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Edition 167 – Alignment

By and large, in most family businesses, you have three types of employees:

  1. Dynamos – the keen, eager, ambitious types.
  2. Reliables – that know their stuff, can manage people, projects & clients & pitch in deeper when it’s needed.
  3. Plodders – the ones that are happy to turn up each day and get on with it, with minimum fuss.

There is actually a fourth category of employee – the recalcitrants. For the most part, they should be ex-employees – but that’s a conversation for another time.

Whilst the personality traits, work ethic and ambition of your different employee types will differ, there are two things that will always impact on their performance inside of your family business:

  1. A lack of clear direction and instruction from the owners of the family business.
  2. Stuff going on in their non-work life.

In terms of the former, too many businesses simply don’t sit their team down often enough and let them know:

  1. What’s going on in the business.
  2. Where the business is heading.
  3. Why it’s heading in that direction.
  4. What assistance the owners require to move towards the destination.
  5. What the reward is for the team if they align their direction with that of the business.

As the family business owner, if you’re prepared to invest in engagement, your team will, for the most part, invest in alignment, irrespective of the type of employee they are. For those employees that don’t align, decisions will need to be made by either or both parties to part ways.

If, on the other hand, you have employees that do have stuff going on in their non-work life, and it happens to be impacting their work performance, remember this:

  1. You can’t control the non-work stuff.
  2. You should, however, be aware of it.
  3. You should invest time as a human being (but not as a counsellor) with them, checking in and making sure things are OK.
  4. You should let them know you’re prepared to help them – provided they continue working with you at the level you expect them to.
  5. You should continue to invest in the process until work performance is detrimentally impacted.
  6. If that point should arise, be prepared to make a tough call.

From my experience, most individuals that are cared for by their employer, when their non work life is bumpy, will return the investment through increased alignment.

You don’t have to continually hold their hand or lend them money – you just need to lend an ear.

For if you do, you may find it’s not only their alignment that improves, but so does that of the remainder of the team. If the team observes you’re prepared to help people, but by the same token, not reward ongoing poor work performance, you show leadership qualities of compassion, strength and persistence.

Almost every family business owner I know tells me dealing with people is the hardest part. Perhaps if they invested at the front end, rather than when things are turning pear shaped, life might be easier.