Leading an Entrepreneurial Workforce

I approach leadership in a collaborative, inclusive way, involving everyone at all levels. A key component of collaboration is accessibility, and one way that I’m accessible, is by engaging in “management by walking around.” I get a lot of information by being out on the floor and interacting with employees as they do the tasks required by their jobs. It’s important to be approachable, and this gives employees an easy, less intimidating way to talk with me and share their direct input on ways to improve our processes.

One message that I am constantly reinforcing to my employees is “Inspect what you expect”. It’s my take on Ronald Reagan’s “Trust but verify.” And by doing that, I mean it’s important to validate that processes are happening the way you want them to, rather than just assuming they’re working. Don’t take anyone’s word for it — personally put it to the test.

One of the reasons this approach works so well for me is that it’s natural, and fits my personality. I recognized a long time ago that I don’t have all the answers. Top-down decisions don’t always feel right and they usually aren’t based on the best information. The front line employees and the customer service people who interact most closely with your clients day-to-day have lots of ideas they are eager to share. Employees want to be heard, and giving them opportunities to communicate what they know builds trust and respect, and also fosters teamwork.

How can you motivate your employees? Make sure everyone is on board with your organization’s goals and objectives. Put all the information out there. Share revenue and profit targets by department. Tell employees what you’re trying to accomplish and how their part fits in. It’s important to close the loop on the role your employees play in helping to achieve these goals.

Have a good recognition program that’s directly tied to your goals. It could be formal — a part of the annual review process, or it could be informal — an ad hoc recognition for an employee who goes above and beyond with a donor or in helping a colleague. You can recognize employees with a gift card or cash bonus. Many times a genuine “thank you” is all that the employee needs. The important thing is to communicate that they matter and that you value their contribution.

What makes a successful employee? Encourage flexible and adaptable thinking. At Merkle RMG, clients drive our approach and their goals are always evolving, so our business is constantly changing.

Employees need a good set of problem solving skills and creative, innovative approaches. They must be customer-focused and responsive. If a customer suggests doing something that elicits the response, “That’s going to be hard to do,” I tell my employees, “Find a way.” I like to empower them to take care of the clients they serve. Taking care of clients is the first priority. After that, everything else will take care of itself.