The recurring theme that I keep hearing about when I talk to other business leaders is how difficult the people part of their business is. There is a common belief that employees, the hiring and retention of them, getting them to buy in and take ownership, and their performance and attitudes is the business owner or manager’s thorn. I’ll be the first one to admit that it can be challenging, but only if you stop learning and growing yourself as a leader. When I started in business the company had 3 employees. My husband James, me, and one dishwasher/jack of all trades named Martin. That was tough. We were solely dependent on Martin showing up for work, which he did with about 60% consistency unfortunately. In 1999 though, the economy was booming in our area, and we were rookies in the restaurant business, so had little time or knowledge on how to recruit more and better people. Now in 2017 there are more ways to hire and recruit than I can count on my fingers, and we have over 80 people working with us in our 4 restaurant locations to serve the guests that come in to see what we are about.
We have an amazing group of people working in our businesses, and there are 4 rules in the process of hiring, retaining and maintaining the culture in our business that we have set. These rules are really universal as you grow your number of employees.
1. Define your vision for your company, organization, or team. Even if you are not the owner, as a leader of people, even as few as one person, it is the most important job you have to be able to share a clear vision of what success looks like for the team, what your mission is, and what your beliefs are as far as the team’s potential.
2. Always be hiring. This means that you should always make room for people that come to you and want to be a part of what you are doing, but only after you have set the expectations with them during the interview process. Carry business cards and hand them out. Be excited about what you do, you attract who you are.
3. Set the expectations up front. The interview process is a sales opportunity. It is where you share your vision and what you are doing to work with your team and help them grow. It is the perfect opportunity to practice active listening with the people you are interviewing. More can be read between the words if you are focused on listening instead of formulating your response or thinking about the next question. Share with clarity exactly what constitutes a great team member.
4. Train and connect. Invest time and energy to train them as they are on-boarding, even if they are highly skilled. Even experts in their field will need training on the way you do things, your outlook, and how to uphold and grow the culture. The training NEVER stops. You have to have this mindset, and spend the time to connect with your people. You have to care about them as individuals, as whole people who have lives outside of work. There is no shortcut to this most important step. Invest in your team, they are more important than your clients.
In my early leadership days I had a much different outlook on people. I have needed to evolve and grow and learn more about myself in order to be able to grow my company. I used to hire out of desperation, anxious to get anyone in there to help me with my heavy load of responsibilities. I thought the people I hired would know without saying what was important. I was so motivated by having people like me that I rarely asked them to do things. I avoided conflicts, and wanted to always keep the peace. I couldn’t understand how some people wouldn’t get along. When someone left the company, I took it personally, thinking they didn’t like me.
As time progressed, I began to listen to outside voices. One of the voices was from someone with a very fear based mindset. They were more educated and successful (it appeared) than I was, and in a position of authority that I respected. Their belief was that your employees are your enemy. I tried on this outlook for a time, but it did not feel right to me. If you live from a place of distrust, you are living in fear, and will attract situations that prove you are right to distrust. I say it again, you attract WHO YOU ARE, not what you say.
Leadership is a journey, a process, and entails the important job of working on yourself. The more you know about yourself and understand your own beliefs, the more you can grow as a leader. The secret to creating a positive, growth minded, servant leader culture begins with you. What are you doing every day to build on your strengths?