Think of a specific person who reports to you and honestly answer the following true-or-false questions based on your behavior over the past 2 weeks.

True or false:

–I have clearly communicated the order of priorities to my employees, including what I want them to treat as their No. 1 priority.

–I have taught my employees what they need to know to do their job using verbal instruction.

–I have taught my employees what they need to know to do their job using written documents, such as checklists.

–I have communicated specific deadlines to my employees that give me enough time to check their work and have them perform re-work if needed.

–I have given my employees positive reinforcement and praise for what they're doing right.

Give yourself 1 point for every "True," with a total of 5 possible points.

If you scored 4 or 5, congratulations! You are, in all likelihood, a good manager. If you scored 2 or 3, you should feel confident that you have a good foundation upon which to build additional management skills. If you scored 0 or 1, don't feel bad. Realizing that you could use improvement in this area is half the battle.

–Clarify priorities: In a typical small business, employees wear more than one hat. It is common for customer-facing employees to be answering phones, ringing up purchases, responding to emails, accepting deliveries and more. Back-of-the-house employees might be working on several simultaneous projects, as well as charged with ongoing administrative or maintenance-related tasks.

If your employees aren't matching their behavior to your priorities, consider briefing them at least weekly regarding your "hot list" of projects for the week. Another strategy to help your employees correctly allocate their time is a "poker chart." Just as new poker players often consult a chart of "what beats what," your employee too can use a visual reminder that walk-in customers take precedence over phone-in customers, or vice versa.

–Take time to teach: It might be challenging to carve out the time, but make the effort to schedule dedicated teaching time with your employees. Come in early, stay late, sacrifice a weekend, or pay overtime if you have to. Do it even when it's inconvenient, for the short-term good of your business as well as for the long-term loyalty of your people.

What have your employees been struggling with? Where could they excel, if they only had a few tips and tricks from your tool bag? Nothing communicates your investment in your staff like a few hours of focused knowledge transfer. Sometimes, we even call this stuff "mentoring."

–Use job aids: And what if you've already taken the time to teach, but it just isn't sticking? Try writing it down. Make an outline, a process flow, a "whom to call for what" chart, or a checklist. Print out two copies, give one to your employee, and refer to the other one the next time you're re-teaching or re-training that same information.

For extra credit, see what notes they take on their copy and what notes they've added after a week or two. Then re-print the updated job aid and laminate it.

–Give the right deadlines: Whenever you give an employee a task or deliverable, try to build some cushion into their deadline so that you will have time to review it before the work is actually needed. While this may not be possible in every situation, it's a great habit for learning and growth.

When you give your employee the "real" deadline, you may not be setting them up to succeed, as any errors will either not have time to be corrected or there will only be time for you, the business owner, to redo the work. This is a recipe for dissatisfaction all around.

In contrast, by giving them an "internal" deadline, you'll be able to give your employee valuable feedback and enough time to put that learning into immediate practice by redoing the work themselves. Then you can both be proud of the finished product.

–Provide positive reinforcement whenever possible: Finally, never miss a chance to sincerely praise your employees for what they're doing well. Positive reinforcement is essential not only for morale but for learning.

Challenge yourself to perform these managerial behaviors and turn them into habits. Then come back and take this quiz again in a week's time and give yourself a perfect score.



Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book "Ask the Mompreneur" and the founder of the social shopping website Email her at


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