In my most recent Instructor’s Blog post I talked about how important it is to hire technicians who will hold our feet to the fire as owners and managers. But of course this idea of choosing employees based on what they can get out of us isn’t limited to only front line workers. Another critical hiring decision we make in our companies is when we hire an office manager and/or administrative person.
Frequently, we’ll hire the person we want rather than the person we need. We want someone who will do what we say, not question our authority, and maybe flatter us occasionally with comments about how great it is to work for us. Just like I talked about in last week’s post, what we need is someone who can make us “toe the line” and make us accountability. (One of Steve Toburen’s favorite phrases in his section of the SFS seminar is, “We all do better when we are held accountable.” And that goes double for entrepreneurs!)
So when looking at candidates to get your office up and running ask yourself: “Is this person strong enough to stand toe to toe with me and tell me when she disagrees with me? Is she strong enough to ‘call me on the carpet’ when she thinks my out-of-control spending habits are having a negative impact on the company? Will she call me out when she believes my behavior (tardiness, temper, lack of communication, etc.) is what’s really standing in the way of the company’s growth or affecting employee morale?”
When you hire the right person for your office, you no longer have to worry about the minute administrative details that are so critical to the growth of your businesses. Now you will be freed up to focus your attention on the higher level activities you really should be focusing on as the owner. But will you? Or will you fritter away this new found time on freedom on non-essential stuff. (I believe Steve has written widely on what he calls “Displacement Activities”- just “busy work” where you fool yourself into thinking you are doing valuable work.)
Now your ideal office manager will bring to your company the disciplines of accountability, thoroughness, and follow through. More importantly, she’ll insist on getting those disciplines from you! (Once again, maybe the most important gift an office person will bring to the table is forcing you to spend your time where you get the most “bang for your buck”. But that is another topic for another post.)
Then as your business continues to grow, you will eventually be faced with hiring managers. Many times, our first experience hiring a manager is when we promote someone who’s already in our company. Sometimes that works great—the person we’ve promoted is truly ready to manage, and he or she performs beautifully. But, too often, the main qualifications of the person we’ve promoted are simply that they’re loyal, hard working AND they’ve learned to put up with our idiosyncrasies. (Or even worse shamelessly flatter us!) Although I don’t want to diminish these qualifications, they’re not enough if we’re serious about growing our companies.
The question you must ask yourself as you consider people for management positions is whether they’re capable of moving YOU as the owner to higher levels of performance in your job. Will they help you become a better manager of managers AND yourself? This is not a small or easy task.
Frequently, what we want from this position is someone who will take away the headaches of managing our front line people on a daily basis. That’s fine. But what we also need is someone who can find better and more efficient ways of doing things…even if it means doing them differently from the way we did them. We need managers who will help us become more patient, more communicative, and more collaborative in getting input from our people before we shoot from the hip. Given that as a successful entrepreneur I assume you are a strong personality it follows that your best managerial candidate must be a very strong individual indeed!
So the next time you evaluate an upcoming hiring decision include an additional evaluation criterion. Ask yourself how good your prospective administrative assistant or manager will be at “getting the most out of you”? In fact, why not evaluate your current staff? If you’re getting anywhere near as much from your people as they’re getting from you then congratulate yourself on a job well done!