Getting to know you

When Jacqueline Neal
arrived at Glory Foods
in October 2007, she
took some time upfront to
meet with all of her employees.

She asked them what they
liked and didn’t like about the
company, things they wanted
to change, and she asked if
they had any advice for her as
the new president of the
company, which posted 2007
revenue of $73.6 million.

Doing so allowed Neal to
learn about her 25 employees
on both a personal and professional level and establish a
rapport with them at the manufacturer and distributor of
Southern-style, heat-and-serve food products.

“People feel more connected to the company,” Neal
says. “They feel like the company’s looking out for their
best interest, and it feels like
home. It does feel like a second home in a way, and that
leads people to do a much
better job.”

Smart Business spoke
with Neal about how to
develop that trust and how
to be open with your

Be open with your people. It’s
doing what I say I’m going to do.
It’s making sure that you follow
up. I try to make sure that I get
back to everyone, even if it’s not
as timely as I would like.

It can be as simple as a drive-by at their cubicle or an e-mail,
just a quick message to say, ‘I did
hear you; I don’t have an answer
yet, that’s why I haven’t gotten
back to you.’ You get the reputation for following through on
what you say you’re going to do.

Walking around the building
and talking to people helps. You
do it when it feels natural; I
don’t think it should be a forced
thing. I do make it a point to at
least every day get out of my
office and make sure I’m not
holed up there with my head in
the computer.

It depends on your personality. Some people are better at the
one on one or small groups, so
you can do a lunch and learn or
a brown bag — grab a few people and sit in the conference
room and just have lunch.

Or take people out one on one
or call somebody to your office
and say, ‘Hey, I just want to find
out how things are going.’ It
depends on your style — if
you’re more comfortable in
groups, then it’s easy to go to an
area and just have a conversation. If you are more comfortable with the one on one, there
are lots of ways you can create
that without creating the stress
in the employees.

Ask employees for feedback. The
360-degree feedback [in which
each employee receives performance feedback from a
supervisor and from four to
eight others] is another way of
making sure that it’s open. It’s
hard to develop and know
what you need to work on
without the feedback.

The first time you see it, it’s a
little frightening, but if you
embrace it in the right spirit in
which it’s intended, meaning it’s
important to just hear what
other people think, you can
develop your skills and abilities
to the best of your ability.

Before implementing 360-degree feedback, a leader
should schedule a meeting
with employees to have an
open conversation about this
type of review process.
Specifically, explain what 360-degree feedback is, how it
works and that it is completely
confidential. Critical to developing people, 360-degree feedback helps employees see
what impact they have and
how they are perceived
among their peers, superiors
and subordinates.

And it’s also sharing results.
I’m going to sit down with the
management team and share
the feedback I got. It’s not an
easy thing to do to stay focused
and admit some of these things,
but there’s no way it’s going to
get better and improve.

I want them to know that I
heard them, and I didn’t just
brush it under the carpet, so
that’s important; it builds trust.

Encourage the management
team to make time for one-onone meetings with their direct
reports so they can share and
discuss feedback. It’s important to keep open channels for
honest and constructive communication. You set the stage
for consistent, open communication that helps to avoid surprises when it comes time for
a formal review.

Recognize your people. Every
major study I’ve seen says that
higher pay typically falls at No. 5
or 6 when you rank the things
that people care about most at a
company. The things that rise to
the top tend to be respect,
responsibilities and recognition
— it could be public recognition, awards, it’s things like that
that get people jazzed.

You can pay people a lot of
money, but if they don’t feel
respected, they’re going to burn
out, they’re not going to stay
and be productive.

It’s important to understand
the culture. … And if you’re a
new leader coming to the organization, talk to some of the people who have been around for a
while and find out what’s been
done in the past.

Different people might like more public recognition; some
might like it more privately. It’s
important to recognize and
respect the work culture. But
most people like getting as little
as a thank you — it could be a
note on their desk or a cookie
that says, ‘Thank you for what
you did last week,’ to the bigger,
broader, make a real big deal
about it, put your picture up,
(have the) most valued employee.
It’s something as simple as recognizing their performance in front
of everybody in the company.

You can also ask the employees what ideas they have for
recognizing people. You might
get some that say, ‘Just give me
the cold, hard cash,’ but most
people would be surprised as
to the creativity that you hear
from employees if you just ask

HOW TO REACH: Glory Foods Inc., (614) 252-2042 or