A collaborative spirit

While he was a student at
Miami Dade College, Eduardo Padrón learned many
lessons about how to be a good
leader.

Now as the college’s president — a position he has held
since 1995 — Padrón uses
many of those lessons in his
daily tasks.

Padrón has set a vision for
the college — which has more
than 160,000 students on eight
campuses — to lead it into the
future. He also listens to his
nearly 8,000 employees to get
their input on important decisions.

“One of the skills that we
need to have in order to be able
to be successful is to listen and
foster collaboration by which
you achieve much more in the
long term than those who try to
dictate,” Padrón says.

Padrón’s focus on listening
and collaboration has helped him
oversee the school’s $315 million
operating budget and guide it
through future growth.

Smart Business spoke with
Padrón about how to establish
a collaborative environment and
how to communicate when
establishing a vision.

Develop a vision. You need to
have a vision in order to be able
to know where you want to go
and how to get there. Collaboration has to be key, because I
could have hundreds of wonderful ideas, but I accomplish nothing if left on an island by myself.

The other important factor is
communication, because that’s
a constant process. You need to
make sure your vision is shared.
If you have your vision, but it is
not shared by the people you
work with, your ability to succeed is limited.

If you don’t have a vision,
you’re going to go in many different directions, spread yourself too thin, try to be all things
to all people and not be able to
focus on what’s essential for the
growth and development of
your business.

Collaborate with employees. It
should be an open process, and
frankly, sometimes we underestimate how people, even at the
lowest level, can have bright
ideas that can help you better
formulate your vision. In an
institution where you want to
take advantage of the talents
that are inherent in each of your
employees, you need to provide
constant opportunities for
employees to provide feedback.

We have a strategic plan … and
that plan has several components. Employees at all levels
have the opportunity to participate in that. So the plan is in
constant evolution based on the
feedback and so forth that we
get from employees.

You have to honestly believe.
It should not just be something
to give people the impression
that they are participating; you
need to take it seriously and
believe that you can do much
better by getting people to give
you ideas.

When you have people who
believe they know it all, you
have a problem. As long as you
believe that by giving people
participation, your ability to lead
is going to be enhanced. If you
want answers, you need to present employees with the questions you feel are important.

Collaboration depends on the
willingness to listen and respect
another viewpoint. Bureaucracy
is too often defined by organizational divisions and the roles to
which people adhere, often too
rigidly. Collaboration is dynamic, not limited by hierarchy. It
depends on people being, on one
hand, human and open to each
other, and on the other, willing to
be accountable as part of a team.

Giving employees a voice

Even with a slew of daily
tasks, Ed Pozzuoli still
takes time to listen to his employees. Keeping his ears
open allows the president of
Tripp Scott PA — a law firm
that posted 2007 revenue of
$20 million — to learn what’s
going on with his 100 employees and to better understand
what matters to them.

“It is important if we understand … if an assistant has an
elderly parent at home or
young kids or a particular
stress with respect to finances
or otherwise, at least have an
understanding of where they
are in their personal lives,
because everyone has a little
bit of difference,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with
Pozzuoli about how to listen
to your employees and clients
to create trusting relationships
with them.

Q. How do you develop
trusting relationships with
employees?

Being consistent and having
an open ear as to what’s important to them. When I mean consistent, that the decision-making
process — whether it affects
them directly or indirectly — is
based upon a consistent set of
principles, that it’s based upon
the driving issues … that you’re
always looking out for the best
interest of the firm … and, in
turn, having them understand
that the best interest of the firm
is consistent with theirs.

The second thing is understanding what’s important to
employees, and that main issue
is listening. People have a great
capacity to understand if you
take the time and explain to
them. People will understand if
you provide enough information
for them to participate in and
have some input and an understanding of what’s important.

It starts with having a truly
open door. You have to be
secure enough to be open to
other’s opinions. It’s understanding and getting to know family
and personal goals and impacts
on their personal life.

Q. How do you get to know
your employees’ needs?

When you work together as a
team, there’s a personal
trust that is developed,
and you get to understand
and know about their
spouses, their kids, what’s
going on at some level …
and they get to know you.

You’ve got to first make
the conscious effort to
care about what’s going
on, and that takes some
time. There has to be a
mindset that this is our
team, what affects them at
least indirectly affects you.
Look for opportunities to
talk them through it and
what they think of situations dealing with clients
and how they act and how
they interact with clients.

People have all kinds of
issues, ranging from personal to
professional. It’s important to
understand their needs while
keeping it professional.

Open ears

John Krutulis cites his mother, Marian, as one of his biggest influences when he
stepped into the role of head of
schools at Gulliver Schools Inc.

The elder Krutulis had run the
chain of private preparatory
schools — with five campuses
in Southern Florida and an
annual budget of $36 million —
since 1953 before handing the
reins to her son.

The younger Krutulis says the
most important lesson he
learned while working alongside
his mother for many years was
how to listen — not only to his
430 employees but also to the
parents of the school’s 2,200
students to make sure their
needs are met.

“When you are going to do
things for people, you have to
understand what’s best or what
the company can do and can’t
do, and then be able to express
to people why you can and cannot do certain things,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with
Krutulis about how to listen to
your employees and why you
should trust them to take the
lead on their suggestions.

Take the time to listen. Being a
good listener allows you to
take the best from your people
and get a good understanding
of what their needs are. And
listening to your clients [gives
you] a good understanding of
what their wants and needs
are of your business.

You have to be a caring and
understanding person to be a
leader. Your people … they
want to know that you are listening to them. Understand
what they want and then be
able to provide the things that
you identify that will best help
your business. And be able to
respond to them in a timely
manner and in a positive way.
Give them an answer to why
you’re either going to proceed
with something they’ve done
or why you haven’t.

The key factor is allowing
people to trust you and know
that they can come to you and
express themselves. When you
build confidence in your
employees and have a respect
for them, they respect you and
feel comfortable being able to
come to you.

You learn a lot about things.
If people know you’re willing
to listen to them, it makes
your company a better place,
because your employees have
the confidence of being able to
come in and tell you things
that you may not know.

A focus on people

Valerie Holstein makes it
a priority to know more
than just her employees’ names and job titles.

She also keeps a list of
things they like, and while on
a recent vacation to France,
she made sure to get something small for each of her
nearly 50 employees at
CableOrganizer.com Inc.

“It took me awhile to understand, but I understand that if I
take care of the people who
work for the company then
the company will take care of
itself,” Holstein says.

Holstein’s focus on creating a
culture centered around
employees helped her grow the
cable and wire management
solutions company she started
in 2002 with her husband, Paul,
to 2007 revenue of $10.2 million.

Smart Business spoke with
the co-founder, president and
CEO about the keys of creating
a successful culture and how to
get to know your employees.

Q. What are the keys to
creating a successful culture?

Creating a workplace culture
begins with the people you
hire and bring in to the organization. Trying to impose a certain corporate culture on any
given group doesn’t work.

It’s important to start out
with employees who share the
same core values and work
ethic and you know are going
to be compatible with the
vision of the company.

Ask questions about who
they are as people, where they
come from, what sort of experiences they’ve had. Have the
candidate give you examples
of how they would handle
hypothetical life situations,
and ask about how they have
successfully dealt with and
overcome real-life obstacles.

See if they answer the way
you would. These answers are
telling and can help employers
gain insight into a potential
employee’s value system.

We also ask them questions
that are somewhat personal.
Questions that come up are:
What does your house look
like? How do you organize your
work space? What does your
car look like? We ask them
what has driven some of their
past decisions in the workplace,
or if they made a mistake in the
workplace, how did they handle
it, what did they learn, did they
learn anything, because if
they didn’t learn anything,
it’s an issue.

It takes a lot of time, it
takes a lot of dedication.
You have to genuinely be
interested in other people and show them that
you’re interested. It’s the
same thing as a marriage
— you don’t get flowers
every day, but you like to
know every once in
awhile that your spouse
hasn’t forgotten about
you.

Q. How do you show
you’re interested
in people?

Know the names of their
spouses and children. Remember birthdays. Offer — genuinely — help in times of
need. Then give it.

Whenever possible, accommodate and make allowances
for extenuating personal circumstances. Ask how things
are going or what they did
over the weekend. Then listen.
Talk about your own family
and personal interests. Never
give unsolicited advice on personal matters.

Try to lead by example. Show
up on time. Be respectful. Be
considerate. Be one of the
team. Hold yourself to the same
standards you set for your
employees. Treat your employees as you’d like to be treated.

Open mind and open ears

Charlie Schuette works witha diverse network of people, and as a result, he’s learnedto be open and flexible in dealing with people from differentbackgrounds.

The chairman of CoconutGrove Bank says it’s not something that happens overnight; ittakes time to learn to deal withdifferences and to not imposeyour own beliefs and ideas onpeople. And the key to learning,he says, is listening.

“You just have to listen andnot try to impose your viewsbut get different inputs,”Schuette says. “Sometimes,they’re right — quite often,they’re right.”

Schuette has focused on listening to his 125 employees atthe bank to help bring newideas in and keep it growing to2007 revenue of $43.5 million.

Smart Business spoke withSchuette about how listening toyour employees and being opento their ideas and values canhelp you develop trusting relationships.

Be an active listener. Listening toemployees. You can figure outwhat their values are, what’simportant to them in their life— whether it be working, family, whatever it is — and justtry to bring that out of themand enhance that in the work-place and try to make themfeel like whatever it is theyhave a high value in that itworks for the company.

A successful leader is a people person. He or she must besincerely interested in theemployees’ goals in life, theirfamily and their families’ activities outside of the businessenvironment.

If you hear something that isnegative or [that you] disagreewith, [if you] interrupt the person, they just shut up and don’tsay anything and you lose thewhole value of being a listener.

The benefit’s going to be agood employee, an employeewho looks forward to comingto work. … They enjoy theirjob; they will have the tendency to be more open and frankwith you when they have aproblem or find an issue theyfeel should be addressed. Theyfeel comfortable approachingtop management to discuss it,realizing that they aren’t goingto immediately be criticized orany sort of retaliation.

Don’t interrupt. Just keep yourmouth shut and listen. Themost important thing is if youdisagree, [don’t] interrupt theindividual, just sit there and listen through the whole process.

If you start to dominate theconversation, start imposingyour own views, more thanlikely, that particular employeeisn’t going to give you anymore information. They justdon’t want to be humiliated orcriticized in that manner.

Interrupting the thoughtprocess of the individualspeaking may jeopardize a full,in-depth discussion of the subject and, therefore, the abilityof the leader to weigh the prosand cons of a plan as expressedby those who may have a different view. Interrupting anindividual will more than likelysend the signal that the leaderis just not interested or is setin their ways as a dictator andnot a listening leader.

Learning to lead

All of her life, Sheryl A.
Woods has been a student of good leaders, learning from them to help her
reach her goal of leading a nonprofit organization.

“In every role I’ve ever had … I
always viewed my position as
one of a CEO,” she says. “I tried
to emulate their success, had a
vision and embraced good communication.”

Woods’ focus on the qualities
of leaders who excel has
helped her reach her goal as
president and CEO of YMCA of
Broward County, overseeing an
annual budget of $21 million
and leading 750 employees at
the health and wellness program centers.

Smart Business spoke with
Woods about how to develop
the qualities of a good leader.

Q. What are the qualities of
a good leader?

You have to be confident.
Surround yourself with people
who can be honest with you,
tell you what you don’t want to
hear and what you do. You have
to be persistent and a good
communicator.

You have to get in there and
learn on the job because you’re
never going to know everything, but you’ve got to go back
to your core principles and
character and value structure
and discipline. There are things
that happen to me every day
that I go, ‘Wow, how am I going
to handle this?’ I always take a
step back and say, ‘Let’s get
back to the principles, and am I
being fair and equitable and
responsible for my decisions?’

Q. How do you become a
confident leader?

Being a confident leader
means not being afraid to take
risks — but you must prepare
for those risks to minimize disappointments. Surround yourself with people who can help
generate success, and you’ll
find that success breeds confidence.

Past experience is an indicator
of future performance, and you
must believe in what you are
doing. A key element is having a
sense of ownership — that
sense breeds confidence and
success. It gives you the opportunity to control your
own destiny.

Q. How do you find
those people who will be
honest with you?

We have an acronym
we use, KASH — what
knowledge does the person have, what is their
attitude, what are their
skills and what are their
habits? Do they have
good work habits? Do
they see the glass as half
full? Are they satisfied
with the status quo?

Most of them will have
some level of skill or
knowledge, but I can
teach and coach that; I
can’t change a person’s attitude
and habits.

Ask questions and for specific
examples. When you go through
an interview and ask a question
that prompts another question,
and you just dig deeper into the
person’s answer, and you will
find out a lot about them and
their habits — ‘Give me an
example of that. How did you
handle that? What didn’t you
like about that experience?
How would you have handled it
differently?’ I just keep drilling
down.

Setting a good example

Bowman Brown tries always
to lead by example, whether it’s by staying late, working
weekends or talking with clients
over lunch to learn about their
needs.

And so that his employees can
see his example and learn from
it, Bowman’s door is always
open, creating an open atmosphere where the 489 employees
at Shutts & Bowen LLP are free
to come and talk with him about
anything that might be going on
at the nearly 100-year-old law
firm. And while leading by example and creating an open environment are critical to being a
good leader, there are other
things, as well.

“You need a vision, an evolved
idea of where you want to go with
your business,” says the partner
and chairman of the executive
committee. “You certainly need
patience because, as you know,
things are not always going to go
as you hope they’ll go.”

Smart Business spoke with
Bowman about how to develop a
vision for your company, lead by
example and create a friendly,
open environment.

Learn everything you can about
your environment.
You need to
be aware of the environment
and the opportunities within
the markets where you operate
and you’d like to operate.

Spend time to become well
acquainted with your environment, the markets, the customer base and their needs.
Evaluate your resources —
both those you have and those
you need to take advantage of
— and opportunities in the
markets.

I talk to a lot of people. There
isn’t a day that goes by where
I’m not having lunch with some
businessperson and learn something about their business, the
market or our clients. You have
to commit a lot of time to staying in touch with things that are
germane to your business,
what’s going on with competitors and how they’re doing and
how they’re doing it. If you stay
in touch, you have an evolved
idea of what your customers
need, how you can be helpful
and how your resources allow
you to help support or satisfy
their needs. Get feedback from
your employees as to what they
see and have them be attuned
to market conditions and trends
and needs of the clients as they
evolve.

It’s hard to survive without a
vision, because if you don’t
have a good understanding of
the market you’re in, the market you want to be in and your
clients’ needs, you’re toast. Not
only is there a benefit, but it’s
essential for long-term survival.

Create an open and respectful
environment.
If people have
ideas, complaints or issues and
we hear those, we try to be
receptive to make sure that
people understand we’re interested in hearing what they have
to say. We try to make clear
what we’re seeing as managers
and ask them for feedback and
participation in decisions as to
where the opportunities are and
what trends are developing.

If people feel you respect and
like them, [are] respectful of
where they fit into the organization and respect their contribution, they’re more inclined to
feel a part of the team, want to
be part of the team, offer suggestions and look for ways to
move the ball forward.

It starts with liking them. If
people like to come to work,
they do a better job and they’re
more willing to try to contribute. It’s hard to create it if
you don’t have the basic interest in the people you work with
and their well-being.

When people feel good about
themselves and their work, they’re much more productive
and relate better to customers.
It creates a much better atmosphere than if they’re feeling
pressed and restricted. A
friendly, caring atmosphere
goes a long way to making people feel good and wanting to be
productive.

Head coach

Don Campion thinks of himself not as a top executive
but as a coach. And he refers to his 162 employees at
Banyan Air Services Inc. as team-mates and emphasizes team-work within the organization.

“The team spirit is the most
powerful aspect of a business,”
Campion says.

Campion’s focus on creating a
winning team and coaching his
employees has helped the air
service company reach 2007
revenue of $48 million.

Smart Business spoke with
the co-founder, president and
CEO about how to create teams
through discipline and make
employees your No. 1 priority.

Q. What are the keys to
developing a successful team?

Giving individuals what they
want. What teammates want is
a clear understanding of what’s
expected of them. They want
challenging work with responsibility and involvement, a sense
of being a part of something and
lots of communication.

If they’re part of something
that’s growing and have that
opportunity to grow, they quickly can aspire to see that, as a
team, you can accomplish way
more than individually, but individually, they know what they’re
supposed to do, and as a team,
they know what they’re supposed to do.

The essence of a high-performing organization is that when
each individual is growing and
disciplining themselves, the
whole organization is moving
forward.

You become that much more
efficient, that much better in the
eyes of the customer. It
enhances your morale, and
happy employees make happy
customers.

You discipline yourself to
become good at your craft. It’s
like sports. If you want to go to
the championship, you’re going
to show up to practice on time,
eat right, sleep instead of party,
work with your teammates and
practice hard as though you
were in a game itself, so when
you come to that game, you can
perform flawlessly and exceptionally.

Whether you’re training personally or trying to learn the
next step in your career,
it takes discipline.

Staying strong

Dealing with today’s challenging economy can be
tough, and Mike Lassner depends on preparation and
staying focused and positive to
lead his 48 employees at Allied
Steel Buildings Inc.

Lassner — who founded the
company with Charles Kowalski
and serves as its president — has
prepared his employees and customers for possible downturns in
his $32 million business, which
supplies structural steel used to
construct buildings in the U.S.,
Africa, Canada, the Caribbean,
Europe and South America.

“Somebody or something
comes up that may take you out
of the system,” Lassner says.
“Try and address it, let them
understand what’s going on, and
bring it back into the system.
That’s your only way to survive
and grow.”

Smart Business spoke with
Lassner about how to manage
through a tough time with
preparation, communication
and positive thinking.

Q. How does a business
prepare for tough times?

Have a strong system. We
brought some key people in to
build a structure, a system of
how to do this business correctly
90 percent of the time. That’s
your core and [the] way you
stay prepared.

When a challenge comes up,
you’re able to see it on the fly
because something’s taking you
out of your system, and you’ve
got to be able to address that situation and figure out how to patch
the kink of what happened.

Try to stay focused on that.
You can’t change the business
that you’re in because a challenge shows up. Stay focused,
address the challenge and try to
bring it back into your system
the best way you can.

Q. How do you create and
maintain a positive atmosphere in difficult times?

Try different things. A company becomes a personality on its
own. It has to define itself, and
you learn what people like.
We’ve had picnics where
nobody’s shown up and beach
parties where everybody’s
shown up. Find out the personality of your people, of your
company, and do some fun, different things for them, and be
spontaneous. It makes a
big difference.

Have some fun; do
spontaneous things.
When you do that, you
allow the group to open
up to each other, so
when challenges do
come up, you’re able to
reach out to each other.

If you have that type of
atmosphere, you get
through any time. You
flourish in the great times
and endure through the
tough times.

People person

Erika Fleming’s favorite part
of her job is the time she spends with people.

As president of Miami International
University of Art & Design, she
has ample opportunity to be out
among her 300 employees and
1,800 students at the Miami
campus. And to make sure she
takes advantage of that opportunity, Fleming sets time aside to
go out and visit people, whether
it’s attending the annual holiday
party, a lunch with employees,
student events or meetings
where she involves employees
in the decision-making
process.

“People are going to work
hard because they want to meet
a goal,” she says. “They might
have an incentive, they might
have a dollar figure they want to
work toward, but you’re more
successful when you have that
bond with people.”

Fleming’s focus on creating
relationships has helped the
school reach 2007 revenue of
$45 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Fleming about how to create an
environment that fosters
involvement, openness and
trusting relationships.

Create an open environment. It
doesn’t happen overnight, and
it’s not something that you can
say and not follow up with
action. If you communicate to
your people something, you
need to follow through with
action.

Establish an environment of
trust with people so that they
know they, in fact, can trust you,
confide in you, and that you will
follow up and do something
about it that doesn’t end up
affecting the employee and
undermining a supervisor.

A lot of it has to do with building trust with people. That’s
sometimes why having meetings
where it’s not necessarily about
the job or a project or goals but
more personalized type of conversation, where you get to
know your people as human
beings, what’s important to
them, where you can celebrate
not only successes about the job
but have a personal relationship.

It requires a lot of time outside
the office with more one-on-ones, small groups or personal
conversations, funny kind of
moments, not necessarily conversations about the job. It’s difficult to do because your time is
always so limited, and people
always want to spend time with
you, and you have to find the
time to do it.

You can’t have meetings to
say, ‘I have an open-door policy
and you can come in any time,’
because people just aren’t going
to believe what you’re saying.
It’s about going out there and
having the personal contact
with people and sharing with
them, so they can have that
comfort level to come in and
talk with you.

Create personal relationships with
employees.
It’s the small things.
For example, acknowledging
people’s birthdays, making a celebration that’s not just having a
cake for everybody in the month
but having something personal.

If somebody has a relative or
somebody who’s sick, or, God
forbid, there’s a death in the family, you go to the hospital or the
funeral, talk with them and help
them go through that hardship.
It’s having a bond with someone
where you’re able to help them
on a personal level and, at the
same time, be able to rejoice
when they have something
exciting happening in their life.