Get the Best from Your Staff

Get the Best from Your Staff

Great performance is worth its weight in gold. We discuss performance management at all levels with our member firms on a regular basis and as we work through these issues, we often find there are four common areas of concern.

Time Management

We assume our employees know how to manage their time. Unfortunately, this assumption often falls short of reality. Time management skills undergo a sometimes painful transition between school and work. Add to this the challenge of working in a multi-shareholder environment where staff have lots of bosses pulling on them, and it’s easy to see how people can get stuck with bad habits. It’s important to teach staff how to properly manage their time by giving them a system or framework to operate under. For most professionals, the biggest time consumer is email. Teaching your staff how to better manage their inbox and bucket time is a great place to start. We also encourage firms to use common language and acronyms to help staff prioritize responses – this step goes a long way to help with email fatigue. Some of the most common and critical terms are summarized below with examples.

  • NRN – No Response Necessary
    • NRN: Attached is the file your requested
  • ACT – Action is required; couple with a due date
    • ACT: Please complete attached form by 10/1/17
  • STAT – Immediate response needed (high urgency)
    • STAT: Client ABC IRS Notice Needs Immediate Action
  • EOM – End of Message: Often used if you are sending a message in the subject line
    • Bring portable LCD projector to staff meeting tomorrow: EOM


Teaching your staff to prioritize is just as important as teaching them time management. We often think that priorities result from deadline-driven business. However, when everything you do has the same or similar deadlines, priorities can fall by the wayside. We spend a great deal of time teaching a system called the Priority Action List or PAL to help companies with converging deadlines maintain and meet priorities. (To obtain a copy, email [email protected]). The PAL breaks down your activities into four categories.

  1. Phone Calls/Emails to return
  2. Priority items (20/80 Rule – those that have the biggest impact in progress)
  3. To Do (high importance/low urgency)
  4. To Delegate (low importance/high urgency)


Some staff will not have a delegate bucket, and this is okay. Using any combination of the PAL helps countless staff members take back control of their time and get more accomplished.

Proper Delegation

If there is one thing that will get the absolute best from your staff, it’s proper delegation techniques. Failure to delegate properly usually results in a poor product. Common delegation mistakes include skim details, abdication (thinking we have no involvement once it’s off our plate), unclear communication or expectations, and more. I’m going to let you in on a little secret; proper delegation takes work and time. Yes, some people rise to the occasion and figure it out, but most can’t. To help your employees perform better, here is what they need to know.

  • What you need done – be as detailed as possible.
  • When you need it by – give them a due date so they can prioritize it and manage their time.
  • What format you need it in – tell them exactly what you expect. Is this a 1st draft, with revisions expected or a final version for a client?
  • How long should it take – assign a time budget. I’m not talking about rolling over the previous year’s budget. Ask yourself, what is a reasonable amount of time? Should they stop and ask questions if they haven’t gotten to a certain point and used a certain amount of their time? Flesh out these details before you hand the task over.

I often find many performance issues go away with better delegation. There is less rework and employees will develop into the employees they are capable of becoming.


The last great area for staff improvement is notetaking. For some reason, when we go from school to work, we think we no longer need to take notes. Is there a perception that you don’t know what you’re doing if you write it down? I hope not.  For most, the opposite is true – writing something down helps a person remember it better[1]. Teaching employees to take good notes and write recaps will help them track the important details, solidify their understanding of what they just heard and encourage them to take ownership.

While these tips won’t solve all your employee performance issues, they will help you mitigate some important ones and get you on the right track to get the very best from your staff!


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