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How to grow your business

By Futhi Cabe, WesBank Head of SME Segment

We know that through effective delegation, team members will grow in confidence and both they, and your business, will benefit in the long run. Most delegation interventions end with an agreement to follow up on the designated tasks. However, effective follow-up actions have to be more than arbitrary. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance for follow-up because working remotely requires regular and more focused interaction with your team. Follow-up discussions demonstrate that you are committed to what you say and the deliverables agreed to, and that you have a keen interest in the employee's progress. Here is how you can make better use of this important aspect of management practice.

Review previous discussions and agreements

Once you have set aside time for a follow-up meeting, make sure that it happens. At the start of the meeting, briefly recap the pertinent points of the previous meeting, including the action items you both agreed to at that time. Be as specific as possible, and highlight the important aspects of those discussions. Your focus must be strictly on the identified problem or task at hand, not the person.

Arrive at an assessment

If some progress has been made since the initial meeting, be sure to encourage the staff member to talk about the achievements. Take your time in outlining to the employee what your assessment is of his or her contributions and the accomplishments. Express your pleasure at the progress made. If you are satisfied with the improvements, confirm your confidence in the employee. You can then proceed to the next action items, if any. If there are no further action items, you can end the meeting on this positive note.

Explore possible solutions

If the progress is less than satisfactory, it is your role to suggest possible outcomes to overcome the problem. As you do this, be careful not to demand specific actions, merely to make suggestions. People work harder to solve their problems when they themselves have a voice in the strategy to be adopted. So, ensure that the employee makes the decision on a suitable plan of action, and that you merely guide, probe and challenge during the process.

Clarify the consequences of continued lack of improvement

As you will appreciate, this is a sensitive part of the discussion. You need the staff member to understand clearly what will happen if the problem is not solved. While you do not want to appear threatening or aggressive, and you do not want to push your employee into a defensive mode, you must be clear that there may be consequences for continued lack of improvement. Assure the employee that you are on his or her side and that the purpose of the discussion is to solve the problem, and not to point fingers. That said, you may need to raise the subject of consequences. As you do so, be specific and keep the discussion focused on the facts at hand.

Agree on actions to be taken

The plan that the two of you put together can only work if you have the employee's commitment AND your ongoing support. This has to be a co-operative, concerted effort. One of the end products should be the improvement of the staff member's performance in the business. In order to gain that commitment, agree on the specific actions to be taken, preferably and deliberately using the staff member's ideas and solutions. Your role is then to support the plan that is best suited to the circumstances. After agreeing on actions to be taken, be sure to set a date for the next follow-up meeting.

Record the outcomes

Whatever the outcomes of the follow-up meeting, record all the information immediately afterwards. Recording the information signifies the completion of yet another vital management action: always ensuring that you both have a permanent record of discussions, particularly where there is a lack of improvement. Do the same for any further follow-up action. Ensure that you have detailed comments for reference at the next meeting, if required.

Final thoughts

As a follow-up activity, the outcomes of an array of important activities must be recorded. Confirm agreements in writing, that is, record meeting resolutions in minutes rather than relying on your memory. Should there be any dispute later, it is not what you know and can remember but what you can prove that counts. If it comes to dispute resolution, be it at the CCMA or any other legal forum, the side with the most complete evidence is usually the winner.