How to Lead by
Putting Your People First
by Barbara Sanfilippo
|"The way your
employees feel is the way your customers are going to feel."
Isn't that the truth? Dissatisfied or unhappy employees tend to
deliver poor service. Happy employees tend to deliver good service.
Sound simple? Then why don't we have more happy employees?
Many of us are caught up with planning, profitability, technology,
marketing and customer satisfaction. Often we loose sight of the fact
that our people are our most valuable asst. Without committed, loyal and
motivated employees, any service program or major initiative is doomed
to failure. In our rush to improve our service and satisfy our riders,
have we forgotten the importance of our staff?
is the Key
John Bartosiewicz with Fort Worth Transportation Authorities strongly
believes, "If you want to get staff buy-in and commitment to any change
or project, hold a series of smaller meetings to communicate
effectively. It's important to listen to their concerns and have a
dialogue, not just a prepared speech." With over 500 employees, John
felt this more intimate format has significantly improved communications
at Fort Worth Transportation Authorities
|One of my past clients, Mike Maslak became president/CEO of San
Diego's North Island Federal Credit Union. He developed a fiercely loyal
and dedicated management team that has led to financial success. In
sharing his secret for leading the cultural change, Mike says, "Focusing
on employee satisfaction and developing a people-based management team
has been very successful for us. All of our key financial ratios exceed
industry peer performance. By utilizing focus groups, surveys and
improved communications, service and employee morale have been measured
at an all-time high."
Transit general managers who ride with bus operators, visit with the
mechanics and listen to their concerns are leading by example. John
Wilson of Citibus has monthly informal roundtable meetings with a small
group of his staff to share the vision, answer questions and listen to
their concerns. This popular format has helped John to win the respect
and trust of his people.
Many top-quality service organizations have identified staff
satisfaction and development as a priority and back this up with action
steps in their strategic plans. Reference to your employee well-being
should be included in your mission statement and backed up with action.
Many options exist for creating a people first atmosphere. Consider
Climate Surveys - Anonymous climate surveys or "employee report
cards" are a key factor in developing a people first company. Surveys
with comments demonstrate you're interested in listening to staff
concerns and in solving problems.
A climate survey we conducted for McDonald Transit Associates,
Springs Transit and Citibus identified several areas of concerns of
their managers and employees. Larry Heil is an excellent example of a
leader who is open to feedback and suggestions from his managers. By
communicating the results at a staff retreat and breaking into small
discussion groups, we were able to get feedback and brainstorm
Project Teams - Leaders seek to get their staff involved and
participating on teams. As a result of our retreat, John Wilson of Citibus created several action teams to work on issues such as
standards, internal service and terminals and training. Mary Ann Jackson
of Pierce Transit also has extensive teams in place such as : Highway To
Health, Quality Improvement Project and the RTA Employees Communication
Training and Development - By investing in our people, we are
investing in our future success. Our staff is hungry for opportunities
to attend classes and seminars. If budget is tight consider hiring a
presenter/consultant and splitting costs. By coordinating their
schedules the same week, I was able to conduct a climate survey review
and staff retreat for both Springs Transit and Citibus. Pierce Transit
offers an internship in their planning department to bud operators and
customer service reps. This goes a long way to building future leaders.
Self-Management - Employee-focused organizations require confident
management that is open to delegating decisions downward. Leaders give
responsibility and support and then get out of the way.
Praise and Recognition - Concentrate on what is done right. Most
organizations tend to give feedback only when something goes wrong. Use
"on the spot" rewards, such as lottery tickets and coupons to give
Employee Appreciation Day - Designate a day or week to honor your
people and say thank you for their hard work. The key to success is
getting the General Manager and all management actively involved. Have
senior and mid-level managers spend the day praising employees,
delivering gifts, hosting parties and filling in at work stations.
Lighten Up - Happy people are more productive at work. Use cartoons
and humorous memos to communicate information. Encourage the use of
skits, music and games at staff meetings. Celebrate as much as possible.
As leaders let's not forget we have the privilege and honor of
serving our staff.
|Once referred to as a "diminutive dynamo", Barbara
idea-packed, energizing and interactive programs that not only inform,
but inspire people to "make it happen!"
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