Controlling the performance of others…yeah, right!

My good friend Liz recently sent me a request:

I personally would appreciate guidance on how to make an unfocused employee (my son) a better worker. Since this is a family “business” and I can’t fire him, how can I make him more productive?

Like most kids, her young son has a tendency to go “off-task”, do things outside the scope of the project at hand, and perform tasks in the wrong order – all while ignoring the direction of his older brother. So here’s the question: If you are responsible for the job performance of others, how do you get them to do things the way you want them done without providing constant supervision?

The only way I know to maximize the possibility you’ll get the results you want is to clearly document:

  • The specific outcomes you want your employee to achieve
  • The steps most likely to achieve the desired outcomes
  • The proper path to take when problems or inconsistencies arise

Then train them using the documentation as a basis. A pain in the neck, right? But necessary. Human beings are, well…human, and as such have a tremendous capacity for creativity that can result in an almost endless number of variables. None of which will guarantee you the outcome you want.

This is by no means just a kid’s problem. I once counseled a client frustrated with an employee’s handling of a piece of complicated manufacturing equipment to clearly document the way he wanted the machine run. His response to me: “I don’t want to document – I just want my employees to do things my way without my having to explain it.” Really? And just how are they supposed to know what your way is? Not to mention remember your way when they’ve been on another task for a few days or taken a vacation. And heaven forbid they are responsible for training another employee to perform the task.

Bottom line: There’s almost no way to ensure someone will complete something to your expectations if you haven’t clearly communicated what those expectations are. Documenting and training are not just things you do for your employee – they’re things you do for yourself to ensure quality, efficiency and peace of mind.

What have you documented in your organization? Send your comments to If I use them, I’ll feature your business.