How I Grew A Successful Business – Part 3: Employees are People Too

I enjoyed working with people during my career.  Seeing them progress in their own careers.  Having had Good Leaders in my path at the right time made a huge difference for me and I knew, “Paying that forward”, was what I should do.  The reward is when others do better, get better, are happy in their work, and enjoy life every day.

Here is the rub as I see it.  A leader must work with people of different walks of life, nationalities, different upbringings, different social status, and those who just think differently.  Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millenials (Gen Y), Gen Z all grew up at different times in our countries evolution. Not only are there 4 generations in the work force but within those groups each person is different because of their social status and upbringing.

That said, there is a lot of research you can read on the differences of each generation.  I recommend you do so for yourself.  It will stick better when you do some of your own research and form your own opinion.  Forbe’s has some good reading on the subject as does Times magazine.  I am going to try and help in just a few words about each:

  • BABY BOOMERS – This generation is used to a Top Down Authoritativeworking with people style of management.  Tell me what, when, and where and it will be done.  They use verbal forms of communication mostly instead of texting or social media (some have come out of their shell – Me for instance)
  • Generation “X” – Largely ignored, sometimes referred to as the “Tweeners”, but this generation occupies the majority of the mid level manager positions in the workforce today.  They will also be our largest majority soon in government positions as the Boomers continue to retire and fade.  They are forward thinkers and Entrepreneurs.
  • Millennials (Gen Y) – Times Magazine referred to them as the “Me, Me, Me” generation.  Participation Trophy type generation who may believe, because of this that they should be promoted every couple of years.  This generation needs their free time as much as they want to work.  Personal time ranks very high on their needs hierarchy.  This means, overtime is not something they seek like Boomers do.
  • Generation “Z” – This group started life with a cell phone in their hand, exposed to the internet, and advance technology.  They desire multiple challenges or responsiblities at working with peopleonce.  They are a more DIY group with so much on YouTube and Google to find out how to do something.  They only want to work with companies that have technological sophistication.  They too value their free time.

Well, thats all the letters of the alphabet……… “Star Trek “The Next Generation” is coming………..

I shared the generational differences because they are important to understand why a person may be acting or reacting the way they are.  Helps to understand where they might be coming from and why they think the way they do.  I don’t believe you need to change the principles of leadership to be effective.  Only to recognize they may need delivered differently to achieve the results your trying to achieve.

Here are some things about working with people that I believe carry a lot of weight:

  1. POSITIVE WORKING CONDITIONS -Firstly, what does your office “Feel” like when you walk in?  Are your people happy?  Do they have energy?  Have you noticed?  What do others say about your office when they come in?  What will applicants see when they walk in to apply for a position?
    • When you walk into the office, what working with peopleis your daily routine?  Where do you go first?  Who do you talk to first?  I will share what mine was most of the time.  I didn’t always get it right and sometimes I even had to apologize.  How you act affects how your people act.  Here is how most of my days went:
    • A greeting to everyone in the office, a warm “Good Morning” and a smile.  At the end of the day I went around to anyone left in the office and shook their hands.  Thanked them for their efforts that day.
    • At all hands meetings I tried to shake the hand of each employee as they arrived to the meeting.  I wanted them to know they meant something to me.  That they were worthy.
    • Be warned, you MUST give each person the same attention.  They see you interacting and if they don’t “Get Theirs” they feel like they have done something wrong.  And I mean, “The Same Attention”.  Same strength of “Hello”.  Same handshake or ‘High Five”.  The same for each.  If not they may even see this as favoritism and because the mind works like it does, all kinds of things start swirling around in the mind.  Be consistent and the same to each.
    • Be sincere when you do this or a variation of this.  Mean it or you will cause more harm than good.  You intentions must be pure.  You must care about them intensely.
  2. IN THE KNOW – Our businesses change for a good number of reasons.  Sometimes working with peoplewe have to go in another direction, change the way we do business.  Perhaps something isn’t working and we need to change a process a little or all together.  It has been said, “If your not changing your going backwards”.  Not Change for the sake of Change but for a purpose to be sure.  Always evaluating what works and what doesn’t.
    • Annouce change to the effected group “Before” you implement the change.  Share “Why, When, How, What and Where” the change will occur.  Be truthful and the team will get behind you on this change.
    • People like to be “In The Know” about things.  All generations if the truth be known.  The more they know about your direction, the more they are inclined to help you get there.
    • Read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” as it discusses how best to leadership principlescommunicate change.  Most people don’t like change because it disrupts their daily routine.  Change handled effectively will actually encourage “Change Recommendation” within your group.  They will look forward to change as your business becomes more successful.
    • Beware that “You” may not think a little change is much and doesn’t need a whole lot of communication but consider who it will have an effect on and act accordingly.  Most people don’t like change and they don’t like it even more if they change is handled poorly.  I know you have felt this, been through this, and even saw this in action for yourself.
  3. COACHING – If you call someone into your office, how would theyworking with people react today?  What are they feeling at that moment?  You and I both know how that feels but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It will take some time to change that culture but it can be done:
    • My wife shared a statement one of here leaders told her and it went like this:  You can fix “I don’t know” but you can’t fix “I don’t care”.  Now, I don’t believe that you just don’t try to fix the “I don’t care” but it will be a lot tougher to do so.
    • Stop using words or phrases like, “I am going to write you up”.  Write up in itself is very negative for anyone.  It means failure or being “in trouble”.  Use the word “coaching” instead.  As you use this word more and more you will be changing how you go about leading people.
    • Start a coaching regimen with your people.  Planned times when you sit down together and discuss how it is going.  Plan on doing these monthly on a regular schedule with your people.  If you don’t keep this schedule, these sessions will lose thier effectiveness.  They won’t seem important if you don’t keep the schedule.
    • Coaching sessions are because “You Care” what happens to this working with peopleemployee and want the best for them.  That is how you approach these sessions.  Whether this is an impromptu session created to correct a behavior/error or your regular monthly session.  Remember:  They dont’ care how much you know until they know how much you care.
    • You would never want to approach these sessions because of how they affected you because they are NOT about you.  It’s about your team member and growing them to their potential.
    • You and your employee should be prepared to contribute to this discussion.  Several items to review in each “Coaching” session:
      • Tell me what is going well – Write it down
      • Tell me what didnt’ go so well – Write it down
        • What do you think you could have done differently?
      • You tell them what you thought went well – Have it already written down
      • You tell them what you thought didn’t go so well – Have it already written down
        • Tell them what you think they could do differently
      • Ask them what it is you could do for them to help them progress/change – Write it down
      • Share with them what you would like them to work on before your next meeting – write it down or already have it written down
      • Tell them what you will do and when based on your conversation today
      • Let them tell you what they will have done or work on until the next meeting.
      • Schedule the next meeting before they leave.
      • Leave the meeting with an understanding of what will be accomplished and worked on before the next meeting.  Leave it with a positive finish and thank them for their time and input.
    • You may need to put someone on a weekly cycle of coaching.  Perhaps to get a quicker turn around on behaviors or improve a skill set needed very soon.  Perhaps you are fast tracking someone to the next level and need these weekly check-ins to keep on track and motivated.
    • IMPORTANT – You are not going the attack the team member for their faults.  You are going to address the team members behavior or actions – good or bad.  This is an important distinction.  “Your a loser” is an attack on the person.  “You don’t know what your doing” is an attack on the person.  “Let’s talk about what just happened so we can understand it”, is a coaching approach.
    • You may find that during these sessions your assumptions are all wrongworking with people about what is actually occurring.  It’s OK to change your direction.  You must remain flexible during these sessions to truly address the right needs.  It could be that life just dealt them a lemon and they don’t know how to handle it so they show it in their work performance and attitude.
    • A great benefit, tis will ensure that at your regular “Review” cycle, every 6 months or annually, there will be no surprises with your evaluation.  You and the team member will be on the same page.  Your evaluation should not come as a surprise.
    • Click Here for a pretty good Forbes Article on Coaching. Here is a excerpt from the article:  “It’s not surprising that managers feel they don’t have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root.”  Coaching will become a “Culture” in your business if practiced consistently.
  4. RECOGNITION FOR EVERYONE  (No not participation trophy’s).  True recognition of a person’s contribution to the business and the team.
    • PUBLIC Recognition – I was exposed to a recognition program early in my career that was pretty awesome.  It fostered a way to recognize every employee publicly at least once per year.  This program was through Strata Leadership called “Character First”.  They have a fantastic program and different levels at which you can participate.   You can find them at  It’s a wonderful program for recognizing your people.  It forces your leaders to get to know each of the people that report to them.  Pay better attention to them.
    • PRIVATE = Coaching.  Praise in Public and Coach in Private.  It is working with peopleeasy to correct right out in the open.  Our parents probably did it.  I am certain mine did.  The older we got, the more embarrased we got from the event.  You may even feel justified in doing so in Public.  Indeed, this employee has caused you to become irritated and angry.  They maybe even caused a project to have a delay or hiccup.  They deserve to know how they made your job more difficult.  So…… please note that you are reacting to how it has affected you and not the behavior of the employee.
      • The employee likely will feel mortified and embarrased.  Your effort to correct this openly will likely fail. The employee has tuned you out in favor of what others might be thinking of them right now.
      • Do this privately in a “Coaching” style.  This is the caring approach we talked of earlier.  Most employees want to do well so what might be causing this current issue?  What has changed for them?  Do they not know how to do what was asked to be done?  Dig in deep and find out the true cause which will lead you both to a solution.
  5. RESPONSIBILITIES – Your role is to Grow Leaders all the time.  When you have someone who has shown they can handle more responsiblity, give them some!  Let them lead a project or plan a training session.  If you want to keep your great people, this is one way to grow them when you don’t have a position to promote them into.
    • I could talk in front of 200 people in a meeting and was comfortable with doing so.  It wasn’t always like that.  I was terrified at first that I would look dumb and stupid.  Mess up what I was gong to say!  Now, I have fun with my mistakes, make fun of myself, as it makes me human and the team enjoys this.
    • I just read something about presentation I wanted to share and it goes like this:  Presentations aren’t about the presenter  They are bout the audience and their needs.  This is good advice for a future leader you have chosen to champion a meeting or project.  Know your material and deliver content meant to improve and inform the audience you are speaking too.  It should improve them in some way.
    • Find a good book for them to read on how to conduct a meeting or training session.  A good one is “Boring Meetings Suck”.  This is a good read and can make your meetings more engaging and effective.
    • Encourage them to be prepared as this removes some of the terror.   Give them plenty of time to prepare and clear guidance on the objectives.  Give them positive re-enforcement that they can do this.  You might even go over a brief of their presentation/training ahead of time before going live.  
    • Make sure you are in that training or meeting to take notes and provide feedback afterwards to the employee.  Also, don’t interrupt them except to help them out of a jam and get them back on track.  Raise your hand like everyone else to be heard and use the opportunity to ask questions that help guide the discussion or understanding of the topic.  Questions – Not Statements to be clear.  Questions that require an answer.
    • Bottom line, this will make your job so much easier with many of your team deeply involved in the business.
  6. THE BEST FIRST DAY – We tried to make the first day for a new employee the best day they could have.  You want your employees to “Love” working for you and for your business.  You want them to go home after the first day and “Rave” about what a great company it is.  If each of your employees are “Raving Fans” they will make your customers “Raving Fans”.  I encourage you to read the book “Raving Fans” and apply what you learn to your business.  The principles are Amazing and Spot On!
    • You need to have a plan for what that first day looks like.  Each step the new employee will take in your business.  Let’s see if I can remember what we did:
      • Meet with HR and fill out all the required paperwork.
      • Their leader would take over and give them a comprehensive tour to each department.  Discuss what the department did and how the new employee would interact with them.
      • Each department team would welcome the new employee with open arms and a warm smile.
      • They would meet with the Vice President (me) and I would share my vision and our company history.  They would learn what my expectations were for them.  They would understand how we interact with our customers and how important they were to our business.  I also wanted them to know I was there for them if they ever needed me.
      • Their leader would take them to lunch and learn more about them personally.
      • If you have company stuff, make sure they get one of each to take home with them.  Two if the significant other could benefit from it.  You have hired the family, not just one person.
      • Make sure they get their schedule and understand how it works.
      • We would measure for uniforms if it was part of their role to have them.
      • The rest of their day they might begin our online training programs.
    • I just cannot stress how important that first day is to a new employee.  If you are not organized and don’t have a plan it can turn many new people off or even away.   You convinced them to come work for you and it is up to you to show them they made the right decision.
  7. BE AVAILABLE – My office the last 4 years of my career was located out in the open, right in the middle of all the cubicles.  Our whole companyworking with people went to this office style as a way of making Leaders accessible to the troops.  I know, It means giving up your private office space.  A space you earned by starting your business.  I took away your parking space and now recommending you have your office right out there in the middle.  No doors to close yourself off.
    • I don’t know your environment and this may just not be possible but if it is, then a highly recommended it.
    • You definetly have to watch how you act in this set up.  What you say and your body language.
    • You can have private conversations in “Huddle Rooms”.  You absolutely need these rooms for privacy.  HR, if you have this role, will need to have a meeting room for private and confidential converstations.
    • You may wonder if it will be too noisy but I assure you it works out pretty good.  People self adjust.  Of Course, you can’t have celebration outbursts if you have people on the phone with clients.
    • You see and hear things going on around you.  Your accessible to all your people.  You learn as a team how to respect each others space.  It truly fosters greater team work and collaboration.


OK, I know that was a lot to take in and I am grateful you have come this far.  Just a few more thoughts before we get into the “Customer” side of this people equation.

There was a joke I read or heard and it went like this:  “There are 3 types of working with peoplepeople in this world – Those that Make things happen – Those that watch things happen -Those that Don’t Know What Happened”.  I can bet which one you want working for you!  I digress but if you think about this a little and perhaps places you have worked or even in school, you had all three types.  Being aware can help you change the ones that need changing.  Note the image to the left.  I am certain you will understand this simple breakdown of people.

Coach all 3, change and improve who you can.  Your job is to get them engaged at the highest level.  Coaching can rescue many of them.  Some, you may not be able to reach and you need to ask them to “Go be successful somewhere else”.

Don’t waste one minute before coaching someone who is a detriment to the team.  Your team will wonder why you let it go on.  Attack the issue straight on with the coaching principles above.  If you hesitate, they can drag the team down and be harmful to both team and business.

You are building a “Culture” in your business that touches your team and your customers.  This culture will determine your success as a business.  Oh, you have a culture already and it’s up to you to make sure it is the right one.

(Coming Soon – Customers)  Part 4>>>