Antonio Iozzo, founder of Insurance Underwriting Managers believes you should teach employees to take responsibility for their actions, and watch them - and your business – move to greater heights.
Antonio Iozzo, founder of Insurance Underwriting Managers, a R350 million business, is a firm believer in the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and decisions.
In fact, it’s a simple mantra that has shaped the way he views employee management. “Many entrepreneurs start a business and have to do everything while they’re building it up. You’re the marketing guy, sales guy, admin and payroll guy, responsible for overall strategy and operations. In the early days it’s necessary, but as the business grows and you can afford employees, you need to loosen the reins and let other people take over various duties so that you can focus on growing the business.”
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The problem is that by that stage it’s often engrained that as the entrepreneur you’re the only person who knows how to do anything properly in the business.
“So many business owners are poor delegators. They don’t give their managers enough trust or responsibility, and they believe that they’re the only ones who can do anything 100% within the company.”
The problem with an attitude like this is that no-one within the organisation is given the opportunity to grow and add real value to the business as a whole.
“As the business owner, I’m ultimately responsible for the fate of the company and my employees, but great businesses are built on managers and teams who take and embrace responsibility themselves as well,” points out Iozzo.
“What’s the point of an extremely disciplined CEO if that same level of discipline isn’t expected from the team? People drive organisations, and so the sooner you can create self-driven, self-motivated and self-disciplined employees, the quicker your organisation will grow, and the more successful you’ll be in your field.”
Building responsible employees
For Iozzo, building responsible employees starts with knowing the good from the bad. “Every business has top employees, average employees and below average employees,” he admits, adding that business owners ignore this basic fact at their detriment. “It’s important to know who’s who so that you can encourage your employees to grow,” he says.
“Your top employees in particular are ambitious, capable and want to grow. The more responsibility you give them, the more they’ll shine within their roles. It takes trust, and they won’t always get it right first time, but they will learn. If you’ve judged them correctly, these will not only be your top performers, but key drivers within your organisation.”
The ABCs of staff management
Iozzo works on a simple system of A, B and C employees. “A employees are my top performers and the foundation of my business. They’re extremely good at what they do, they’re self-disciplined and work hard, and we reward them for their loyalty and what they bring to the business.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and money training in them, and we give them responsibility. It takes a degree of trust to do this, but the more responsibility I give them, the more they thrive. They treat my money as their money, and my business as their own.”
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Interestingly, most ‘A’ employees start out as ‘B’ employees and move their way up because they take ownership of their roles.
“B employees are the worker bees,” says Iozzo. “They’re reliable. They arrive when they’re meant to, and they leave when we close. Most don’t become A employees because they’re happy as Bs – that’s okay. When they’re at the office they give it their all. Great businesses need both A and B employees.”
C employees on the other hand are bad apples. “When we spot them, we get rid of them as quickly as we can. This isn’t because they’re lazy and inept. That we can work with, encourage and coach. We’ve learnt that you can’t change someone’s attitude though. An individual who doesn’t take responsibility for their own happiness or success, but instead blames their managers, colleagues and the business for their failures is a drain on morale, productivity and overall office happiness.
“C employees are incessant complainers and unfortunately they can turn a B into a C quicker than you can blink through negativity and whispering in everyone’s ears about managers, company policies – anything they can find to moan about. Unfortunately we’ve learnt that negativity spreads far quicker than positivity, and you can’t fix a bad attitude. Don’t waste your energy on Cs. Get rid of them so that you can spend your time on As and Bs – they’re the foundation of your success.”