Early in life, I was determined to lead an organization. Reflecting back, I didn’t understand the role of leadership, and truth be told, I am still evolving as a leader myself. I have found that there are leaders that love the title, but hate the responsibility. Different leaders have different styles, some more effective than others. The one bond that effective leaders have in common is that they engage their teams and employees.
Over the past year, I have traveled to each of our locations on a quarterly basis to meet with every one of our employees. These meetings are important to me, and I hope equally valued by our employees. I try to listen to their feedback and make changes to the business accordingly. I have learned that these meetings not only help our employees, but allow me to make positive changes to the business.
In these meetings, I ask four questions:
1. Are you happy here? Too many leaders take for granted employee engagement and happiness. By asking this simple question, it shows that you care, and I do. If someone says that they aren’t happy, I try to find out why. If there is a barrier at work, I try to remove it. If an employee is unhappy with their career path, I have an honest conversation with them and either try to find another position for them internally or encourage them to seek employment externally. As an early stage company, there might not always be room for advancement.
2. Are there any blockers in your way? Employees may be happy, but if they are frustrated by obstacles that can easily be removed, they eventually will become discouraged. I use this question as a means to encourage our employees to make changes, and also as a teaching mechanism to help empower them in their own careers. When employees have an understanding of how to have a difficult conversation, they will experience self-growth and enable their colleagues and the overall organization to operate much more effectively.
3. What can the company do better? I don’t take for granted that the best ideas come from our team. I am a very small piece to the puzzle. I want to know how can we make the company better. Where I can, I will try to make changes. Changes aren’t always easy, and they don’t always happen as quickly as people would like, but I certainly try to address issues when they are identified.
4. What questions, issues and concerns do you have? We make difficult decisions every day. Not all explanations may be readily apparent, and not everyone agrees with them. I want to provide our employees with a forum where they can ask the questions that are most important to them. They might not always feel comfortable asking questions or addressing concerns in a larger group setting, like a town hall. By helping to answer the more uncomfortable questions, I hope I am creating an environment where our employees feel like I am accessible.
I get different reactions from different people about these meetings. Some people are intimidated. Others use our meeting as a forum to discuss their frustrations, and some share their excitement for the organization. These meetings have unequivocally lead to improvements across our platform, and these improvements come directly from the feedback I receive from our team.
I realize that as we expand, I might not always be able to meet with everyone. I might not be able to adequately address concerns, but at a minimum, I am committed to listening and making our company different by showing our team how important they are to our future and success.