The world is constantly advancing. Technology is growing exponentially. Communication is constantly evolving. Music is seemingly getting worse with each generation. Yet, the leadership techniques at your company stay stagnant, particularly if your business is an already established one. The times are changing and with it, so are the people. Are you adapting with them?
People Don't Grow on Trees
Hardworking employees are hard to come by and even harder to keep.
Yes, to be a leader in any capacity, you need to have technical knowledge of your business. Yes, you need to be tenacious. Yes, you need to commit to the business. But, most importantly, you need to commit to the people. After all, leadership is about serving them.
Employees need to respect you. Some may think that rank is all that they need to gain respect. Being CEO/Owner/Manager etc. automatically deserves reverence. It does...to a point. The best way to truly garner their respect is to respect and support them, and not just in their jobs, but in their lives as well. Gone are the days when employees are just numbers on a payroll ledger. Only seeing them as a statistic, a data entry on your cash flow sheet will decrease their loyalty to you and your company. They will not feel valued. Eventually, they will leave.
Now, you do not need to be their best friend. Don't go to the bar with them on weekends and discuss Phil Collins greatest hits, and not just because they won't know who Phil Collins is. There should always be some separation between you and your employees. That said it's always a good idea to take your team out for company bonding or buying
everyone coffee or lunch. It does not need to be extravagant if the sentiment is there. Besides, free pizza has never decreased morale.
Your team will know whether you genuinely care about their well-being, their families, and their lives outside of work. However, if you take an honest interest in them, their respect for you will surge. Start by finding common ground that doesn't relate to work. It could be as simple as talking about how your children don't text you back or favorite TV shows. Have you ever seen two people who love Game of Thrones talk about it together? Get in on that excitement. Dedicating time to your employees to get to know them better is time well spent. You'll build a stronger relationship with them, while enjoying improvements in their work ethic.
One-Size Doesn't Fit All
Are you treating others how you want to be treated? Good. Now, stop. Start treating others how they want to be treated.
Odds are that you've heard that small positive reinforcements like "good job" and "keep up the good work" increase work performance and morale. Let’s say you enjoy hearing these things yourself. Guess what? Some people just don’t care about affirmations. Instead, they would prefer on what they could improve. Take the time to learn what makes each employee tick. Communication is the key and asking is all it takes.
Constant feedback is critical. The days of the old fashioned “annual review” are over. Meet with employees regularly - in some cases weekly- to discuss how things are going. It's important to examine expectations versus reality and communicate if they are underperforming or exceeding. However, it is also just as vital to review your performance as their leader. Ask them honestly what aspects they appreciate and the ones they do not. Listen and act. Clearly, there will always be customs that cannot be
changed; however, altering a few of your tendencies to better suit their unique needs will make a great impression. Compromises will overshadow the hard "no" and your employee will feel that their opinions are valuable.
A strict time regimen, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, is typical in most places of business. It's a standard, because that is when consumers and clients anticipate when they can reach you. Requiring your employees to work this schedule is understandable, but could risk productivity. Some people are early birds, others are night owls, and some are both, but need a nap at 2:00. Extend the work day to 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, but let them choose what 8 hours they work. Being a little more flexible will make sure your people are working at the times they are most effective. Of course, balance this with the needs of the clients, but if your employees work as a team and communicate effectively, the client will be taken care of and in a more efficient way.
Recognize your employees not just as a mass of people, but individuals with different needs. Tailoring your leadership techniques to each person, will vastly better your ability to lead your whole company to success.
Teach a Man to Fish
To be a good leader you need to be a good coach. This might seem quite obvious, but many fall into the habit of either micromanaging or macro managing. Remember your job is to empower and guide them. Don't do their work for them or leave them floundering by themselves. Let them think and figure things out – mentor them, don’t hold their hand.
Take time to teach them in terms they understand, let them practice, and give them pointers. Inclusion is necessary. Let them shadow you at an important meeting. By allowing them to tag along, they will see how you interact with a client and how, later,
they will interact with one. Eventually, when it's time to play, let them play. Will they miss every once and a while? Yes, but failure is the key to improving. You don't bench a rookie after they make an error or strike out. Let them think and figure things out – mentor them, don’t hold their hand.
How you teach them will differ based on what kind of player they are. It is one of the reasons why getting to know your employees is so important. No matter your methods, in the end, the leader’s most important job is be a support for their team, and to stay out of the way.
By Joseph V. Giordano, CPA with Alexa R. Moore
About the author
Joe is a 2004 graduate of Mount Saint Mary’s University, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He is also a 2000 graduate of Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware. Joe started with the firm in 2002 as a part-time intern, joining full-time in 2004.
Since then, he has worked with a myriad of clients, including entrepreneurial firms, agricultural businesses and nonprofit entities, including those with OMB A-133 audits. Joe, along with the firm, contributes to Toys for Tots, Goodwill Industries, as well as several other community organizations. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Delaware Society of Certified Public Accountants.