Richard W. Sears (1863-1914)
Article from Personality In Business published by The System Company in 1910.
A few notable successes have been made in the industrial world through what is known as the "one man organization." But I believe that in the great majority of cases it is the men you choose as subordinates who make your success.
Select your men carefully and at the right time—then give them free reign within well defined limits. This attitude toward employees I believe underlies the success of a large number of big businesses.
Many a hundred-dollar man remains a fifteen-dollar subordinate because he is not given any latitude and is not allowed to develop. The head of a concern may have an employee off in one corner of the office who is in reality his superior in ability if only he were allowed to show it—if he were only given carte blanche to take the initiative.
It is far better to select an employee when young and start him at $10 a week, educate and develop him, than to transplant a man from some other business and put him into a position over the heads of old employees.
Let your employees grow up with you. Having selected an employee, give him a chance and a thorough trial and ascertain what he can do and just what his limits are. In this wan only can be determined whether he is a fit employee or not. Give this employee a wide latitude and discretion over little things and observe the results over a considerable period of time.
Mistakes Help People Grow
Men learn only by the mistakes they make. An employer should expect and should encourage his men to take the initiative and make mistakes. Only in this way can they gain experience. This method of handling employees may be expensive in its early stages, but it is the only proper schooling for a position.
No man can learn to be a "crack shot" unless he wastes some ammunition. The employer should stand the expense of the experiments made by a new man who shows ability; it will pay in the long run. If mistakes continue and positive results do not come the man must go. But, on the other hand, if after trial of this kind a man's caliber is determined, then the time for promotion and increase of salary is at hand.
The great advantage of this method is that it inspires in the employee confidence in himself, without which he can make no success for himself or for his firm. It cultivates the quality of initiative, which means business creation and profits for the firm.
The surest way to gain the unswerving loyalty of employees is to show them from the start that they will be allowed to make the most of themselves. A man want to stay with the firm with which he can reach his greatest efficiency. And where these relations exist, the employee never leaves to seek a better place if he is he right kind. Occasionally a firm may have a man who will reach his limit; he only has a certain capacity and certain restricted capabilities. When he reaches this stage he will remain stationary.
The head of a concern often talks to his men about the methods they use. Yet methods are minor considerations. It is the sum total—the actual results—that we want in business. I do not care what method a man uses in any department of a business so long as he "makes good."
The matter of success should be put up to the pride of the individual. He should be made to understand that his development depends upon himself and the quality of his work. If a salesman can show an increase of three per cent in the sales of his territory or department in a given period he has proved his right to remain a part of a business organization regardless of his methods for achieving these results.
Following out this same idea, I believe that too many instructions to employees are often fatal. Don't be too specific; such an attitude makes a man into a machine. When sending a man on a certain duty it is never best to say, "do exactly this," or "don't do that." The proper course is to say "go and look into this matter to the best of your ability."
The employee, if he is the right kind, will then, as a matter of course, do his best. Following out this policy, our firm has never had any specific rule for employees, but has made the business and personal conduct of each individual a matter for each to look after.
We never use verbal praise with employees, nor reprimand. We often tell a man that he is working too hard or that he is underpaid; but in this case we add that he is being paid the limit that his position is worth and that he will be advanced as soon as an opening offers itself, if he is capable. The raise in salary or the promotion always comes to the individual without asking. Not that it would be very proper for the employee to ask for a raise, but, basing our attitude toward employees upon these principles, we soon discover whether a man is doing more than he is paid for and reward him because it pays us as a matter of business.
It is the man who, in the position that he holds temporarily, does more than is expected of him, that gets the increase in salary or the higher position. Anything like special rewards, presents or bonuses are wholly out of place in a system of handling employees such as this. Men working on this basis would consider anything of the kind an insult. It would imply that they were not doing their best—it would be in the nature of a bribe. The giving of prizes for special effort, which is considered so effective in enthusing men in some organization, would fail to have the desired effect in an organization where every man is given free reign.
This method of handling subordinates accomplishes all the usual results of the most highly developed system of choosing, training and retaining employees. It tries them out thoroughly —it finds the right man for the right place, and the right place for the right man. In enthuses the worker and inspires in him loyalty to the firm. a course through this complex age.
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