Run with it Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2010

If you work at SecureState LLC, Ken Stasiak wants to see what you can do.

A lot of executives say that, but Stasiak lives it. The founder, president and CEO of the 50-employee security solutions company tries to put as much responsibility into the hands of capable employees as he can, and he only intervenes when there is a problem or issue that needs to be solved from the top rung of the company.

“I kind of let them run a bit, see how they’re doing, and then offer guidance and input if I see that they’re struggling,” Stasiak says. “But if they’ve got it, I usually let them run with it.”

Smart Business spoke with Stasiak about how you can empower your employees to take charge.

Q. How do you give people the tools and resources to take something and run with it?

I like to have personal one-on-one meetings, so that there are no misconstrued notions about what is going on, like you might have with e-mails. What was said that wasn’t conveyed properly. So I really make myself available to my team. I like to do things via person because you can get a much more finite idea of what we want to accomplish. So really making yourself available to the team is one of the biggest things you can do to motivate them to be successful.

Q. What are some of the keys to staying accessible to your employees?

The biggest thing about staying accessible is delegating. If you delegate your tasks appropriately, you have time. If you take too many tasks on of your own, you obviously won’t have enough time. The challenge, from a management and leadership perspective, is to make sure that you have enough resources so that you have time to spend.

I’ve been in organizations where you can’t get even five minutes with your boss because he’s too busy doing everything else. Obviously, that’s ineffective leadership. It provides no guidance for the team. My role is really to jell — to make sure the team and all the players on the field know the calls, how we’re going to play, what we’re going to do. So a lot of times, I’ll get up, walk around and talk to people, ‘How’s it going, what are you doing, what are you seeing?’ and I correlate all that information back, so that when I talk to someone, I’ve already talked to three different people and can bring all those perspectives together.

Q. How do you develop a system for delegating?

Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, so I use football analogies a lot. If I have a wide receiver who is very quick, I would not put that person as a running back. They wouldn’t be effective in that role. I evaluate my staff and my team regularly about every three months. I try to figure out what they’re doing well or what they were doing well three months ago that they might not be doing well now or where they might have a strength that is better-suited for another role.

When I delegate, I try to give people what I believe is their natural instinct to be successful, and then I let them run with it. For example, if I find that some tasks or duties would be better-suited for someone else or it’s a task that only I can accomplish, then that’s the task that I’ll take. So the formal process as an executive, manager or business owner is that you always have to evaluate your team. We do profiles, so we do a couple profiling standards that rank people on their abilities. The personality profiles let me know if someone is capable of really getting after a project or really capable of managing other people or if the person might work well not so much as a superior but as part of a team.

Q. How can you get an accurate picture of what a person brings to the table?

One of the things I don’t do is I don’t look at the resume during the screening process when we’re looking for a new hire. When I screen people, it’s predicated on a conversation. I can get a pretty good vibe within the first few minutes of meeting someone of what they are. It’s in how they present, the way they come in the door, how they talk, the way they act toward me. I take that, and then I couple that with a technical interview with one of my folks. If I think they have a good personality and could contribute here, I want to know their technical skills. So I never really evaluate people outside of meeting them in person. From that, I can get a much better picture about how someone can fit here and the ways they could be effective.

The reason I don’t look at the resume is that people have had a lot of time to put stuff on the resume. It’s not a free flow; some of that stuff is canned. You can get a false connotation of a person if you just read a resume.

How to reach: SecureState LLC, (216) 927-8200 or www.securestate.com