A true leader must invest the time to get to know his or her people. After all, your people are the only asset you have. People operate your business from the physical assets (e.g., machinery, plant, equipment) to the intangibles (e.g., customer service, relationships, etc.). This especially applies when we think about those leaders and companies that provide a service, like myself. If people don’t trust me, believe in my services or allow me to help, then my service won’t be any good.
Investing time and energy into your staff is one of the best investments you can make. This process can be as formal as an interview or as informal as a well-timed chat around the water cooler. One case study that I participated in, celebrated a new manager who decided the best way to bring his company to a higher level and lead them to excellence was to interview every employee. He would ask them questions about their work, their lives, and their goals for both. By balancing the questions in both the personal and professional side of their lives, this new manager gained the respect and the trust of his employees. He created a new way to empower them to feel a part of reaching the company’s objectives, because their individual objectives were what helped create the company’s goals. They felt that their relationship with the manager had grown beyond the domain of the nine-to-five job description and that their opinion really mattered. This certainly does not imply becoming personal friends with employees is the way to achieve your goals, but you likely should know enough about them that conversations start easily.
It is this component of valuing and soliciting information in a meaningful way that allows a leader to not only get a realistic picture of the organization, but also earn employee trust and empower the team to feel like they are making a difference.