Updated: Feb 7
Every boss has their own style of leadership. Some might call it idiosyncrasies. There are things important to me which may not matter to other bosses or managers, and vice versa.
Communication is important to me. All of my employees are keenly aware of this. If they need time off, or they are switching shifts, no problem. Communicate. Specifically, communicate via email. Provide details, include all parties involved, and follow up proactively when required.
Caring about your people does not mean one cannot set standards and expect those standards to be met. I hold all of my employees to a high standard of professionalism.
Communication is a two-way street.
One part of communication is learning to be your own advocate. Imagine you are at a job, now or in the future, and you are being worked hard without much feedback, or don’t completely understand how to accomplish a task. No one seems to care or notice your frustrations. I want to pose a question to you. Have you asked for assistance? Have you given your leadership an opportunity to step up and help?
Let me be clear. I am failing as a leader if I notice a person struggling and I sit back and think to myself, “Oh well, that poor dear is going to have to learn to ask for help.”
As I’ve written in previous articles, I train my leadership team to be servants. To learn to become attuned to emotions and body language. But I also remind my leadership they are human. As a leader, do not try to place perfection upon yourself. You are going to miss things. And sometimes, shockingly enough, you will have bad days.
As an employee, also know that your leaders are human. Be your own advocate. Ask for help. As a boss, it will take time for your employees to learn to trust you with their challenges. Over time, if they learn you are open to their communication, then they will feel free to come to you when you missed something. Allowing your employees to know you are fallible is a powerful way to open up the communication channel.
Give away your time.
As a leader, do this often and without question. When one of my employees makes a request, no matter what it might be, my default answer is yes. Sometimes the answer will be no. That’s life. If I can find a way, my answer will be yes.
If an employee needs to talk, about anything, it is time to drop my schedule and listen. If physically possible I will stop everything and listen right away. At a minimum, maybe as a result of a family need, I will schedule a future time and follow up so my employee knows, without question, they are my priority.
Someone needs time off, or wants to have a shift covered, or wants to switch shifts, or would like bagels for breakfast during shift, the answer is yes.
In part one, I wrote that I would finish off this series discussing how giving time and effort to your employees causes them to feel valued. In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts you can provide another human being with is your time. Assist, mentor, or just listen to understand.
If an employee wants additional responsibility, a promotion, or to become a Baker in addition to their Barista duties, this is a gift to my business. My answer is almost always yes. Why is this a gift? I have an employee who loves my business so much, he or she wants more responsibility.
Employees are granted responsibility at a young age at The Coffee Shelf. Being promoted to Barista occurs when you know how to work all three stations, but you also have to know how to close or open the store. Suddenly, as a 16 year old, you are responsible for the proper closing of a coffee house. Giving responsibility leads to buy-in by your employees.
Responsibility can only be given to those who are qualified. That’s a small obstacle. If someone wants a promotion, they are likely teachable enough to attain it. Training is an opportunity for you to mentor your employees.
Explain your answer.
If you have to say no, then provide the reason. Explain why. This is a great litmus test for me. If I am unable to provide a solid answer as to why I’m denying this person’s request, or business suggestion, then why am I saying no?
This is one of the many areas where leadership is tough. The recipient of your no is not always going to be happy. Even with your well crafted explanation, they are going to sometimes walk away salty. But this is not the only point in explaining your answer. Taking the time to provide an explanation may not satisfy your employees, but they will know, or eventually realize, you cared enough to do so.
Teach your employees to grow and seek out better opportunities.
From the above sentence you might think, “Wait. What?”
In a future article I will discuss how a low turnover rate is very important to any business, small or large. We enjoy a low employee turnover rate at The Coffee Shelf. Yet, here I am, advocating you teach your employees to better themselves at the risk of wanting more than what your business can offer.
If you are a business owner I am going to break some news to you. Your business is not all that. There are better opportunities out there for your employees. Get over it, papa dog.
When employees of The Coffee Shelf move on to bigger and better things, I hope they leave with a strong work ethic, a greater sense of professionalism and self worth, and will therefore be a productive asset to their next employer.
The Sum of the Parts
If you have read all three parts of this series, I want to first thank you. As a writer, someone reading my missives is the greatest gift I can receive. Second, it would be quite a task for me to properly explain how I place my employees first in only three articles. I hope this series has provided a good window.
Placing your employees above everything else in your business is tougher in practice than in writing. But I can definitively state it works. In other words, you can do this for selfish reasons. It is a business model which will yield you great dividends.
I run my business this way because of the self-fulfillment I receive from leading people. But if this did not work as a business model I’d ultimately be failing my employees. After all, if The Coffee Shelf does not perform financially, then there will be no employees. There will be no one for me to mentor. Just empty bookshelves and a silent espresso machine.
A business has to perform. Placing your employees as number one, I believe, is one of the best strategies you can use to lead your business to success.
Here is a suggested read. It is one of the many books which helped shape how I view business. But first know this. It is not a book about running a business. I haven't read any of those.