Brian Harding’s Service Industry Success: Develop Your Team, Empower Your People, Attain Your Freedom is a book every business owner needs to read, especially those who run smaller companies and find themselves so busy working in the company that they never have time to step back and see the big picture, much less take a vacation. Harding, who has years of experience as a business owner and business consultant, knows that this problem happens because business owners either try to control their businesses too much and fail to relinquish control to their employees, or they feel they can’t trust employees to take care of the business without constantly overseeing them.
Harding explains the real issue here is that employees do not follow processes, and that issue often exists because employees have not been properly trained or proper processes and procedures have not been put in place. If business owners want freedom to step away from their business for more than a day or two, they must help their teams learn to work autonomously. As a consultant, Harding often has business owners complain to him that employees are not “getting it.” When that happens, he asks them to list the top three things employees do that cause problems. Then he asks them to write down how many hours they spend per month or year training employees on those things. The response he usually gets is, “Oh, yeah. I guess that would explain our poor performance, huh?”
As insightful as that practice is, Harding also reveals that simply teaching people how to follow procedures is not the entire issue. Most people can follow procedures, but people don’t always want to.
Harding gives business owners a reality check when he states, “All people, including your employees, make decisions based mostly, if not entirely, on what they want (or want to avoid), with little regard for what you as the business owner want.” He also reminds us that most people don’t quit jobs; they quit their boss, who may be the business owner. Therefore, owners must learn to treat employees in ways that make them happy with their jobs and their work environment so they want to succeed. If business owners aren’t completely honest with themselves in this area, it will “significantly hamper our ability to develop the trust we must have in our team to turn over control, and get free from the feeling our business owns us.”
Harding then offers ways we can resolve these situations. One of the most important is to realize everyone isn’t the same, so everyone doesn’t want the same thing. We have to get to know our employees. He states, “to effectively lead, manage, and sell, we must be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of personality types. And we cannot grow our companies if we cannot communicate in a manner that resonates with our team and our customers.”
As an owner, Harding knows this process can be difficult. We may feel we are the boss and, therefore, it’s our way or the highway, but the truth is you cannot make people do something they don’t want to do.
Furthermore, you have to have some humility and realize you aren’t always right. Harding talks about the difference between people who are task-oriented and people-oriented. Task-oriented managers often just want to get the work done and are not as interested in cultivating relationships. His advice to such people is to ask themselves, “Do I want to be right or successful?” To be successful, you need to get your team to want to do the work. People-oriented managers may be more concerned about their relationships with their employees than the work itself. At such times, they may need to ask themselves, “Right now, am I trying to be liked, or am I trying to be successful?” In both cases, success is the ultimate goal, but it can only be achieved by developing healthy, balanced relationships with employees or coworkers. The value of relationship development cannot be overemphasized. As Harding points out, most of us will spend more time with our team at work than with our spouses, children, or friends, and if those work relationships are not good, people will leave.
Harding knows many business owners will think his philosophy too touchy-feely. His response: “When working with individuals who think these are crazy ideas, I ask, ‘If you don’t like the ideas I’m presenting, that’s fine. But tell me, what’s in it for an employee to work at your company?’ When business owners respond that the employees get a paycheck, Harding replies, “Every company offers a paycheck. Besides offering the required-by-law paycheck that every other employer offers, what’s in it for the employee to work here?”
Harding offers a lot of great advice throughout Service Industry Success and practical methods to make the workplace better for everyone. Exercises are included to help business owners become more aware of the changes they need to make and how to make them. I could say a lot more about the value Harding provides in these pages, but I’ll close by saying I loved his idea that we should think of every interaction with an employee as a deposit or withdrawal that improves or hurts the employee’s relationship with the boss and company. Because people remember the bad more than the good, they need at least five positive experiences on the job for each negative experience just so they can break even.
Altogether, Service Industry Success is a powerful and practical look at how to improve employee relationships, encourage employees to embrace their jobs, and ultimately, give the owner some freedom to reap the rewards of a job well done.