Back to School

Bill Cosby once said that all a parent wants is peace and quiet. I agree. Now that the kids are gone and it’s quiet once again, the dog and I have some time to think.

The kids went back to school today, starting grades six and seven, with lots of excitement and some nervousness over who their teachers will be, if their friends will be in the same class, and many new responsibilities. They are proud of their accomplishments and progress. And, as they grow and become stronger individuals, we expect more from them in terms of maturity, responsibility, relationships, compassion, and, occasionally, chores.

The great thing about school is that you know what grade you are in and how well you are performing. The teacher actually cares about your development and progress, not just your performance.

What if our businesses were like that?

What if the boss, instead of being the boss, was the teacher? What if the boss was evaluated purely on the success of his or her students?

Actually, in business, that’s how it works. The business owner is rewarded, directly and indirectly, financially and in terms of freedom, based on the success of their employees.

Here are some lessons on how to be a better teacher to your employees:

  1. What grade are they in? Are they in elementary school, junior high, high school, college or grad school? Different students need different levels of challenge and can handle tougher assignments. Do you have your positions and skills tiered so that training and advancement are clear?
  2. What subjects are they studying? Are they responsible for marketing (hint – we all are), customer service, operations and production, nurturing talent, financial results?
  3. How well are they doing in each subject? What level is their performance? What are the metrics? Performance needs to be measurable so that people can be held accountable and so that growth and improvement can occur.
  4. How often do they get a report card? Annual performance evaluations have attained a deserved negative bad wrap because too much information and feedback is saved for too long and delivered poorly. Feedback, like pop quizzes, needs to be timely so that improvement can be undertaken.
  5. Do they go on field trips? From skiing to museum visits to skating to bowling, the students have fun together and learn new things. Does your business encourage multi-disciplinary learning? Do people in accounting spend time in the shop? Everyone at UPS rides on a truck to learn and appreciate how the company makes money.
  6. Are you a teacher who is focused on helping your students learn and grow? Or are you a boss, focused on the day to day? Remember, with every pair of hands, you get a free brain.

The best bosses and business owners that I’ve met not only help their people to learn and grow, but make continual learning an important part of their own lives.

Is it time you and your business went back to school?

Copyright 2010 Phil Symchych. All Rights Reserved.

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