In the past six years, my wife Jodi and I have launched three businesses and hired and fired employees along the way. We've learned the hard way that there are certain things that can derail our team members' daily productivity. This isn't a surprise. Entrepreneurs are often stressed and they transfer that stress onto their employees, making them less productive.
Earlier this month, while in Portland, Ore. for entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau's World Domination Summit, I decided to ask as many people as I could what their bosses had done in the past to get in the way of their productivity. Here are four answers I kept hearing:
- "They micro-manage me. I know how to prioritize my work."
- "They don't acknowledge the work I've done. They only notice what's left to do."
- "They surprise me with questions I wasn't prepared to answer about the business."
- "They call or stop at my desk and talk nonstop about personal things while I'm trying to get work done."
You might be so caught up in your own stress that you don't realize you're causing your own employees stress on a daily basis. When your employees are stressed out, they are unproductive and ineffective.
Here are three ways you might be derailing your employees' productivity without realizing it:
1. You ask the question: "Do you have a minute?"
There are three kinds of conversations you have with people every day: ones that build relationships, transactional ones or opportunity development ones. "Do you have a minute?" is usually the lead-up to a transactional conversation. This is problematic for two reasons. First, what you're about to ask is going to take longer than a minute to answer. Regularly interrupting employees' workflow sends the message that you don't value or respect their ability to focus and get things done. Secondly, they may not be in a position -- physically or mentally -- at that very moment to have the conversation.
The next time you need some time with an employee, send them an email to tell them exactly what you need "a minute" for, if possible, 12 to 24 hours in advance so they can prepare.
2. You dictate without asking what they need to better do their job.
One of my favorite ways to engage everyone around me to be more productive is to end our conversation asking what they need from me in order to get a task done. I like to ask: “Now that we've talked about that, what can you think of that you'll need to ask me about over the next 72 hours?”
One of my clients, Joe Bruzzese of www.Sprigeo.com, an online bully reporting website and education program, began doing this and found that in one week's time, five of his team members asked a total of 27 questions when he ended conversations this way. His big takeaway: They would have had those questions at some point, and because they talked earlier, they were able to handle more on the front side.
3. You send mixed messages about your company's goals.
Make it a point to remind your team of your main purpose. This may seem obvious, but one of the biggest ways to derail your employees from being productive is sending them mixed message about your company's end-goal and overall message.
Being clear about your company's goals makes it possible for everyone to set their own priorities and be their best every day. By being more engaged in work we believe in, our stress is lower and we get more done.
Over the next week, carry a notecard with you everywhere you go. Keep track of how many times you interrupt or distract employees in these ways. You just may see, you're actually causing them stress. Minimize the stress and they'll ultimately get more done.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.