Assets are a funny thing. Well I don’t mean Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton funny but I mean they are a little strange. Some assets depreciate (like machinery and motor vehicles) and some assets appreciate (like Investments and property). And this brings me onto the topic of what is often described as a company’s biggest asset: employees. Accounting rules don’t allow us to put employees on the Balance Sheet. But if you could quantify their value and book them as an accounting transaction, would you treat them as a depreciating asset (where their value diminishes over time) or would you treat them as an Investment (where their value increases over time); giving you a decent return on your investment along the way?
My view is that if nurtured and managed properly, your employees should not only be your biggest asset but they should also be your biggest investment; with a healthy return to boot!
And as with any investment you need to monitor their progress and manage their performance to ensure that you maximise the return on that investment.
So with this in mind, why is it that many business owners and entrepreneurs fail to really communicate and engage with their staff? Why do they put up barriers between themselves and their staff? Sure they go through the ritual of one-to-ones and appraisals but are they really fully committed to helping the team deliver on business goals and ultimately maximise shareholder value?
I believe that a great leader is someone who doesn’t get in the way. Looked at from a different perspective, if you not only get out of the way but also act as support to your team the business can really flourish.
And the key to this is an “open mind policy”. An open door policy is not enough. And don’t kid yourself if you think that working in an open plan environment is enough either. Your door might as well be double bolted and fitted with an alarm if when a person walks into your office they are met with a stressed, curt and unwelcoming reaction.
People tend to “clam up” and go on the defensive when they know that they are going to cop a “spray” or “an ear-bashing” – even more so if it is in front of their peers. And this means an unproductive and secretive workforce who store up problems and waste valuable time second guessing how the boss will react. Sometimes a 5 minute chat is enough to give the employee direction so that they can crack on and get the job done (especially when they have hit a fork in the road and need to know which way to go).
You employed these people because you believed in them. And they joined your organisation because they believe in you. So make time in your diary for coffees and catch ups. Remember, not every minute of your time has to be taken up with clients and what you deem to be “more important issues”. Spending time with employees can be the best use of your time. Structure your business properly and the team will work for you – not the other way around.
Now that makes good business sense – and all it takes is an open mind.