You Reap What You Let Grow

A green pumpkin that looks like a watermelonI am an amateur gardener: just how much of an amateur will soon be clear. My organic vegetable plot, fortified only by kitchen compost, grows whatever fruits and vegetables reseed themselves. This year I have slicing tomatoes, grape tomatoes, plum tomatoes: all in colors from yellow to red. But the best surprise was this watermelon vine. By early July it had this 6 inch fruit and I was psyched. EVERYONE in my  house likes watermelon.

A cat and 3 orange pumpkins

Tiners thinks pumpkins in August are stupid.

I let it take over. It climbed over my precious tomatoes and stunted my peppers with its shade. By the time I realized it was a pumpkin vine, it was too late. It’s mid August and I’m harvesting jack-o-lantern pumpkins at an alarming rate.

What does this have to do with your business? As an entrepreneur, you need to tend to your workers better than I tended my garden. You need to pay attention to the dynamics of your staff. If one employee gets disgruntled or insecure, discontent can fester faster than it took a pumpkin vine to strangle my garden. Pay attention to your employees’ interrelations and be prepared to step in. Nip it in the bud, as they say.

GOALS

  • When your employees interact, they should talk in a respectful manner, be willing to listen to differing opinions, and be tactfully honest.
  • When things go wrong, your staff should focus on fixing the problem instead of hurrying to assign blame.
  • Compliment your employees when you see them doing a good job. Ideally, they will pick up on your positive reinforcement and do the same with each other.

BARRIERS

  • Insecurity can wreak havoc on relationships. An insecure person will pick on others, often in the guise of “just messing around.”
  • Negative people are exhausting. People who can’t shut up while you are trying to think are exhausting. Often they are the same person.
  • A lazy worker in a group of hard workers will foster discontent.

Check in often with your employees. Focus on your goals for the team. Reinforce the good habits, and when you see employees who are fostering discontent, let them know. Likely they have no idea of the problems they cause. Like my pumpkin vine – they are just doing what they do.

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Puff the Magic Dragon

ice scuplture dragon lit with blue light

Ice Dragon sculpted by Dawson List

I don’t have to look at a Profit and Loss statement to spot weakness in a business. All I have to do is listen. Any time I hear an employee shoot out a sharp exhale of breath, I know there’s a problem in that cave. That puff of air indicates frustration, and frustration is the fire-breathing killer of productivity.

Almost everyone wants to be productive. Your employees all WANT to do a good job and do it efficiently. They become frustrated when their efforts at productivity are thwarted. The problem is: most people don’t seem to see frustration as an indication that change is needed. Either they don’t realize how frustrated they are, or they know they’re frustrated but don’t think they can ask for a solution. . . I’m not really sure where the disconnect is. I have noticed that the source of irritation is often easily fixed. Some of the most common productivity-killers I have noticed are:

  • a lame stapler – if you have to use a stapler 40 times a day and it jams every other time, that’s a lot of frustration and time lost. $20 fixes the problem.
  • a bad mouse – if you see an employee slapping their mouse against the mouse pad in exasperation, tell them to order themselves a new mouse. They will love you forever.
  • running out of ink – we all have printers and they all need ink. If you keep a constant back up supply of said ink, there is no problem. If you wait until the ink runs out and then have to have someone run to the store in the middle of the day because all operations have ceased due to the lack of a printer, frustration will ensue. Your employees can’t work without the proper supplies. Keep the supply cabinet filled with ink, paper, envelopes and stamps. It’s just good business sense.
  • slow computers – I know – this one is a bit more complex than purchasing some ink. But slow computers are brutal to work with and something must be done. The good news is: some teenager you know can likely disable your cupcakes or add some rams or clean up your cache or some other thing that speeds everything up like magic.

These are just the things I have noticed lately. What drives you crazy at your job? Can you fix it?