time more than a lack of clarity.
- We needed a better way to ensure we were all accountable for doing what we said we would do, and quickly figure out if something was off-based or if there were any risks we needed to know about now. Ideally in as close to real-time as possible. Lag measures are kind of useful, but we really needed to make sure we were holding ourselves accountable for the lead measures and actions that would really power our success. We started to refer to these as success habits, and we wanted a simple way to make sure they were happening.
- We didn’t want to subject our team members to crazy performance review processes that didn’t actually improve performance and created unwanted tensions between people. Like many companies in the Zone Of Pain, there isn’t a lot of spare time and subjecting our team members to crazy processes makes no sense. Sure we are trying to achieve our ambitious goals, but we didn’t like the idea of introducing unnecessary chaos or tensions.
Our idea was to create a simple online platform that could give everyone (and in particular, the business owner) enough confidence that we were doing what we could to avoid unnecessary chaos. We figured that if we focused on clarity and removed things that don’t really matter, we wouldn’t have to invest in expensive systems before we needed them. At the same time, we wanted to create a culture where everyone felt empowered to do their best and not be constrained by too many crazy processes that could negatively impact performance. We figured the trick was not to overspend on the sexy stuff (AI, analytics), and instead double down on simplicity and working towards what we now refer to as a performance drumbeat.
We have been working on, using and improving ‘My Employee Life’ for several years now, and whilst it is in a way embarrassingly simple, it does exactly the job it needs to do. Everyone in our company is always clear about expectations and standards, which is really good for their stress levels. Everyone is taking responsibility for their own performance and reflecting each week on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what needs to happen next week. Everyone is holding each other to these commitments in a respectful way. Most importantly, our conversations are more effective because we haven’t replaced them with technology! This leaves less room for confusion.
Have we got it right? We are constantly evolving and there are plenty of mistakes we have made a long the way. But a business owner with less stress on their plate is a pretty good place to start!
- Date - September 23, 2019