As CEO for an international entertainment company, I’m often asked about managing resources. I really only have one resource: my coworkers. And how I manage them is to get out of their way. And I really only have only one management strategy and that is to help my team members see what I see in them. This last task is not easy. People tend to live in boxes based upon their expectations and our expectations of them. Getting rid of the boxes and the labels is the hardest part of being a manager.
We are in a time of unlimited resources, yet what we don’t have is unlimited time and unlimited money. That’s why I made the decision many years ago to focus on the unlimited rather than the finite, on individuals rather than problems, on strengths rather than weaknesses, on talent and cleverness over money and physical assets. Problems and weaknesses are solved by creative thinking. The idea of throwing money at a problem tells me someone might not be thinking an idea through. And physical assets are only as good as those who know how to use them. What is truly valuable is the brainpower and secret ambitions of those around me. My task is to ask them what they think. Don’t tell them what to do. Ask them what they think.
Most people, employees and managers both, are not living to their fullest potential. Everyone feels stressed, that too much is being demanded of them, that they are trying to stay afloat, that they are having to do too much in too little time, that they are being unfulfilled and underutilized, that they are constantly having to second-guess what management is going to think. In a world where things are supposed to be made easy by the age of electronics, we are drowning.
Yet, in this time of ultimate busyness, just because a person is overworked, does not mean they are being even remotely effective or challenged. Busyness is not the same word as business. This is a waste of your greatest resource. I can remember old mentors telling me, “Work smart,” and that means being more efficient on the important things. For me, that is our employees and their time well spent. In our own business, we found that an employee who wasted ten minutes a day on an unimportant activity was actually wasting a 40-hour work week over the course of one year. Do the math. We addressed the issue and now that employee and our company has an additional 43-hour week that we did not previously have. Can you imagine the stress that is relieved by giving someone a full extra working week that they did not know they had? This only came from listening and then examining what an employee did every day. It would never have come from telling an employee what to do. That only makes for possibly additional wasted time. An employee will do your busyness because you ask him. He will work with you on how to make your business more effective, if you will listen. At first, if you don’t already have that kind of relationship, an employee is going to be hesitant – if not resistant – to being open and honest with you. They won’t trust your interest or motivation. Trust, like anything, is something built over time and consistency. Make sure you are asking for the right reason, which is to help the employee be more than he can be. Make sure your employees are working on your business, not your busyness.
As a business owner and a mortal human being, our most valuable assets are what we know, what we do with it, and the people around us. How do you harness these assets? It’s easy once you see it. Expect incredible things from yourself and those you work with. That’s it. Set the bar high. Be ruthless. But like education and motivation, it has to come from within the individual, not be imposed from without. We live in a culture where people don’t feel needed. Need them. Ask the man who is looking up under the engine what it looks like under there. Create an environment where you put people into their work and the goals of your company. That creates an emotional stake and, if you are that person, make your work personal. It’s not a job; it is your life.
As a professional manager or business owner, encourage this with your coworkers. Your objective should be to have the brightest and most connected team members that you can have. Don’t undermine them or try to keep them lesser than you. Encourage them to pass you, to be better than you. Challenge them to take your job. They will bring you up.
Our role is not to prove to our employees how smart and irreplaceable we are. Our job is to encourage our employees and coworkers to be the most irreplaceable worker in the office. In a common business culture where everyone is protecting their jobs by knocking other people down, turn that around and make it a game to make others keep up with you. Encourage them to be better than you.
Your assets are right there with you right now. They know the business. They know how things work. With tweaking, you’re good to go. You don’t have to hire the smartest person graduating from an impressive ivy-league college. All you need is to hire someone who is hungry and is looking for an opportunity and then care about them. Give them that opportunity. And if this is someone who is currently with you, ask them what they want to achieve within the culture of your business. People work best when they are working on their own goals and ambitions, not yours. That makes them hungry. Give them ownership in what they are doing. Let these be their goals, not yours. Your job is simply to show them what they can be. And then, for Heaven’s sake, get out of their way and let them rise to your expectations.