Upright leadership

Joni Adams wants to
lead with honesty and
integrity, even if that sometimes means having to
let someone go for the
sake of the business. The
founder, owner and CEO of
Refurbished Office Furniture
Inc.
says that it’s never an
easy decision to let someone
go, but sometimes, it’s best
for the company, which posted 2007 revenue of approximately $10 million.

“I have to go home and
keep my eye on the big picture, and I remind our managers of that,” she says.
“What we’re doing here is for
the 80 people, not for the
one.”

Smart Business spoke
with Adams about how to
create an honest work environment.

Q. How do you make sure
that your employees are
showing integrity and being
honest?

Our mission statement is
hung up everywhere. When
instances do occur where
someone has not been completely honest or maybe
they’ve said some things that
weren’t really truthful to
kind of hurt another person,
we call them out on it.

We have a talk with them
about it, and we always
point to our mission statement that states this is how
we … carry out our relationships with our co-workers
and customers and vendors
and everyone, and this was
not an example of that.

Talk to them every day,
walk around, get involved in
some of their work activities
by observing and just communicating a lot and being
there — being available for
them to ask questions. You
can find out a lot just in the
questions that they ask you.

But, if you’re not available,
if you’re always in your office
or out of the office, then it’s
going to be difficult to know.

Q. How do you avoid
micromanaging when getting
involved in employees’
activities?

Being a good leader,
you don’t want to
micromanage. You
really want to make
sure your people are
empowered. So, I
struggle with that, as
well. I don’t go over
their shoulder and
stare at them or stand
at their desks.

A lot of times, I just
go right around the
corner where they
can’t see me, and I’m
just listening. They
don’t even know that
I’m there. So, I try to
make it really discreet.

If they are going to see
me, I try to come up
with some other reasons
why I may be going to their
desk and asking them some
nonthreatening questions.

Q. How do you handle it
when you do hear something
that’s not right?

It depends on the circumstances. If I overheard it,
sometimes, I’ll go to their
supervisor and check with
their supervisor before I ever
approach them, because
there could be some circumstances I’m not privy to —
things that may be going on
in that person’s life or something in that situation where
I don’t have all the pieces of
the puzzle.

So, I always go to the
supervisor first to try to find
out, ‘Hey, what’s going on?
Did you know that I overheard this? What do you
think is behind it?’

If it’s clearly things that are
this person’s responsibility,
then we would call them out
on it immediately. If there’s
some other frustrations from
our company, something that
we’ve imposed that could be
making the person frustrated, then we’ll try to address
that issue first, and then confront the person with some
possible solutions to that
frustration.

Q. Do people ever think you
are spying on them when you
are walking around?

Nope, never, and it’s
because they know me. They
trust me, they know that I’m
honest and truthful and
upfront with them, and I listen to them.

I have an open-door policy.
They can come in and talk to
me about anything, any time,
and, nope, I don’t think they
ever feel like I’m spying on
them.

Q. How do you establish an
open-door policy?

When they do come, of
course my door is open.
Whenever it’s open, I’m
approachable. So, if I’m not
going to be in the mood
where I can be passionate or
compassionate, then I shut
my door. But if my door is
open, then they can come in,
and I have to make sure I am
inviting to them. I have to
make sure their perception
of me at that time is one
that’s open to listening.

So, when they do start talking, I have to listen, and I
can’t come back with countering everything that they
say, or, ‘That’s not true,’ or,
‘Maybe you better go back
and look again.’ You can’t
really answer like that.

You have to be very open
and listen and agree and say,
‘OK, thank you for bringing
that to me, and let me look
into it, and I’ll get something
back to you.’

HOW TO REACH: Refurbished Office Furniture Inc., (877) 763-4400 or www.rofinc.net