Gladys didn’t get paid today. Five months anniversary of ‘non-payment’. She’s really having a hard time because she: can’t afford to pay her kid’s school tuition, avoids her landlord. She knows that she’ll have no lights soon. She’s late for work -again- because she had to deal with the school’s principal first.
I’m not saying that it has always been like this: the job interview was great. Smiles everywhere, new premises, warm and cheerful executives; the pay was good with possible increases. Today, her taxis expenses are unbearable. Coming to work has become a punishment. The projects are dull and monotonous, meetings and briefings keep coming but they are not relevant. There’s no magic anymore. She will sell her belongings to make ends meet. Asking for help to her colleagues? They got exactly the same issues…
‘Do they know how I live? Them, in their big cars and shiny suits? ‘ she asked herself. Yesterday ‘they’ asked her to manage the new equipment delivery, back to her desk she did a Google search and realized that only one of these items cost four times her salary, it brought her down in tears. Gladys is a graphic designer.
Do bosses know how bad they’re hurting their workers when they act like this? Why they keep doing it? How to keep your workers’ loyalty when the competition comes knocking with better salaries? Do they have great bosses? Not necessarily. How to become a great boss then?
We are looking for leaders to unite us around a vision, that’s you. When problems occur we want you to take the lead. If you don’t take the entire responsibility of your employees’ failures or difficulties, you will fail miserably to instill admiration and respect in your troops. You will be only good at giving orders. Problem is that the orders never walk. Do what you say and say what you do, nothing is worse than a chatterbox.
Swim with your team
The work is done, you came down there and validated the client’s project, and you went back in your office. Absent boss. You have no idea how your team will hate you for that, for not having saved everybody’s time when you could just pull a chair up and sit next to each of your team members. Get in the ‘arena’, build constant feedback. Give room for suggestions, push for improvements and if they don’t fly, take a pen and go to the whiteboard or go back to your office’s desk and come out with a rocking PowerPoint presentation.
Honesty is stronger than pride
So many meetings are beginning with new goals conversations, or those the team missed and had to catch up. The first thing to make sure of, in a room, is to ask ” Who, here, has a problem ? “. When troubles arise, it is important to speak frankly. If the financial situation is dire, tell them you will restrain the budget; tell them they will not get paid this month; SAY IT! After that, you will work on solutions as a team. Pride, taboos, hierarchy: they have no place in a team brief. The goal is to urge every players to speak their mind. Issues must be squared and resolved before even getting new clients.
Do not take hostages
It is better to reward someone in full or not at all than in thirds. I’ve often seen managers pay their team third the salary by mentioning problems of treasuries or unpaid bills. Do you really think they will thank you for that? Don’t you think they have electric bills to pay too? May be you thought that they would not be in for the money. Everybody’s in for the money when it’s not invested properly. These investments are what make people stick together.
Invest in your team
This is the truth: you have recruited people who have worked hard for their degrees and are now entering into a routine that’s boring. You, as a leader, must constantly stimulate their knowledge by offering them in-house training. Technology is everywhere and it’s easy to get lost between how to write a good social media post and crunching numbers in Excel.
Invest in your company
I think any company that does not have a quiet room with nice couches and cushions on the floor, simply should not do business. If you expect people to spend their midnight oil, collapsing in chairs waiting for the cleaning service to wake them up: you’ve missed a huge point. Make people love their work space. The interior design and spaces were carefully studied and articulated in companies like Pixar or Google, why not be inspired by them? It is true that some have family obligations, but others are willing to invest serious time in your great projects. Do not turn off their passion when it will only cost you a couch or offering catering services to them.
Limit your exposure
A day in a troubled company. Employees are expecting a raise, as they were promised, and that glorious day didn’t come. They are now stunned to see, coming out of a brand new Aston Martin, their CEO in a golf attire. Be discreet, when you know the rebellion is coming take a bike.
Lack of information and communication between individuals is the worst evil. If you speak ill of an employee to another behind his/her back, you will do the same on your clients/partners; you will do the same on your competition; your workers will do the same on you! The meeting rooms are made to resolve conflicts.
Oh… my biggest flaw. I know that I’ve never been patient; I also know that I am a dog lover and mine taught me a lot about it. It is very hard to master. I remember the day when my Labrador barked endlessly in his cage, I decided to take him out and proceeded to a thorough inspection and cleaning. When you do things well, you expect quick outcomes right? Wrong! He refused to get back in. With patience, I tried several tactics but the one that really worked was linking the action to the word – I pointed the cage out and took an authoritative voice -. If I had listened to my inner voice, I would have taken this alligator’s reincarnation -my Golden Ret’ never chews…- with both hands and forced him in there. But was I aware of his real issues? Was there a snake in that cage? I didn’t know. Clients will not pay you in time -it always drives me numb-, workers will not ‘get it’ right away, people in business will owe you money. Patience is one of your greatest asset.
Forget about the money
I like to think about money as a wild horse instead of a unicorn. If it fascinates you, it will be hard to distance yourself from a greedy competition. Money can make you avaricious to the point where you’ll automatically not pay your team and use vain tricks to keep them around you. Then you’ll establish a downward spiral and cause troubles in your company. I don’t like to minimize the power of money but great relationships are stronger.
In conclusion, finding the right leadership balance is very hard. Sometimes you have to be tyrannical to get things moving in the right direction, but even the tyrants have a great heart. Dictatorship is so yesterday and people’s -especially young bloods- reaction to it is so bad. Nowadays, you have to ‘go with the flow’ without drifting away from your vision and your goals. I think that running a business is like being the eldest of a family: you are expected and forced to be in charge against your will. Entrepreneurs bring hope into the lives of their customers, but most of all: their employees. The power to make their lives better , realize their dreams, allowing them to send their children to school and have a roof over their head. This power is huge and comes with great responsibilities. If you fail, lead by your own vanity, they will blame you for it and forget everything you’ve done for them in the past. But if they watch your baby steps and get involved in the process, things will be different. Stakes are high, be a great boss by practicing these fundamentals.
Your turn. Do your employees like you? How do you keep the magic going?