As the owner of a residential service company, do you ever feel like you get asked obvious questions by your staff or management team? You’re probably not the only one in your business fielding these types of questions; every manager may sometimes feel like an “answer person.” On the flip side, have you ever been put in a difficult situation when a team member acts on something without consulting you first? Both of these issues stem from the same problem, a lack of understanding from your team about when to ask, when to do and when to do but tell you about it.
This type of communication and action can be broken down into four simple categories, 1) always ask/discuss, 2) do it, 3) do it but be sure to tell me, and 4) never do it. Here’s what these mean:
- Always Ask/Discuss: While you want to empower your team to take action on many things, boundaries often need to be established for things that should be discussed before action is taken. This could be taking on a big commercial job, giving everyone on a manager’s team a raise, firing someone, or buying new equipment for all of the trucks. These actions could be potentially damaging if action is taken without discussion first or it does not align with the owner’s vision
- Do It: There are certain job duties that every employee should feel empowered to just do. With proper training and some documentation, your team can take care of what they need without asking for permission.
- Do It and Tell Me: There are actions your team may take without asking first that still require follow-up from them, in which they simply inform you about what they did. These kinds of things could be call center staffing schedule changes for the next week, or a service manager authorizing a credit to an unhappy customer. You want to be kept in the loop about these actions, but don’t need to authorize them.
- Never: There are things you may never want your managers or staff to do. This can vary from leader to leader, but it’s important to clarify with your staff the actions they must never take so the expectations are crystal clear. This could include buying assets, firing people, giving the green light for frontline staff to answer media questions, allowing sales staff to offer discounts at their discretion, or changing product line offerings.
If you find yourself being asked questions when you shouldn’t, not being asked questions when you should, or getting upset about actions taken by your team without your knowledge, it may be time to create your solution on authorities and expectations using the above categories. All you have to do is document! At Nexstar, we have a created a template for owners to use with their managers, but you can create a form that lays out your specific empowerment and boundaries for your company. You may even take it step further and ask your managers to go through this process and create a document for their teams, too.
Review your authorities and expectations document with your managers so they are clear on what is expected of them. If someone comes to you with a question that is already on the form, reinforce that the form should be referenced first. Be sure to make regular updates to the form as job responsibilities change and grow. This should be a living document that constantly evolves as your company and people do.