The Service industry is about people, and building relationships. More business is won, and lost, due to relationships than can ever be gained through performance. If you lack the ability to build solid relationships with employees, customers and peers, you will most likely fail to achieve your goals, regardless of your ability to perform.
When I started out as a Supervisor in a Facility Services company, one of my managers took me aside and asked me if I had ever had a boss that I would be willing to do almost anything for. Fortunately, I had, and I told him yes. He looked at me and said, be that boss. There will be many times, he told me, that I would need someone to rise up, stay late, come early or do something else far outside the regular job description. Be the boss, he told me, that employees are willing to go the extra mile for, and you will never have a problem with success.
Over time, I learned to be that boss. And even more, I learned how to teach others to be that boss. I listened, I learned, I watched, I read, and I studied, and I developed some simple rules to be the boss that others will want to follow.
1. Communicate. Have regular times when you communicate with your employees. Share your goals and desires for the company, and allow them to communicate their concerns and desires to you. Make it acceptable for employees to share their concerns and frustrations.
2. Listen. We hear a lot about listening, and yet for all the lip service we pay towards this skill, I am amazed at how seldom we actually listen to what those around us have to say.
3. Care. As we listen, empathize with the speaker. Truly try to put ourselves in their place. When you do this you may see that you may need to “bend” policies to fit individual needs.
4. Act. Take prompt action on your employees concerns, but remember, this can be a two edged sword. Taking action doesn’t mean you always grant employee requests. Sometimes it means you don’t. But if you respond promptly, even if you are unwilling to grant the request, you can explain to the employee why you can’t take the action they are requesting. Employee’s generally respect that you took the time to address their concern, even if the answer is no.
5. Let employees fail. We live in a culture of blame. When an individual or an organization fails, we too often rush to place blame and punish the offender. Employees need to know that they can fail, and talk to you about it (In fact, when they fail is when they most need to talk to you). Letting employees learn from their failures builds loyalty and better employees. Employees who have been supported when they fail will work doubly hard for the next success.
Over the years I have many times asked employees to do something extra, something well beyond what we normally asked of our employees in most circumstances. Time and again, employees have delivered on those requests.
Last month, I was talking with a former employee who told me that he was planning on leaving the company he was now working for, and he called to ask me for some career advice. When I asked him what he was looking for as he made a career change, he thought for a minute and then said, “what I really want is to be able to work for you again”. I cannot tell you how much his kind words meant to me. Are you that boss?