Tom Merriott
Tom Merriott

I speak with many residential heating and cooling contractors who are completely frustrated with the way things run in their businesses. They usually call with a very specific complaint. One of the first exercises I have them complete is to write down exactly what the issue is and how they would like it to improve. Being owners and senior managers, many contractors are not comfortable grinding out assignments given by others. I usually get an extremely vague rough sketch of the situation and an even rougher idea of any solutions.

We follow up this rough outline with a phone call to dig into the necessary details to identify the exact problems, what’s causing them, and consider potential solutions. Some of these details aren’t readily available, so we talk through everything during this discovery phase. When we get to the topic of employee performance, and I ask, “How do employees know what is expected of them in this specific situation?”, I get an answer that just drives me crazy: “They just know.”

I hear that answer so much I’m convinced it’s written in some business how-to book I haven’t read yet. The notion that your employees “just know” what’s expected of them is just plain wrong. Your people don’t “just know” anything specific. You might think they do because, “that’s how we’ve always done things,” but you are wrong.

If your people are doing something that bothers you in your business, ask yourself, “Have I ever properly explained what I want, and how I want that to be accomplished?”

If your answer is no, start now. You will be surprised how much better employees can be when they aren’t expected to read your mind.