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The more my staff need me, the less I need them

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On my recent trip to the US, over dinner and a discussion about the challenges of running a business our host Chris made the statement - "In my business, the more my staff need me, the less I need them".

A pretty harsh statement one might think. After all, our staff are our biggest assets aren't they?

I would argue NO. 

We need to forget this notion that our staff are our biggest assets. The right staff can be your best assets, but just because you employ someone, doesn't automatically make them an asset. In fact, the number one conversation I have with managers and business owners is about how disappointed and frustrated they are with some (or most) of their team. 

And this is becoming even more prevalent, as the unemployment rate continues to fall, and the number of opportunities on offer continues to rise. I mean, lets be honest with ourselves. Most of our businesses are not Google. The roles we offer are not that exciting and often the people we engage (yes that right, we engage them) are far from what we really want or require in our team.

Sure they start out ok. The resume said they had the experience to do the job, and at the interview they seemed to get along with everyone. You explained what was required and they felt comfortable with their ability to achieve what you asked, but somewhere along the line, they just don't seem to have ever delivered what you originally agreed upon. You now find yourself micro-managing or worse, doing their job for them.

This person is not an asset. Their a bloody nuisance.

Sure sometimes there are genuine reasons, and yes, you certainly need to train and work with your staff to get them up to speed and achieving in their role and you even need to continue to work with and develop them regardless of how long they have been with you. But at some point, you should expect to stop holding their hand, to stop making all the decisions for them and to actually have them "free you a little" to focus on something else. Focus on something other than THEM and THEIR job. This is when they become an asset. This is when they provide a return on your investment. Your investment of time (training, developing, mentoring) and money (wage etc).  

But too often, this is not how the working relationship plays out. There is no return. Just more and more investment. Which leads me to the opening line - The more my staff need me, the less I need them.

Now I'm not talking about training and development of a new team member, of assisting an existing team member with a large project or some specific topic. No what I'm talking about is a staff member who it seems is unable to do their job without you, regardless of how much training and development you provide. 

You know the employee. The ones you employ, but you seem to end up making all the decisions and often doing all the work. And no amount of effort on your part seem to change the situation. The more help and assistance you provide, the more help and assistance you seem to have to give. Sometime you think they spend more time on your office than you do....

As a manager, you don't need this type of person on your team, or your p&l. These people are not assets, they're liabilities and thieves. Stealing your valuable time and attention and stopping you from doing what you need to, in order to realise your business goals and visions.

Do you staff need you more than you need them - for all the WRONG reasons?

My old business partner had a great saying. "You don't have a dog and bark too".

If your doing all the work anyway, do you both a favour and free up these people to focus on whatever it is they are good at. And free up your time to focus on finding someone who you really can claim is your most valuable asset.

Any thoughts?

Shane Ridley



Ryan Myler

Director/ Financial Planner

Optimas Financial Planning

Shane has provided me with invaluable advice, being that I am in start up phase with my business. His knowledge of business in general, along with his strong understanding of the current trend toward social media and it's influence, have provided me with insights on how to grow my company. I would strongly recommend Shane in a business mentoring role due to his depth knowledge and broad experience, along with his superior story telling ability to make the complex simple.

June 25, 2012

Indiana Forrest-Bisley

Business Development Manager Australian Exhibitions & Conferences

Shane exhibited with us at the 2012 Safety in Action trade show - Melbourne. I found him to be extremely professional and furthermore his pre employment training services were a hit at the show. We will see Shane return to the safety show Perth (August 7-9). If you're in need of ANY type of pre employment training
I would strongly reccommend OTrain to anyone within HR."

June 29, 2012