Streamline your processes to escape employee hand-holding
Tired of spoonfeeding staff? Zoe Whitman explains how good systems, processes and decent software has enabled her to empower her team to work autonomously.
One of the new clients we’ve taken on this month is a letting agent. The business is using a piece of specialist software none of our other clients use so there’s been a new process for us to learn.
It makes sense for as many of the team as possible to know what’s involved, but I don’t want to have to sit down with each new addition to talk them through it, and this got me thinking back to the article I wrote last month about training staff effectively.
I think effective management is about empowering my team to work autonomously most of the time whilst ensuring they know when they need to get me involved. I can only do this by having good systems, processes and decent software.
What we’re doing at But the Books is by no means perfect, but with a baby in tow, I have had to think hard about how to make sure the team knows what to do without me always being there.
Maybe that means I’ve had a bit of a head start with the automation some practice owners are desperately trying to put in place so as a follow up to last month’s article, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to streamline my life as a manager as much as I can.
Setting the team up for the week
I like to start the week by making sure my team know what’s going on. Of course they manage their own workloads, but there will be things I know about which they simply don’t, and perhaps things that somebody’s working on which they don’t all know about.
I like to start Mondays with a weekly video. I say this like it’s a massive production. It’s not. It’s simply me talking to the webcam, maybe sharing my screen if there’s something specific I need to talk about.
The video is a chance for me to update the team in five minutes without interruptions. I film it from home, meaning I don’t need to be in the office, I don’t need to sit and type out anything complicated, I can simply talk through what’s on my mind, and my part-time team can watch it whenever they start their weeks - whether that’s a Monday or a Thursday.
I cover priorities for the week, reminders about deadlines, updates on who’s in the office as well as my own availability, but it’s also an opportunity to give an update on new clients, meetings I’ve had, and news about our business.
In an ideal world, we’d all stand around and have a chat, and we do of course speak in person, but recording a quick video gives everyone confidence that they’re prioritising the right things whilst not sitting wondering about something they won’t find out about until the next time I’m in.
Manage workload with software
We use Monday.com to manage our workload. We’ve used spreadsheets in the past, and we found that Trello worked quite well for a long time. I think that finding a tool which works for us has played a huge part in making sure the team runs well without me.
We can list tasks, allocate them to different team members, comment, add attachments, ask questions, colour code… all those good things you need when you’re managing workloads.
From my point of view, it means that at a glance, I can see who’s doing what, where the team are stuck and need my input, and whether we’re going to face any delays.
I don’t need to micromanage anybody because they can see what they need to do and they have a mechanism for flagging problems to me when they come up against something.
Avoid becoming a bottleneck
One huge problem when you run a small business is that people are often waiting for you to answer questions before they can move on. The best way I can see to manage this is to make sure the team has the best chance of getting their questions answered without me needing to be involved.
Last time I wrote about how I record training videos for the team so I don’t need to train people in person, and also so they have something to go back to should they need a refresher. As with the new lettings software, ensuring as many people as possible are trained, means the team can often work together to come up with a solution without me always needing to be involved.
Make yourself available
All being said, we are humans and sometimes we all need a chat. I simply can’t automate everything so it’s important to make sure I’m available sometimes.
Yesterday I spent 45 minutes in the office answering questions from the team. Although it can seem a little frustrating when there’s something I really need to do and it’s probably the only opportunity I’ll have to do it all day because the baby’s asleep, 45 minutes of my time yesterday meant that three people were able to work pretty much without my help all week. I see that as a very good return on my time.