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Papa Olabode: Trust Your Employees

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Ade Olabode_2One of the biggest worries every business owner has is the question of how to ensure employees do the best for the company. This question takes greater importance as you realise that you can’t be there in every single situation to offer guidance, instructions, or counsel. That’s why some business owners resort to micro-managing their staff. They view micro-management as the only option to guarantee things are done properly and in a consistent manner.

But is it really effective? I don’t think so. From my numerous interactions with business owners over the years, I’ve noticed that the most effective workers are those that are trusted.

Now I know ‘trust’ is a funny concept in Nigeria. It can be seen as being gullible or not ‘street smart’ to trust people. The Nigerian economy also provides the wrong incentives for people to be dishonest or being seen to be ‘clever’. It’s no wonder that we have trust issues.

However, in the work environment, trust has a tremendous positive impact. According to Harvard Business Review, “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

In other words, trust is a competitive advantage that helps your business bottom line.

How do you go about trusting your employees? I run a startup – PrognoStore – it’s point of sale and inventory software for small business to manage their retail stores, and below are the 3 main areas to work on:

Share information
For your staff to be effective, they need sufficient information about your company. I know it’s common for business owners to wrongly think information is ‘sensitive’ or ‘top-secret’, whereas, it’s simply untrue. You can’t expect people to operate with a degree of autonomy, without knowing what’s going on.

An example of information to share? The goals of the company; not in a wishy-washy type of way, but continuously communicating what’s important for the firm to achieve, ideally, in a specific time frame.
Personally, I think having routine updates works out best. For instance, I send out a weekly email touching upon what’s on the horizon. This gives me the flexibility to shape the focus of the team depending on priorities.

You should also ensure you don’t have silos in your company, where people don’t know what to do, or who’s doing what. A good way to avoid that is by having processes and procedures clearly documented.

Remember, the point of sharing information is to empower people to take actions – that you would have taken yourself.

Allow people use their initiative
This is important, folks! You have to give people space and resources to use their initiative. The reality is that you can’t think of all scenarios and outcomes in advance for you to plan the right course of action or response. Your employees taking the initiative is trust in action.

Resist the urge to second-guess the exact steps – focus on the outcome. This is where you hold back from saying things ‘I wouldn’t have done it like that’. Or even worse, ‘you should do it my way’. Yes, they might get it wrong sometimes but the long-term payoff of your employees acting independently is immense.

Recognise excellence
When an employee goes over and beyond the call of duty in executing a task or on a project, what’s your reaction? Do you act like ‘well that’s why I employed you in the first place’ in response, and ignore. You will be doing yourself and your employee a disservice by not recognising great work. First, it shows your appreciation for the job done. Secondly, it acts as a beacon for other employees to follow.

Finally, there’s no hard and fast rule to do any of this, but remember the goal is to hold your staff accountable without micromanaging them. But more importantly, trust your people so they can be their best.

I would love to get your take, please feel free to share in the comments.

Papa Olabode is an adviser to small business owners. He's the co-founder & CEO of PrognoStore (www.prognostore.com), the Point-of-Sale Software for small businesses. PrognoStore is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics to be all you need to run your store. He's a chartered accountant and has previously worked at Deloitte, Credit Suisse and co-founded HGE Capital. Follow on Twitter @papaolabode

2 Comments

  1. Tee

    April 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Another excellent article.

    “You can’t expect people to operate with a degree of autonomy, without knowing what’s going on.”

    This line right here. I worked for a start up where I was constantly gaslighted, working till 3am, starting by 6 am. I was doing the work of a whole team alone, with no clarity on the job or any support when I tried to ask questions. I was treated like a fool and insulted by execs whenever I asked for clarity or support. When I made mistakes on the job, I was embarrassed openly for it. Employers forget that they employ human beings, not robots. I started losing weight, my hair was falling off, constant migraines, my whole life was falling apart because of one job. I was working like a horse, multitasking and severely underpaid,. No one was keeping me in the loop but they expected me to read their minds by magic, it seems. Their communication skills sucked major balls.

    I really believed in the vision of my employers and wanted to excel on the job so much that I put everything on the line, including my relationships, my health. However, they never saw my value and never allowed me to grow, micromanaging and insulting my work at every turn.

    Eventually, they lost me. I will never ever put that effort into any company that doesn’t see my worth and contributions.

    Employers, please offer support to your staff. If they ask questions or seem confused please offer clarity. In the end, your employees are pushing YOUR dream forward. Remember that.

    All ye startup employers and execs, read this article and learn. Biko!

    • Ade

      April 4, 2017 at 9:50 am

      @Tee hanks for sharing your experience. And I definitely agree that that employers need to be more supportive of their staff.

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