Enabling Our Employees

About a month ago my partners and I were discussing that we had to start doing a better job of enabling our employees. There’s a natural progression from training, to getting most of the work done on your own, to complete mastery and ownership of a process. We realized that maybe we were unintentionally inhibiting that last part by being too quick to jump in and take control at the first sign of trouble. You have to be allowed to struggle through the problem solving process, even if it means failing sometimes, to attain that mastery. We resolved to do a better job this year.

At that same meeting we separately discussed our general feeling of frustration when it came to finding enough time to work on what we viewed as our most important projects. Increased “owner work” (HR, insurance, legal, accounting, facility management, managing employees, etc) combined with busier lives from owning houses, getting married, and the like all combined to seemingly make it difficult to find the time to focus on the programming, marketing, and other work that we feel is critical to growing in 2014 and beyond.

Then the light bulb went off. What’s the one thing that our employees do exceptionally well that we still meddle in? Running the day to day operations in the warehouse. Often times when I’m in, if I’m not working with the guys on specific projects, I kind of just get out of the way and let them run the show. They effectively manage almost everything that can happen on a given day, including managing the part-time employees. The other guys felt the same.

Thus we decided that we could accomplish both enabling our employees and freeing up our own by simply going into the warehouse less. Less commutes. Less preparing lunches. More alone time to work.

Previously we had an owner at the warehouse all day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday’s we meet and work together. We decided to each take one day, leaving them alone on Monday and Wednesday. On the days we do go in, we decided that our focus should be on anything that we need to do with them in person: meet, work on projects, training, etc. When that’s done, we should just head home so we can get more work done at home. I know I get a hell of a lot more done in my home office than I do in a room with a group. If there’s a week where we feel we’re better suited to stay at home – either because we don’t have much to go over with them or because we’re working on something important – we should just stay home.

We sent out an email and since then there hasn’t been much discussion about it. Everyone took it in stride. I think that was a sign that the timing was right. The inmates ran the asylum for the first time in 2011. Now I’m happy to say that they run it every day.

5 comments on Enabling Our Employees

  1. Leigh says:

    Every time I read one of your employee-centric posts, I wish I could have worked for you before I started my business! The one job I truly loved and excelled at was the one where I was given the most freedom. My boss didn’t care how I did something; he just cared that it got done. My nightmare job was the one where I was not allowed to e-mail any of my off-site contacts. If a contact preferred e-mail communication, I had to go to my supervisor and ask her to send an e-mail. When the contact responded, my supervisor would print the e-mail and give it to me. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Thanks for the kind words Leigh. That’s horrible over-management on the part of your old supervisor. I’m sure you’re glad you don’t work there anymore!

      People who print out email and treat it like snail mail always fascinate me. I’ve encountered a few people who print all of their emails, hand-write responses, and have a secretary type them back in. The inefficiency, by pretty successful people no less, is mind boggling.

  2. […] timing of this read was good for me. We recently started a new schedule where my partners and I spend even less time at the warehouse, both to empower our employees and […]

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