2006 Winter/Spring Volume No. 6

I’m the Boss, Now What? Management Skills for a Top-Rate Service Company

Are your management skills up to the task of building a top-notch, competitive portable sanitation company? Do employees look up to their managers for help, advice, and leadership? Do you rate employee performance fairly and objectively? Are the lines of communication open between employees and their boss? Do managers serve the people who work for them by making their goals specific, well-understood,
and attainable?

When employees fail to accomplish objectives, it is easy to look at them as the problem, however there is often enough blame to go around. Let’s take a closer look at what owners or managers can do to create positive change and make their employees and their businesses more successful.


People Management and Performance Appraisal
One of the most important roles of a manager is to evaluate employee performance. This is easy to confuse with criticizing employee performance. However, there is a distinct difference. Criticism tends to be based on subjective measures. It looks at values such as hustle, determination, and friendliness …things that can be felt, but not measured.

Evaluation on the other hand, looks at measurable outcomes such as how many days per month an employee comes to work on time, how many customers are served in a day, how many miles are driven, how their daily performance is rated based on specific criteria, and how does their performance change over time.

The simplest way to evaluate employee performance is to create a list of measurable outcomes you want employees to accomplish on a daily basis, and also to set long-term goals. A list of objectives can be created and refined into a system for fairly evaluating and rewarding employees. This requires the manager to keep careful records by tracking objective data over time in order to determine the actual performance of each employee.

To measure a job in real terms, look at what standards need to be measured. For service drivers, you might collect data on such things as:

• number of miles driven (compared to actual route miles),
• number of gallons of waste pumped and dumped,
• time taken to prepare each morning,
• number of units serviced per day,
• average time taken to complete a route.

To track performance issues that can’t be easily measured, such as cleanliness or quality of work, it is best to create a rating scale.

Rating scales help your evaluations become more consistent and help employees develop a better idea of what standards are considered adequate or excellent.

Take for example a well-cleaned rest-room—on a scale from one to five with one being a perfectly cleaned unit and five being a restroom that wasn’t pumped or cleaned at all. It’s pretty easy for most people to score the work and to understand the score.

Typically, a review will also contain several items pertaining to basic work habits such as care for equipment, appearance, atten-dance and tardiness.

While no manager can follow their em-ployees throughout the day, random spot checks throughout a month can accomplish the same thing by averaging scores over time. Averaging multiple scores is impor-tant. Since everyone can have a bad day or make a mistake, a single spot check should not be grounds for disciplinary action.

By looking at real-world performance measures, you’ll see that some employees are more consistent, economical and efficient than others.

Once you have collected stats for several months, you need to determine a positive approach for using them. In a fair per-formance appraisal, stats should be used to help employees set goals, to improve, and to earn more.

Every portable sanitation business will have its stars. They are very valuable to your business and they should be paid accor-dingly. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all your employees should be working at the same pace your stars set. Goals that may be realistic for some people, aren’t realistic for others. Instead, try to encourage all your employees, including your stars, to set goals to improve by 5 to 10%.

With fair and objective performance stan-dards, you’ll be able to get to the heart of problems much quicker and address them in a productive manner.


Project Management
Any large undertaking, whether it is organ-izing a large special event or over-hauling internal business procedures, is a project—demanding the time-tested disciplines of project management.

Although mastery of project management does not come easily, any manager can understand its basics. Here are the basics:

1. First decide if it is a project or an ongoing service. A project has a beginning, middle and end. A big event is a project, a new construction customer is not.

2. Put one person in charge and give them
the authority to finish. Give project managers the four basic authorities
any other manager has—the authority to choose team members, pay vendors, make assignments, and deliver some kind of performance consequences. Whatever you do, don’t put a com-mittee in charge.

3. Have a clearly defined goal. The more the project's goal is understandable and measurable, the easier it will be for the project manager to stay focused and keep it moving to get it done right.

4. Create a schedule and work plan—then follow it. A to-do list is not a plan, and a schedule is not a plan, but either is a start. The length and depth of the plan will likely depend on the size and complexity of the project. Regardless of size, every plan should provide information that answers all the basic project questions: why are you doing it, how will it be done, who will do the work, when will it be done, how much will it cost, and if it is a revenue generator like a special event—how much money do you expect to make.

5. Check progress frequently. The project manager usually needs to meet with project team members weekly to assess progress and make corrections.


People Skills - Communication
Another one of a manager’s most impor-tant jobs is to listen to the front-line employees. The proverbial “open-door policy” isn’t enough. What employee in their right mind would walk into his or her manager's office and say, “Sit down, there are some things you need to know about my performance?”

Managers must spend time among their employees, working side by side, riding
with them occasionally, asking the right questions, having meetings to discuss issues before they develop into problems.

In addition to listening, being heard and understood also requires skill. If employees are to succeed, they need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Just because you said it, doesn’t mean they heard it, or understood exactly what was meant. After giving instructions or explanations of what you expect from an employee, ask what they plan to do in order to carry out your instructions. You are looking for confirmation that they understood what you asked them to do, and so they should be able to repeat, more or less, what you just told them. If they can’t, you’ll have to find another way to explain it.

Some people don’t learn well with verbal instructions, but can pick things up much faster when you show them step-by-step what needs to be done. Different people have different learning styles. Part of a manager’s job is to learn how best to communicate with each individual you employ.


People Skills - Leadership
Some people seem to be born leaders. Others learn as they go along. However, anyone can learn to be a leader.

There are two types of leaders, those that people want to follow and those that people have to follow. By far, the most successful leaders in business are the first kind.

Management skills are the first piece to your winning big, but you’ll still need committed employees to make it to the finish line. Managers need to remember that employees decide each day how much of themselves to invest in the success of the business. The more employees invest, the faster your business will grow.

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