Duncan Consulting, Inc. - Growth through Knowledge.
Duncan Consulting, Inc. - Growth through Knowledge.

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Getting Employees to Focus

By: Johnny Duncan

My good friend, the former Sheriff of Orange County, told me once that he got into law enforcement to “catch bad guys.” It was a simple, but focused, mission statement, which eventually catapulted him to the office of Sheriff of one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Though the goal was broad in scope, it served the purpose of keeping his eye on the “why” of his career so that the “when, what, and how” were easier to determine.

If the purpose of your business is not communicated to everyone in your organization, friction and frustration become the norm. Some of the best tools to help your team focus clearly are your mission and vision statements, employee handbook, and your policy manual.

Specifically identifying the company’s mission and vision provides focused direction for all involved to follow. The employee handbook and the policy manual give the how-to specifications and serve as a guide for implementing steps that lead to success in the overall mission.

Zig Zigler, the world-renowned motivator, tells the story of a CEO who implemented a new policy manual that emphasized strict adherence to reporting back to work on time after the lunch break. As the CEO was leaving an important lunch meeting, he wanted to set an example and sped down the interstate in order to get back to the office on time. He was pulled over and given a ticket. Driving to the office, he thought, “After all I’ve done for this city for the past 25 years, this cop gives me a ticket!”

In an attempt to camouflage the fact that he arrived back to the office late, the CEO ordered a vice president into his office and began criticizing the VP’s work and pointed out that a project that was due the next day must be turned in by that afternoon. The VP stormed out of the office mumbling, “For the love of Pete, after all I’ve done for this company in the past 15 years, to now be treated like this!”

And so it went with each chastised person taking it out on the next in line, eventually reaching the receptionist. “I can’t believe that secretary! All she does is sit there and do her nails. For the past eight years, I’ve screened all the calls and she has the nerve to yell at me about doing the filing!” When the receptionist gets home, she finds little Jimmy lying on the floor, watching television. “Didn’t I tell you not to watch TV until you do your chores? Now go up to your room!” Little Jimmy marches up the stairs mumbling, “After all I do for this family; for six years I’ve been getting yelled at for nothing!” About that time, the family cat comes walking up to little Jimmy and Jimmy kicks the cat.

As Zig Ziglar points out, wouldn’t it have been a less stressful day if the CEO just went to the receptionist’s house and kicked that cat? The point is that policies are to serve as guidelines for all to follow and is not the place for hard and fast rules. Think of your policy and employee manual as a Garmin GPS system for your team to turn to for directions.

Whether you are a company with several employees or a one-person operation, put in writing the steps for servicing a new client, for closing a sale, or whatever processes are needed to reach your business goals. These clearly laid plans, goals, and missions can be used to get your employees focused, and for guiding future business decisions.