Q: What role does creating a work environment play in leadership?
A: We spend most of our waking time at work, so it is incredibly important that a leader focuses on creating a great work environment. Simply put, you want to shape an environment that brings out the best in people. And you want the environment to bring the whole person into the job – not just the work person. We have a campus-like feel and I’m constantly inspired by walking around our global offices and seeing all of the amazing tribes that are forming, soul-nourishing community initiatives in play, and pioneering work that we are doing for our clients.
As a leader, the best thing you can do is to give your team permission to shape the environment and then encourage it when they act. For example, our team wanted lower cube walls for more collaboration, and I encouraged that change. In addition to fostering tribes, I’ve encouraged bringing in non-profit CEOs for our speaker series. While optional to attend, these talks put many things in perspective, including sparking passions in our people to be better citizens at large. A non-profit CEO is duty bound, and you can literally see their passion come out when they present – it is contagious. We also bring in our clients to celebrate key milestones. And, of course, our client events, including our Social Summit (summit.bazaarvoice.com), are an extension of our work environment where we all see, together, how we are “changing the world, one authentic conversation at a time.”
Brett Hurt, Venture Partner, Austin Ventures & Former CEO, Bazaarvoice
Q: Does a leader lead best when treating employees as employees, or as humans?
A: A leader will lead best when employees are viewed as human potential. A leader will seek to develop the talents and potential of the members of their organization for the benefit of all who depend on them.
Spencer Berthelsen, M.D., Chairman & Managing Partner, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic
Q: How important is it for a leader to give his employees autonomy to do their own jobs as they see fit?
A: Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right thing.” The CEO’s leadership role starts with setting the example of “the right thing.” Leadership is the art of getting people to accomplish things that they thought were un-attainable. I’ve developed a theory called, “The GRASS is Greener” approach . . .
G stands for establish the Goals
R is for providing the needed Resources
A is for establishing Accountability
S is Supporting your team when necessary, and
S is for Staying out of the way and letting the person operate
Experience has indicated when a CEO develops a solid team of people, gives them autonomy, and uses the “Grass is Greener” theory, the odds for success increment dramatically. Therefore, it becomes a critical component of success to have autonomy as part of the company culture.
Bob Heard, CEO, Credant Technologies
Q: How can a leader inspire his or her employees to trust him/her?
A: Employee trust is something you earn each and every day. Employees know when you care more about them than you care about yourself because it shows in the way that you conduct yourself and your business each and every day – in all matters – big and small. As they say, employees don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And, employees know when you genuinely care for them. This is not something that you can fake. Employees intrinsically know when they are truly valued and appreciated. It shows in the way you interact with them, in the salary and benefits you provide for them, in the way you respond to them during challenging times. To gain and keep the trust of your employees you must always puts employees first and always lead by example. You can never ask an employee to do anything you would not be willing to do yourself. You can never hide behind arbitrary rules or precedent or bend to popular opinion when faced with tough decisions. Rather, employees have to know they can count on you to always do the right things for the right reasons. They want to see you setting the example by arriving early and cheerfully to work – always with positive “can do” attitude. They want to see you demonstrate pride in your employees, your company and the community. They want to see you working hard, setting a vision for your company, volunteering in your community and giving generously to charity. In the final analysis, employees want you to be a role model that sets the bar high because they want to be a part of a winning team and want to be a part of something bigger than just a job.
Bill Greehey, Chairman, NuStar Energy
Q: How important is it to give your employees autonomy to do their own jobs as they see fit?
A: In the early days at Sweet Leaf I used to think that I couldn’t afford to hire the best and brightest and liked to have a lot of control over all aspects of the business . . . the result was we stayed small and my controlling nature was an impediment to our growth. Now I know – I can’t not afford to hire the best and brightest – they pay for themselves quickly and help ensure success. We hire great people, give them plenty of rope to do their job as they see fit but measure their results and communicate frequently on progress and issues.
Clayton Christopher, CEO, Deep Eddy Vodka
Q: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to trust them?
A: Colin Powell wisely said, “Trust is the essence of leadership.” Without trust in leadership, there is no leadership. Although styles, strengths and approaches vary, if a leader aspires to have influence, he or she must embrace and exemplify certain tenets to establish and build trust.
An effective leader focuses on relationships. He or she seeks out opportunities to help others. For example, we are very much a family with a common vision. If one of our members experiences a difficult situation, it is critical for the leader to demonstrate authentic empathy. This, in turn, reinforces confidence in his or her leadership.
Confidence is also reinforced when leaders demonstrate reliability, consistency and integrity. When a leader commits to doing something, he or she must follow through. Responding the same way, every day, in every setting is critical for building trust. All individuals need to know without question that they are valued members of the organization.
Finally, clear and regular communication throughout the organization is essential. Entrusting personnel with the facts that affect them builds solidarity. When we faced the possibility of a $30 million budget reduction, we kept all employees informed throughout the planning process – before the cuts were presented to the media and the public. Teachers were able to focus on instruction because they had trust in the process and the leadership. It was a difficult time, but I believe this approach of open, honest and regular communication strengthened our organization.
While leaders are often acknowledged for their great ideas or accomplishments, it is the everyday small acts that often make the greatest impact on others.
Dr. Linda Henri, Superintendent, Mesquite ISD
A: Our employees have significant input in the direction of their careers because our guiding principles give employees the autonomy to infuse creativity and innovation into their jobs.
Employees are not usually told how to solve a problem because they don’t usually know the ‘how’ at the start, but rather have the freedom to try creative solutions and risk failure for the sake of learning.
Our guiding principles, which focus on customer service, innovation, and continuous improvement, center around a common vision. The vision drives our culture and employees rally around this shared purpose. The guiding principles spark inspiration and originality, encouraging employees to autonomously complete their jobs. As we continue to grow around the world, the company’s shared purpose ensures employees can operate independently while working towards the same vision.
Each year, we conduct a survey to measure employees’ satisfaction with the company. Not only do the survey results show employees have above average trust, but the levels tend to increase when employees feel they have more responsibility in their jobs.
We purposely recruit the best and brightest talent from around the world because this type of thinking is required for our jobs.
Dr. James Truchard, CEO, National Instruments
Q: How important is it for a leader to be a tyrant?
A: In my opinion, tyrants are not good long-term leaders and the two terms (leaders and tyrants) should not be confused. Because tyrants appear strong, many times they do end up in leadership positions. We’ve all experienced them and what we often see is that their goals are the most important; often they’re oppressive and harsh. Leaders on the other hand are visionaries who focus on seeing the big picture, as opposed to the narrow one seen by tyrants. Leaders are influential and communicate the goals passionately in order to help others be a part of the process of achieving goals for the company. Leaders operate on the idea of gaining others trust, while tyrants work on the basis of fear. As a leader, I prefer to be viewed as being concerned for the people I am leading. At every opportunity I am asked, I am clear about the fact that without my employees and those with which I partner, it would be difficult to accomplish all that we have accomplished. I prefer to be seen as the type of leader that is open to dialogue, new ideas, cares about people, and the goals of my organization as a whole.
Arcilia Acosta, CEO, CARCON Industries
Q: How can a leader inspire his employees to trust him?
A: Trust is the foundation of every human relationship. The fundamental requirement for leadership is trust. People will follow the leader who demonstrates trustworthiness by his words, only to the point that his actions demonstrate who he really is as a person and a leader. Principles, policies, procedures, practices and actions of the leader help define the direction and alignment of employees. The cumulative effect of an organization with a clear vision of purpose and direction creates a synergy and energy where the sum of the parts and efforts far exceed the whole. This holistic energy creates a competitive advantage for any company, and that is why our company motto is “People Matter.” We truly care for each other, and as a result, the leadership comes from the people within our company who are the REAL LEADERS. My people inspire me with what they do.
In our organization, our driving principles and practices are based upon a true belief in God and doing what is right in every situation and following the Ten Commandments. We say, “Do the right thing,” basing our decisions on running a business on a set of values and principles where the right thing is easily identified based on a foundation of moral turpitude.
In everything we do, the leader must follow these principles in order to inspire people to follow his lead. Employees will follow a leader who demonstrates shared values, beliefs and principles, and therefore the leader must be strong in his conviction to a prescribed set of principles and values. Leaders are endowed by God with the responsibility to uphold their principles in their every action. We have a responsibility to serve God, our employees, our customers and our trade partners with a foundation of the highest moral values.
Stephen Brooks, CEO, Grand Homes
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