Shared Answers 2007: Part 2, The Solution

In my last post, part 1 in the group writing project hosted by Grow Your Writing Business and Writing Thoughts, I shared the problem of the chaotic mornings in my interior landscape company. In this second post of Shared Answers 2007, I’ll tell my solution.

I was really stumped. A service business depends on excellent customer service to survive, and dealing effectively with client emergencies (real or imagined) is a critical part of customer service. And employees do get sick and have flat tires; they miss and are late for work. We couldn’t refuse to take the clients’ calls, and we couldn’t ensure our employees would always be at work on time. So for years, I just accepted chaotic mornings as one of the things I didn’t like in a business I otherwise loved.

Then one day I got selfish. I reminded myself that I owned the company. I had excellent employees and managers. Maybe I couldn’t prevent chaotic mornings, but I could avoid them. In spite of what I’d always done, I didn’t have to be at the office every minute the business was open.

So I told my staff I would no longer be at work at 8 AM. They could deal with the morning chaos, and I’d be in an hour later, when things were beginning to settle down. If they had a true emergency and needed me, they could call me at home, but I wanted them to handle the routine crises of each day.

At first, my managers panicked. They depended on me to confirm their decisions. Even though they did the problem-solving, they were used to getting my approval.

However, when they no longer had me in the next office to run to for advice and support, they demonstrated their competence. They told me later that often the two managers compared notes and reinforced each other’s plans and decisions. They often wanted to call me … but talked themselves out of it because what they wanted to ask me about wasn’t a REAL emergency. Soon they were comfortable making decisions and handling their responsibilities without my constant oversight.

When I got to the office at 9:00 AM, I didn’t have to deal with demanding clients. The people who wouldn’t talk to anyone else when I was there agreed to speak to the appropriate manager when the receptionist said I was out of the office. I didn’t have to worry about covering for absent employees and extra trips to clients’ business to take care of problems. My managers just gave me a copy of their revised schedules when I came in.

My mornings were much more pleasant, and when I got to my desk, I could work on the projects I had planned for the day. Without the chaos and stress, I was actually more productive. I was surprised to discover that mornings were less chaotic for everyone. The mornings were still busy, but they actually ran more smoothly than when I was there because the managers made and carried out their decisions without running into my office every few minutes to be sure I approved.

I hadn’t realized that I had been so controlling and my managers so dependent on me until they gained confidence and took charge – not only in that hour before I got to work but throughout the day.

A couple of years later, I had a devastating stroke and was hospitalized for nearly six weeks. Although I went back to work part-time shortly after I was released from the rehab hospital, I worked only a few hours a week and continued physical therapy for months. I am convinced that my managers and staff were able to keep the business going during my absence because of the experience and confidence they gained from taking responsibility for an hour a day that I wasn’t there.

What I thought was a selfish act to make my own life easier made me a better boss, allowed my managers to use and develop their own skills, and saved my business when I wasn’t there to run it. Not bad for a selfish decision!

[tags]Shared Answers 2007, meme, group writing project[/tags]

Share this!