I was speaking with Jay Henderson, a management and people performance expert, about CPA practice owners and how often we can get in our way when it comes to managing people. He’d read a study from the Harvard Business Review that said the number one reason people leave a business is the direct boss. “They don’t leave businesses,” Henderson stressed, “they leave bosses.”
If this is true, how can we, as practice owners, stop tripping over our own bad managing habits and start retaining happier team members?
A good first step is to look at our mistakes. Henderson shared three of the most common management mistakes he’s observed:
- Too Busy. Henderson points out that we’re often so busy as practitioners and under so much pressure to get day-to-day things done that we fail to invest time in our people, to mentor and coach them to be a success at their job. “Like Michael Gerber says, we’re working too much in our business, and not enough on our business We’re not taking the time to become good managers.”
- Poor Systems. “You can put good people in bad systems and it will kill their performance,” says Henderson. Likewise he says, “You can put bad people in good systems and really improve their performance.”
- Being Too Logical. There’s an old quote that Henderson just loves. “Work is logical, but performance is psychological.” He suggests that in dealing with people, we tend to forget that logic doesn’t always take into account the human element. It brings to mind a frustrated boss growling, “Why doesn’t he just do it this way?” People have different ways of learning, and different ways of translating learning into performance – both of which are influenced by experience, emotions, and so much more that’s “illogical” and…well, human. Sometimes as managers, we forget.
Now that we’ve identified three potential stumbling blocks, how can we overcome them?
“I think a great definition for management is getting results through others,” shared Henderson. With that definition in mind, here are some of his pearls of wisdom for improving our people management skills:
- “You have to have the right people in the right jobs firstly. If you don’t, you are going to be fighting a useless, mentally draining, stressful battle.”
- “There are some problems that cannot be managed, no matter how good our own skills are as a manager,” Henderson concedes. That’s why, he says, “it’s critical to make sure we’re hiring the right people.”
- Have clarity around the role a person is going to perform before they start. “Communicating clear expectations, having really clear guidelines and accountability is really important for good management.”
- Where is that employee coming from? Maybe we need to share their perspective. “A lot of times we don’t stop to get into the world of the performer,” says Henderson. “Check where they are, how they are perceiving things.”
Do you have courage enough to own up to your people-managing weak spots? Which of Henderson’s observations rings true to you?
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All my best,