The right signs

Craig Hurlbert says great
leaders inspire employees to believe in their vision and be
passionate about their jobs.

But while the ability to do so
is the mark of a great leader,
the co-owner and CEO of
Turbine Air Systems Ltd. says
you shouldn’t overestimate your
importance to your business.
Instead, by putting the focus on
your employees, they, in turn,
will help your company succeed
and make you a better leader.

Hurlbert has focused on his
200 employees by building relationships, establishing an open
and honest culture, and developing a set of values for them
to live by at the provider of turbine inlet cooling solutions for
the energy industry, which
posted a 20 percent increase in
revenue from 2004 to 2007.

Smart Business spoke with
Hurlbert about how to hire the
right people to help you grow
your company and how to
establish the relationships, culture and values to help them

Find the right people. Spend time
with them and find out if their
passion is across the board or
unique to their work. Do they
have the intellect to do what
you need them to do? Do they
have a passion for life to put
behind the intellect to inspire
others to make it happen? Do
they have the character and
integrity to make it happen in
line with your values?

History is a good predictor of
the future. If they’ve gone about
with passion and you talk to
people who’ve been around
them and ask, ‘How did they do
this?’ you can tell whether or
not that person has the energy
level you’re looking for.

You do your best to pick, and
you get better over time.
References can help, but, at
the end of the day, it has to be
your call. You’ve got to believe
in this person and let them
know you believe in them.

Believe in and trust your employees. Believe that you have confidence in this person, and
when you communicate it, it
will come across that way.
When you’re hiring an individual, look at them and say, ‘I
know you’re the right person
for the job; I’m excited that
you’re in this position. I support you 150 percent, and I
will be there when you hit the
tough patches along the way.’

It’s one thing to say that, but
it’s another thing to actually do
that. At every single turn, be
there for them. Don’t let them
come to you and whine and
whimper with every issue they
have, but let them know you’re
there to help them.

There’s no quick fix. It takes
time to build that trust; that’s
not something that happens
overnight. If your actions are
consistent, caring and in line with your values, then trust is
a natural byproduct. People
sometimes try to build that
trust too quickly and expect
that because you’re in a position of leadership, they’ve
earned it. Earn that trust
through consistent actions
over time, and once you’ve
been there and done the right
things, then the trust is there.

If it doesn’t come, you know
that you’ve done everything
you can to develop it, and
maybe that relationship is not
meant to be.

You have a much higher
probability of the business
succeeding and behaving in
line with the corporate values.
You have dedicated people
who aren’t afraid to hide problems. It’s more fun to work enjoy being around; you just
enjoy it a lot more.

Create an honest and open culture. It starts with an expectation
that you’re going to have an
open culture and that dissenting views are welcome. Make
sure it’s there. It starts at the
top, and you need to drive that
through all levels. Have consistent dialogue with team members in different forms, such as
meetings and newsletters.

It helps coordinate the whole
business together to achieve a
great result for the customer.

If you have people who are
playing to one sheet of music
and another group playing to
another sheet, the probability
of a good end result is diminished. But now everybody knows where you’re going and
understands the values and
how you’re going to get there.

Live your values. Sit down and
go through them. Here is what
we believe is important to the
business, beyond strategy and
people, this is how everybody
is going to behave from the
top down.

That exercise is great; however, that doesn’t set the values. You have to systematically
live those values at the top
every single day, and if you
don’t, the company will never
achieve them.

Commit yourself. Pick
things that you’re willing to
live up to. If you live those
values over time, then the
culture emerges around
those values. Take a stand when those issues come up.

Set the expectation from the
beginning that this is the way
you’re going to behave. People
will hold others accountable to
the values if you have a culture
where the values are important.
If you’re not living the values,
you’re making a mistake.

Do some soul-searching and
ask why you don’t believe in
these values. Maybe you don’t
believe in them, and if that’s
the case, you need to do the
first step over again. You have
to believe in it yourself, and if
you can’t, then it’s going to be
impossible to drive them
through the organization.

It defines and gives the business a language to speak from
and something that you can
hold on to.

HOW TO REACH: Turbine Air Systems Ltd., (713) 877-8700 or