From time to time over the years we have been in business it has been clear that one or more employees works from day to day keeping only his or her immediate tasks in mind. The employee sees these tasks as the reason he/she has a job. Of course, to a degree, that is true. But, the big picture is that individual tasks fit together to provide a product, or in our case, a service, to clients/customers. Employees must realize that each task has a purpose. And, through various means, we, as employers, have the responsibility to demonstrate how the pieces of the puzzle create a whole picture. Good managers make efforts to communicate how the pieces fit together – that ensures employees learn how and why the little details matter. That said, we have had employees who only wanted to consider their limited tasks – they did not want to learn the big picture. Some of this has been discussed in other posts, but the result of an employee’s myopic approach work to work is usually negative for the employee – because it is negative for the company. I know in small businesses employees need to have some understanding of the big picture. I assume this is true in all businesses – even workers doing repetitive tasks must know the end result of the product or service the client or customer is buying. In a competitive workplace, workers must master the small details but make efforts to see the big picture.
My spouse/business partner and I are big believers in open, honest, and direct communications with employees. We have debriefings after every research project to discuss anything that went wrong and ways to prevent future mistakes; we have planning meetings prior to all upcoming research days; we have extensive training programs for employees of all levels; and, most important, we have “open door” policies to encourage employees to talk to us, including asking questions pertaining to work assignments, at any time our office doors are open. We have few corporate secrets; in fact, one of the first things I ask new employees to do is open all of the cabinets, closets, drawers, etc. throughout the office to learn what things are kept inside. My partner and I constantly strive to balance the employees’ desire to know only the information essential to performing their jobs with our need to provide the big picture focus on every case, and regarding every client, so that the employees have an understanding of how their job fits into the work we have been retained to perform. I make numerous efforts to inform the employees about the identity of our clients, including how long we have been working for a particular client, whether the client is a family friend and/or from my hometown, where the client attended law school, and other pertinent details that enhance the employees’ connection with each attorney with whom we work. I believe that, while the high stakes lawsuits on which we work are important, the people for whom we are working must be considered on an individual basis if we are to perform our work at maximum capacity. The employee who has the “it’s not my job” attitude concerning the big picture of his/her job will have limited time to work for my company because our work and our clients demand, and deserve, far more from us.