Tag Archives: business management

Proper Care and Feeding of People Who Cry Wolf

Remember the kids’ story, the boy who cried wolf? He did it two times, no wolf, so the townspeople ignored him the third time, gulp?

In August I posted Are You a Good Manager? How Can You Tell on this blog. I think I know one element of good manager: taking care of the people who cry wolf. In fairy tales, crying wolf is a bad thing. In management, dealing with employees in a company, it’s a good thing.

Crying wolf means sounding false alarms. Saying something isn’t working. The messaging is wrong, production is faulty, customers are getting the wrong idea, the parking lot is icy, or whatever. And I’ve learned, in some 30 years managing people, that you should treasure the employees who care enough to sound the alarms. And in business, not fairy tales, a false alarm isn’t such a bad thing because it wakes you up, makes you think, keeps you alert. It takes just an extra touch of reaction to check, find the alarm false, or not. And checking isn’t a bad thing. And people who sound alarms are sticking their necks out, risking the comfort of saying nothing, to suggest something’s wrong.

Consider this: what’s the harm of a false alarm in a business setting? How many false alarms are worth it if just one of them turns out to be real? False alarms are part of a good process in business.

So, do you want to be a good manager? When somebody in your business cries wolf, note it, make sure that person knows you’re glad they did, especially when there’s no wolf. Because you want them to cry wolf, again, the next time. And if you say nothing, they’re going to feel foolish, and not do it again.

And if you want to know you’re a bad manager, consider this: are there people in your organization not telling you when they think something is wrong? Why wouldn’t they tell you? What happened the last time they did?

(image credit: wikipedia. An illustration of a 1919 anthology, by Milo Winter)

5 Thoughts on Hiring People for Growing a Company

1. The early hires have huge impact.

Just do the math. Think about how much more a single person affects company culture in a company of one, two, three, or four people, compared to a company of several hundred.

2. Building by shedding jobs

We’ve used the shedding jobs strategy as we built from a one-person-do-everything business to a software company with 45 employees. The first job I shed and our first hire was sales, because that’s not my favorite thing, but I was doing it. Next I shed the tech support job and hired someone to do that for us, for the same reason. Then bookkeeping. Followed by programming, and then marketing. What I was getting, most of the time, was my own time back.

3. Create your own workplace environment.

As the company grew, I wanted a workplace atmosphere that felt good to me when I would arrive in the office in the morning. Happy people, sharing the vision, working together.

4. Occasionally you fit the job to the person, instead of vice-versa.

Sometimes you run into somebody who you want involved in the company, and you adjust the job description. For example, one person was hired to do tech support, but ended up as documentation manager.

5. Projects make great introductions.

Sometimes jobs can begin with consulting contracts for specific projects that you need done. That makes a comfortable introduction. Like having a cup of coffee together before you decide to take a weekend trip.