I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again here: we humans are an extremely complex species. Now while that “complex” is very often a fine thing, a lot of of other times it spells nothing but trouble – especially when it involves a group of people trying to cooperate but not doing all that well with it.
But complex or not, for the company owner, people are power, and anyone who has ever built a business from scratch will likely remember the importance of that first hire they made. And if that company founder was one of those extra driven, perfectionist-type entrepreneurs, then he or she will likely also tell you just how much sleep was lost in the weeks leading up to that first hire, as well as in that hire’s first few weeks on the job.
That sleep is of course lost for a good reason. If your business is your baby, then those first hires are your first babysitters. It is in fact a huge deal for the entrepreneur building his or her own company to be handing off work to someone else for the first time. There is so much concern about maintaining the level of quality that previously was controlled alone, and there are constant worries about whether that new hire is going to make mistakes – or going to be able to deliver at all.
As the company gets on and grows and takes on more hires, the nervousness that comes with each new hire tends to level off. You start trusting people more as you realise that yes, others are just as capable as you are, and – surprise – there are actually people out there who know a lot more about certain things than you do and are able to help grow your company in ways you alone could never manage!
If your business is your baby, those first hires are your first babysitters.
All that said, working with others is always a challenge in some form or another, and you will come across a good number of different personality types and working styles that will require varying management approaches.
And so we come to the heart of today’s article, which is to look at three particularly tricky types of workers who will often make you question what the best recourse is in terms of dealing with the challenges they can present. You may frequently tell yourself, “Enough is enough, this person has to go!”, only to do a 180 and be certain that the person is doing just fine in their job.
How you handle your team is perhaps the most important factor in defining you as an entrepreneur. So ask yourself as you are reading the below how you would react to the potential challenges and frustrations that come with managing employees like these.
1. The “no problem” guy
Typically a likeable fellow, the “no problem guy” (and yes, it’s usually a guy) is all about putting you at ease. This or that job? “No problem. I get it. I got it. It will get done.” Except you don’t see this person taking notes during a meeting, and your gut instinct tells you that the ball is going to be dropped. And, well, it often is. Now there can be different types of “no problem” guys. For example we could simply be dealing with the younger worker who has not yet learned what true accountability looks like. In that case, literally explaining often the importance of following through, as well as giving a few firm warnings, will likely see this individual come around and start demonstrating the acceptable level of accountability.
But there are also the habitual “no problem” guys who are just that way by nature. With these ones you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and see what value they bring in the bigger picture. Are they dropping the ball only sometimes but still pretty darn amazing on the whole?
However it plays out, frustration is typically the order of the day, and what is often required is you on the one hand finding the right balance in terms of how tightly you manage them, and on the other hand making peace with the situation (to a certain extent, anyway) by not expecting a night and day change. Again, it comes down to the bigger picture ROI. If the pros outweigh the cons, you’ll keep them around.
2. The “zero flexibility whatsoever” individual
These types are interesting indeed. Typically quite reliable, you can rest assured they will deliver each and every time on what they say they will deliver. But on the flipside they are very firm about not taking on any extra work whatsoever. And this means that in busy times when you would expect all team members to step up and contribute a bit more than the usual, they may not have your or the team’s back.
To be clear, they get enough work done in the bigger picture to justify their role. But you may encounter significant frustration if you view the lack of flexibility to take on new work during crunch time as an affront against you or the team. And it will in fact at times be quite difficult for you to not view as an insult their refusal to go the extra mile – especially if they are being asked to do so only very infrequently.
Again, as with the “no problem” guy, in dealing with the “zero flexibility” individual it usually comes down to you just making peace with a scenario in which the positives once again outweigh the negatives. And who knows? It’s very possible this person has a reason for being so rigid in his or her refusal to take on anything other than a fairly fixed workload.
For example, everyone handles stress differently, and many “zero flexibility” types are in fact perfectionists who need to keep a very tight level of control over the amount of work coming at them, because that is the only way they are able to deliver the right level of quality. They know that if the total workload gets even a bit too much, the overall quality drops, and accepting anything less than a very high standard of output is hard, if not impossible, for certain types of people to live with.
3. The “just do the basics” person
To be clear, this person is very different than the “zero flexibility” individual. The “zero flexibility” worker is not going to give you extra hours or take on a big workload, but he or she will do more than the basics when it comes to how the work is performed. That is, the “zero flexible” types will look for better ways to do the job and deliver to a higher quality; whereas the “just do the basics” people, on the other hand, are the types that only do what they have ever been shown. They won’t surprise you with any out-of-the-box thinking. They won’t go above and beyond what is required for them to keep the job. And they typically won’t take the time to research and learn new things or put in the effort to challenge themselves to deliver a 100% result instead of, say, just a 70% result. They simply, as the moniker implies, get the basics done.
The reason why this can be frustrating for you, the boss, is that while the work is just about always good enough for you to say, “Okay, fine, that works”, you will know in your heart that with a little more initiative the end result could have been taken up a notch or two or three. And if you are the type of boss who is looking for constant improvement in the form of new and better and more innovative ways to get things done, you will probably have a very hard time accepting the “just do the basics” worker’s way of thinking. You will probably consider it laziness, and your displeasure at an otherwise acceptable output will be hard to hide.
On the other hand, there are some clear advantages that you may come to appreciate. To mention the big one, there is the security of knowing that this person will just about always deliver something that is “good enough”. And so if he or she is in a job role or performing an activity at the company for which getting the basics done is indeed good enough, your frustrations will likely never rise too high, as you’ll be able to make an exception when it comes to easing up on your perfectionist tendencies.
Developing your team
Now let’s not pretend that indecision isn’t a huge part of entrepreneurial life. It’s there every day. And you will hover back and forth a lot of the time when it comes to some of the bigger choices. Certainly among those we can include the struggles you’ll face in trying to make sense of an employee who is on one hand getting the job done, but on the other not quite giving you that warm and fuzzy feeling.
What will help is to remember two things: 1) That a great deal of it is probably you; and 2) That no one is perfect. Yet for the first-time boss in particular this is not easy, and you will have to give yourself time to adjust. What you can do, however, is at the very least be aware of these two points and acknowledge the role they play in your acceptance of others.
So yes, while there are plenty of big mistakes and examples of laziness that will regularly force you to weigh up the pros and cons in order to take a decision on whether to keep someone or not, it is a lot of the time simply a different way of getting the job done – one which might not always make sense to you, but indeed still makes sense in the bigger picture.
Neil Petch; Chairman at Virtugroup
With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.