In a recent email message to his audience, successful entrepreneur Derek Halpern tells about the day he realized he was going to have to leave the corporate world in order to make an impact in business. He had worked on a presentation and provided it to his boss. He had put a great deal of thought and analysis into the subject matter of the presentation. The response? His boss was more concerned with the size of the font and the size of the page than with the content and the value of the analysis.
The good news for Derek is that he has gone on to create a very successful business. The not-so-good news for that company is that they lost a sales and marketing genius.
There are some valuable lessons in this story for us as leaders in business.
Realize that most employees work for more than just a paycheck. They work because they want to make a difference.
It is our responsibility as leaders to help our teams connect to the vision of the company and to see how their work helps make that vision a reality. It’s the difference between someone putting a widget on a car on an assembly line and someone who realizes they are helping create a safe vehicle to carry a family. There are companies who actually put names on products so that as it goes through the line, each worker knows they are helping real people. It creates a customer connection. Workers feel they are making a difference…and they are.
Listen to the ideas of employees.
If we’re not careful, we as executives can spend all day in our offices and in meetings with our peers and miss the valuable input of those who are closer to the front lines. This is especially true in a customer service situation. If you want to gauge the profitability of your company in the future, listen to the customer service department today.
Recognize the strengths each person brings to the table.
You may have an employee in a support position, and you may be tempted like Derek’s boss to simply see them as the “preparer of a presentation”. Look beyond the font to the value of the content. Do they see something from their perspective that may not be visible from yours? Do they have ideas that could add to the company’s bottom line or save on costs?
Allow out-of-the-box thinking.
“Think outside the box” has become a common saying in the business world. But do we really mean it? Let’s face it, some employees do think out of the box. They challenge status quo. They may be highly creative. They do things differently. What commonly happens in the corporate world to these types of individuals? They get reprimanded. Now I’m not advocating policy violations or anything like that, but I am advocating that every once in a while, maybe we should stop and listen to what they are trying to tell us. Maybe our status quo does need to be challenged. Maybe we do need some fresh creativity. And maybe we do need to do some things differently.
Watch for potential.
One of our greatest responsibilities as leaders is to watch for potential…to see a spark of talent, skill, and passion, and fan the flame. If you have a dedicated employee who has these traits, watch for opportunities to challenge them and help them grow within those areas, and recognize their efforts when they do. We spend a great deal of time and money on recruiting in business, when sometimes the best candidates are already on the payroll.
Being a leader in business is a great responsibility. It is also a great opportunity to make a difference…in the lives of employees, customers, and the business itself. Are you working to keep your valued employees on a daily basis?