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Three Tips for Increasing Employee Performance that I Learned From My Daughter

Three Tips for Increasing Employee Performance that I Learned From My Daughter

I recently allowed my 10 year old daughter to stay home alone for the first time while my husband and I took an exercise class.  Before we left, we gave her all the typical rules- don’t open the door, don’t answer the phone unless it’s us, and call us if there is an emergency.   Fast forward … my cell phone rings five minutes before the exercise class ends.  It’s dear daughter… “Mom, there is no fire, but there is a lot of smoke in the house”.  I start to panic, but calmly ask her “are you ok, what happened??”  She decided to defrost a small brownie in a hard plastic bowl in the microwave oven.  After 2 full minutes- the brownie liquefied and the plastic started to melt and crack.  Fortunately all was well when we got home. It reeked of plastic, but she didn’t get burned or set the house on fire.

In discussing what happened (and how to prevent similar accidents in the future), my husband and I came to a few conclusions:

1.  She never uses the microwave when we are home and she made the decision to cook something

while we weren’t home so she could impress us with her ability to be independent.

2.  She did not know how to properly cook anything in the microwave besides boiling water in a glass


3.  I failed to remind her not to “cook” anything while we were out.

The events that transpired in this story made me think about the employee in a small business that, like my daughter, attempts to be proactive and impress the boss, yet demonstrates poor performance.   Who is at fault?  Is it the employee who tries, fails and gets blamed for doing something wrong, or is the business owner who fails to set expectations and does not provide clear direction?

In your business, if you want your employees to work independently and demonstrate good judgment as they represent your brand, you must be crystal clear about your expectations, rules, processes and procedures.  You must reward them when they succeed and hold them accountable when they don’t.  Here are three tips to consider implementing in your business ensure your employees are demonstrating high performance:

1.       Document Processes, Procedures and Best Practices

If you want something done a certain way, you need to really think about the process and clearly document each step in the task.  Some processes may seem so obvious to you, but they may not be to your employees.  In addition, your employees may decide to complete a task differently than you would.  If you want something done a certain way you need to specify it in writing and make it available to employees.  A documented process can be as simple as a checklist.  It just needs to be accurate, current and easy to follow.  If the process is long or complex, then you need to break it into smaller processes.  Creating a spreadsheet of my daughter’s favorite microwavable foods including prep and cooking times would have saved us from an almost emergency.

2.       Train Your Employees

Some processes are self-explanatory, for example: turn out the lights and lock up before you leave.  Other more complex tasks require you to train your employees. Spending a few minutes with them to review documented processes helps them understand the value and importance of doing something a certain way.  An excellent way to facilitate training is to have your employees get together and document a process as a group.  This way they will learn from each other, have insight into what is involved, gain ownership of it, and you can see if there are any gaps in their understanding of the process.

 3.       Reward your employees and also hold them accountable

If you have set clear expectations with your employees, trained them and provided them with the tools and processes to do their job, don’t ever forget to reward them.  Stopping by for 5 minutes and saying “great job on getting that task done” goes a long way –especially if you complement them in front of their peers. Rewards don’t have to be monetary, for most people recognition in small, frequent and meaningful ways is more important.  Likewise, if employees fail to meet clearly defined expectations, you need to hold them accountable. Ask them what they need to do to rectify the problem?  Be very careful not to “blame” them for something going wrong. It’s much more productive to identify why the employee made a poor decision- was it their lack of skills or some factor in the business environment?  Get to the root cause and come up with a solution to prevent it from happening again.

As entrepreneurs, we are all in this crazy journey together.  It helps if you invest in your own performance first by hiring a business consultant or gaining practical insights from other business owners by networking or attending workshops. Keep in mind that employee performance starts with you: your passion, your vision for your business and most importantly, your ability to clearly communicate that vision to employees and provide them with the tools and resources necessary.   Now please excuse me so I can start the cooking class for my 10 year old.


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