I was reflecting recently on how many small business owners hire their employees. Too often entrepreneurs use the “Mirror Test” to evaluate acceptable candidates for a job. Here’s how the “Mirror Test” works. Out of simple desperation to find anybody who is willing to work, you hold a mirror under the nose of a potential employee. If the mirror fogs, you hire your next carpet cleaning technician immediately!
Stories like this make for great entertainment at cocktail parties. But evaluating prospective employees only by this “mirror testing” can be devastating to a business. Unfortunately, a lot of employers resort to this “desperation hiring” whenever they find themselves overwhelmed with work, but underwhelmed with help!
Well known leadership author Ken Blanchard has a different version of a business mirror test. His test has more to do with the consequences of using the mirror test to hire people than it does with actually hiring them. Ken explains his “Owner’s Mirror Test” (OMT) this way. “If you want to know why your people are not performing well, step up to the mirror and take a peek.” Ouch! Ken sure doesn’t have a problem getting right to the heart of an issue!
When an employee fails to perform up to our expectations, the reason can usually be traced back to a handful of decisions we’ve made along the hiring/development path.
After all, who’s responsible for running this cleaning company? It’s YOU- the owner of the company! So, when people don’t measure up to your expectations, it’s either because A) you didn’t bring the right people on board in the first place or B) it’s because you failed to develop the people you did bring on board! But sadly, it is a rare business owner who will accept full responsibility for the actions and results of the people who work for him.
Instead, we tend to blame everybody and everything under the sun. “You just can’t find good help today.” “Nobody wants to work anymore.” “Everybody wants a paycheck, but nobody wants to work.” The same, sad litany goes on and on.
So how can you change this destructive hiring behavior? Start by using the OMT and taking full responsibility for your hiring decisions. If the carpet cleaning technician candidates you have to choose from aren’t right for the job- keep looking. Just like looking for a marriage mate- the “right person” is always out there. Sometimes you just have to be more patient and more creative in your search.
Now if the techs you hire aren’t producing up to your expectations what can you do? First- you must ask some tough questions: What is needed? More training? Better development? Is dismissal indicated? Or do you just need to more clearly define what your expectations are?
Obviously there are reasons beyond your control for an employee not working out. Family issues may force changes in an employee’s attitude or force a decision to move. Or sometimes an employee just wants to pursue their own dreams outside your company. Or health issues can arise, a spouse may get transferred or sadly sometimes just plain old dishonesty emerges.
But, for the most part Ken’s “look in the mirror test” for small business owners is dead on. The performance of our people is your responsibility. And, the sooner you accept this responsibility, the better off you and your company will be.