Leadership is not a box on an org chart with your name by it. Your owner or manager title gives you the authority to lead your employees, but authority alone is not leadership.
Recently, a baby boomer owner of an HVAC company made a statement that the people in his office could not think for themselves. He went on to explain that he had asked one of his office staff to order some grocery bags for marketing.
He was thinking outside the box. He had heard other contractors talk about hanging logo imprinted reusable grocery bags on the doors of neighbors near where a service call or installation had been completed. Great marketing idea, but his leadership points diminished greatly in his execution of getting the marketing idea implemented.
Baby boomer entrepreneurs often tell an employee what to do without any additional information or guidance and expect that this employee will read his or her mind.
I mentioned that he’s a baby boomer because this oftentimes is a characteristic of the leadership style of this generation. Baby boomer entrepreneurs often tell an employee what to do without any additional information or guidance and expect that this employee will read his or her mind and immediately share the same exact picture of what should be done, what its purpose is, what it should look like, what the budget is and when the project is to be completed. After all, the owner’s or general manager’s name in the leadership box on the org chart guarantees this authority. And when the employee fails to produce the end result that the general manager pictured, obviously it is the employee’s fault. The new generation of employees may be challenging, but this generation will also make you a better leader. First, younger employees want to know “Why?” What is the purpose of this project or task? What results do you want? These are questions great leaders always provide answers to even before being asked.
Next, practice “WIIFM.” Most of you are probably familiar with this term: “What’s In It For Me.” A great leader understands that when asking employees to make a change, complete a project, sell accessories, sell maintenance agreements, use installation checklists (the list goes on), you must explain how the employee will benefit. Will completing this project provide increased sales that will help the employee get a raise? Will selling this maintenance agreement earn the employee a spiff or time off?
Younger employees want to know “Why?” What is the purpose of this project or task? What results do you want? These are questions great leaders always provide answers to even before being asked.
And before you say, “The employee should know that!”— the answer is “possibly” but not necessarily “probably.”
Great leaders never make assumptions about employees’ understanding of the personal benefits of certain actions. Champion your vision, and continually share how small actions can create huge personal benefits for the individual employee as well as company benefits.
At a recent conference, Karen William, an expert in brain development, made some fascinating comments that apply directly to enhancing your commitment to great leadership. She stated that most managers are good at telling employees what not to do and rather poor at telling employees what to do. Catching employees doing the wrong thing is easy. Telling an employee that is not how a procedure should be completed is easy.
However, telling an employee how something should be done requires more thought and planning. When did you last demonstrate how a technician should talk to a customer about maintenance agreements? When was the last time you discussed with a CSR how to deal with an irate customer? Complaining about employees and their lack of thinking skills or work ethic is much easier, but not very productive.
Ms. Williams talked about the fact that a human’s “second brain” is in the stomach: 80 to 85% of a body’s serotonin is produced in the stomach. Serotonin is a chemical that is responsible for mood balance and maintaining a positive attitude. So what are the implications of this piece of information? Don’t expect your employees to hear anything you’re saying or to learn anything new if they are hungry. After hearing Ms. Williams, a number of contractors have committed to providing breakfast bars, juice and fruit in the morning for all employees. A great leader creates an environment where employees can perform at the highest standards even when it means feeding them.
About that owner who ineffectively told his employee to order grocery bags. What if he had told her, “We need to order some reusable grocery bags to use in our marketing. You design it and include our logo and brand statement on the bag. Decide what trinkets to include such as refrigerator magnets, jar openers …The purpose will be to get the guys to put on houses around where they complete service calls and installations. Let me know how many bags $500 will buy by Thursday. Who knows, this might get us all a raise!”
And don’t forget to provide this direction to your employee after offering them an apple and a breakfast bar!