Know what happens when leaders cannot focus on the business? It fails. Shocking right?!?
Not really. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to put that together. Yet, leaders who are in the thick of it, running a business without really focusing on the business, find themselves with a failed venture and no idea where it all went wrong.
There are tons of things that can take leaders focus away from their business. While I have no statistics to back this up, my years of experiences tell me that the number one thing that takes up most of a leader’s time is employee relations.
Because working with people is hard.
I say that only half joking.
Last week I published a post about providing employees with a safe place to complain. In too many businesses across the nation, that place is a leader who should be focusing on the business. A leader who really isn’t equipped to handle these complaints. A leader who needs to push these things off to someone else so they can keep the business afloat.
That isn’t to say that employee issues aren’t important and leaders shouldn’t be involved. Of course they should. But in businesses that are struggling, we often find leaders who are spending way too much time on other things.
There are a few ways leaders can regain control over the time they spend on employee issues. Getting this large time suck under control can completely change the trajectory of a business.
Stop the Drama
Even though the working world is comprised of adults, many of the issues employees have are nothing more than unnecessary drama. It is important that leaders take a no tolerance approach to needless distractions. If the talk in the office plays out like a Real Housewives episode, leaders must intervene and put a stop to it. Let employees know that avoidable drama will not be tolerated and will be treated as a behavioral problem.
Drama perpetuates drama. The more a leader accepts this type of behavior, the more it will continue. The bottom line is that if employees are spending time on superfluous things, they are not focusing on their own work.
If they aren’t focusing and the leader isn’t focusing, who is?
Supervisors with very little leadership experience may pass on employee issues simply because they do not feel equipped to handle them. These leaders should be trained and empowered to handle your smaller, run-of-the-mill issues.
One of the most effective and quickest ways to do this is to ask the supervisor what they think should be done in a certain situation. This gets them thinking about how they might handle it rather than relying on the leader to do so. Then, if their suggestion makes sense, do that. If the suggestion does not make sense, treat it as a learning opportunity so that they will be better next time. The more they see that they really can handle these situations, the more they will be willing to do so.
Give Employees a Different Outlet
The reality is that some complaints from employees are legitimate. A leader should be careful in squashing all employee drama because some of it could be about things legitimately threatening to the business. Employees need a safe place to complain, but that doesn’t have to be the CEO. Putting a proper grievance procedure in place that address legitimate concerns while putting a stop to irrational ones can alleviate a ton of stress from leaders. This process needs a human at the end, but this person can be your head of HR or any leader who employees trust to handle issues with discretion. This human should also be someone who knows how to put a stop to unneeded drama. The grievance process should be documented and have a clear progression. Employees should know what they can expect after filing a complaint as it relates to follow up and closure.
Leaders need to focus on the business. Engaging with employees and handling major complaints are a necessary part of business, but letting those complaints take over can be detrimental to business longevity. Getting a handle on these issues can massively change a leader’s ability to focus.
Ironically, many leaders may not realize how much time they are spending on these issues. It is important to take stock of where time is spent and see if employee concerns are a big part of it. If they are, it may be time to implement one or all of the above methods to help take back crucial time.