Did You Brush Your Teeth Today?

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Insensitive Leadership  


Breeds Lethargic Followers



Few behaviors undermine a small business owner’s authority quicker than a corporate micromanage attitude. When you hire people to do a job, explain what needs to be done by when, and what you’ve learned to be the best way to do it, then leave them alone. Visit them and talk with them and respect their input

Resist the temptation to physically and mentally hover over those who work with and for you.

Stop asking dumb questions in order to feel reassured that things are going right.

The more you keep checking on the obvious (“Did you brush your teeth today?”), the more insulting your reputation becomes


. . . and the less that people will respond when important issues arise . . . the less motivated and innovative they’ll become.

. . . people who are not challenged to be innovative are not motivated, and will often head for greener pastures. Those who remain are either ambivalent, desperate, or just plain lazy: the makings of a great team, huh? 


If you hired the right people to start with, help out when asked, but otherwise leave them to work on their own. The world won’t end because a new hire doesn’t do the assigned tasks exactly the same way you would do them. In fact, odds are that if you leave them to their own devices, they may come up with an even better way to handle things.

The more people you engage, the more willing you must be to let go. Letting go, in all of its applications, may be life’s hardest task. But it doesn’t have to be hard. You can choose for it to be easy. With a new hire, that means setting the stage carefully before you put the spotlights on and open the curtain.

Employee handbooks that outline expectations, job responsibilities, mission and vision statements help get people properly oriented. Policy manuals that spell out your rules and regulations, benefit programs, etc. help keep people properly oriented.

So that brings us back to the hiring process.

And don’t feel bad about screwing up.

No boss ever gets this right the first time.


All the HR training, resources, and psycho and statistical analysis in the world cannot replace the trial and error process that produces experienced instinct and personal judgement. Sombody “fits” or doesn’t. Ask your grandfather about square pegs in round holes.

When you end up with good people, keep them good by not “riding” them, by not “getting on their cases,” by not “bugging” them with your pet peeves; they are your pet peeves, and who cares? I recently heard a small business owner ask an employee if he remembered to close the safety latch on a tool he’s worked with daily for ten years.

You can bet the boss won’t be getting any great new innovative ideas from that employee, or probably any other.

If you feel the need to assume, assume that you don’t have all the answers, assume that you have competent employees and assume they have better solutions than you — you who are in the forest with the lawyer and accountant and customers and vendors and partners and lenders and investors — you who may not see the trees.

How to make the most of motivational dynamics? Ask. Listen. Take notes. Request feedback. Encourage experimentation. Reward efforts as well as results. Create an open discussion environment and free-flowing exchange of information.

Use small frequent rewards according to need (not yours, theirs. See Maslow’s Hirearchy of Needs). Oh, and remember to brush your teeth.

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  Hal@Businessworks.US   302.933.0116

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One comment so far

One Comment to “Did You Brush Your Teeth Today?”

  1. […] Sounds good, you say, but who cares? Uh, your customers, your employees, your suppliers, your investors, your lenders, your community . . . and your family. Does that work for an answer? This is not just another lecture on motivation. It’s about operating your business with a competitive edge. […]

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