One of the most common complaints that I hear from business leaders is about the attitudes of their employees. Backstabbing, backbiting and backbreaking behaviors are tearing companies apart. As a result, business and service suffer.
Interestingly enough, when asked how these same leaders deal with such attitudes, the answers become punish them, avoid them or seek to understand and work with them. I would love to say that understanding and working with them is the most common choice, however experience tells me otherwise.
Although in the minority, successful leaders do find ways to build a culture for success.
Here are five tips that successful leaders use to build a culture for success:
- Lead rather than manage people. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “we manage things and lead people.” People are not objects. Trying to move people around like pieces on a chess board will only lead to frustration and disappointment. Leadership is about expanding positive actions and change. Not controlling or limiting.
- Capitalize on talents. People are hired for their ability to do the job. At least, one who hope that we are not hiring a warm body out of desperation. Given guidance and direction, complainers become communicators, hiders become researchers and reviewers, saboteurs become innovators.
- Provide a focus. Share and discuss the basic fundamentals of the business: the vision, mission and values. This does not mean emails or memo’s as a reminder. This means investing time to meet face-to-face, to ensure that people can internalize, interpret and digest the fundamentals of the business.
- Demand accountability. Serving as framework, job descriptions are used to build individual accountability. First, successful leaders share the business objectives to assist employees to establish goals and action plans. Secondly, timely feedback helps to determine if the employee is on track. This is not an annual event, but rather, an ongoing commitment to rewarding success and catching problems or failures.
- Listen and take action. Many companies fail because employees don’t feel involved. The industrial age is long gone. The knowledge age is passing. This is the age of applying knowledge and employee engagement. Learn to listen for what is not said as well as what is said. Ask for what might be left on said. Follow up on complaints. And, take action on suggestions.
A true story about listening and taking action:
A consultant once solved a problem by leaving a board room and venturing into the basement. Absenteeism was up, productivity down, customer complaints were up and profitability was off by millions of dollars.
He sought out and interviewed some maintenance staff and learned that air quality in the building was being affected by a faulty piece of equipment.
“How long has this been going on?” the consultant asked.
The response, “More then a year.”
“Whom did you talk with?” he asked.
Lastly, he asked, “How much to fix?”
The reply, “Forty thousand dollars.”
The consultant returned to the board room and shared the information. The president was astonished. He immediately completed a repair request.
The consultant followed up a few months later to follow up. Absenteeism was down, productivity was up and profitability was ahead of schedule. The president rather sheepishly thanked the consultant for his assistance. He also admitted that he now knew that value of listening to little complaints. He realized that often they were symptoms of an easy fix, rather than letting it lead to a costly impacts on the business.
In summary, lead people, rather than manage, capitalize on talent, provide a focus, demand accountability, listen and take action can and often will lead you to building a culture for success.