How Should I Manage My First Employee?
Q. My business is growing and I’m getting ready to hire my first full-time employee, but I have never managed anyone before. Do you have any tips for how I can be an effective manager?
A. Hiring your first employee is a big step. You’ll want to make sure you help your new hire to maximize his performance. This can be a challenge because effectively managing people is difficult, and no one is born knowing how to do it. Fortunately, it can be learned. We suggest following four steps that are simple, but time tested:
Set appropriate goals – Goal setting is essential. It helps employees to prioritize their activities and focus their efforts. When setting goals with employees, it is critical that they be WHY SMART goals (Written,Harmonious, Yours, Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistically high, Time and resource bound). The goals must also be meaningful to the employee. There should be sufficient rewards for goal achievement and consequences for failure. This will ensure that achieving the goal will rise to the top of the employees “To Do” list.
Near the end of his life, H. L. Hunt, the self-made oil billionaire, was asked to name the requirements for success. He answered, “There are only two real requirements for success in life. The first requirement is deciding exactly what you want (setting goals). Most people never get to that point. The second requirement is determining the price that will have to be paid to get it and then resolving to pay that price.”
Develop a plan to achieve the goals – After setting goals with the employee, put together a plan to achieve them. To accomplish a goal, the employee will need to commit to a set of actions. A goal without an action plan is just a dream. It’s not real, and it’s not likely to happen. It’s equally important to agree on a date, and possibly a time, by when the employee will complete each action step. This will create the urgency necessary to get the work done in a timely manner.
Empower the employee – To maximize the probability that your employees achieve their goals, you must empower them. Empowering employees means three things. First, you must properly train your workers to do the tasks necessary to achieve their goals. Second, you will need to motivate your people. There should be rewards for success and consequences for failure. Finally, you should remove roadblocks that are within the company’s control. Following these steps will result in your employees more consistently achieving their goals.
Assess performance and make adjustments – Once the three steps above are complete, you have to assess performance and make any necessary changes. We’re not talking about annual performance evaluations. A formal write-up may only happen once a year, but effective management requires assessing performance much more frequently. For employees that are new to the organization or learning a new task, you may need to assess performance daily or perhaps even more frequently. Employees who have demonstrated competence may only require weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly meetings to discuss performance.
Managing people is difficult. It’s not an exact science, and there is no magic wand that will ensure you always get it right. In fact, you won’t always get it right. Even outstanding managers make mistakes. The good news is that managing people well is a learned skill. With work, you can improve your capability in this area. Doing so will take a concerted effort on your part, but if your company is going to thrive, your skills as a manager will be of paramount importance.