The #1 Mistake that Business OWners Make That Causes Stress, Anxiety & Worry in their Employees

by Sean Foster | May 27, 2021 | Newsletter

Heard of the power of 1? Like compound interest, just a 1% improvement in 1% of your business, made consistently results in spectacular performance improvements. Well, research has shown that if you fix this #1 mistake, expect to get at least a 10% improvement in employee productivity. That’s mind bogglingly big! 

I quoted the figure from a book I recommend: Wellbeing at Work: How to build Resilient and Thriving Teams. Worldwide, about 50% of employees are unsure of their roles and what exactly is expected of them. Consequently, this leads to stress, anxiety, a feeling of loneliness, loss of sleep and performance limitations. PS. all of which are costs that are rather difficult to directly measure. 

You really need to read the book to appreciate the full impact of these effects - here I am just highlighting the key outcomes and concepts, so let me add to them. Studies have shown that by increasing the level of awareness that employees have about what is expected of them, there is a 22% reduction in employee turnover (that’s worth its weight in gold), and a 29% reduction in safety incidents. 

If you wonder why previous initiatives that you introduced died, this may have been an internal campaign, a new theme, a business strategy, new systems etc, it was most likely because our employees did not completely buy into them (I gave a personal example of this in the last NewsBrief.) More notably, they did not completely understand their own relevance, their own metrics or what they could personally do to contribute to the desired outcome. 

The critical emphasis here is to lead by context, as opposed to telling them merely what they need to do. The following is a simple model that will help you in thinking through how to tackle the issue.  

Adopt the following actions to ensure your employees really contribute to the success of the business.



1. Set CLEAR and CHALLENGING goals  here are two summaries from studies.                                                                                                                                               a. 74 studies (ref: Journal of Management) found that less ambiguous goals resulted in increased productivity.  

b. 49 studies (ref: Journal of Applied Psychology) found that specific and difficult goals resulted in higher performance. 

2. Goal setting must be collaborative  when managers collaboratively set goals with employees, they are over 3 times more engaged. 

3. Foster an environment of contributing towards the collective  many studies show that individuals value knowing how their goals relate to their teammates’ roles. 

4. Adequate resources – difficult goals will engage your employees and reinforce their commitment, but without the resources available for them to deliver on these goals it will simply lead to burnout. Ensure they have the resources. 

These are just 4 key points that you need to ensure are correct. Like most things in life, we can easily over-complicate solutions. By focusing on these 4 outcomes, that have all been backed up by research, you can easily avoid that complexity. In fact, after reading through the book, I was further committed to the belief that effective 90-day planning is the route to avoiding employee stress and to significantly improve overall productivity. 

This is why, for the last few years I have been drumming away on educating business owners to adopt 90-day planning as part of the routine way that a business should be run. This was the original motivation for developing Sukuma.

If you have inquiries or would like assistance, please contact me directly for further details.  

✉️   sean@seanfoster.co.nz       📞   029 - 427 4980