“I would highly recommend Daniel Goleman’s books, including ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence,’” says Kelly, president and CEO of Payroll 1, which provides payroll and tax services. “It clearly describes why leaders everyone, for that matter should strengthen their emotional intelligence.”
Kelly says that soft skills such as self-awareness, personal motivation and social skills can make or break an individual and an organization.
“We have raised awareness in our company on these competencies,” she says. “In fact, we feel so strongly about them that 50 percent of each staff member’s performance evaluation focuses on emotional competencies.”
In 1992, Kelly was working as a CPA for Coopers & Lybrand and was not considering a change. But when she was offered the opportunity at Payroll 1, she took it.
“The more I thought about it, the more appealing it was to run my own business,” she says. “The challenge intrigued me, so I decided to take the leap.”
At that time, Payroll 1 had 40 employees and annual revenue of $4.5 million. Since then, under Kelly’s leadership, both those numbers have more than quadrupled.
“I did not rush into action,” she says. “I was slow and deliberate, taking the time to talk and, more importantly, listen to as many staff members as possible. The company was very successful when I joined it. My challenge was finding a way to grow it creatively.”
Smart Business spoke with Kelly about the importance of being open-minded and the one thing that can kill a company’s growth.
How do you motivate your staff?
I am not sure you can motivate anyone. My opinion is that motivation comes from within. I do, however, know that poor management can de-motivate staff members, and that is what leaders must guard against. There are a few ways staff can be de-motivated: being underpaid, being ignored, and facing undue or harsh criticism.
Close-minded leaders put a real damper on the enthusiasm of an entire organization. It is a basic human need to want to be heard and respected. Without that, I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain motivation or generate momentum in the organization.
As for as my own personal motivation, I have to guard against negativity. I am naturally persistent and resilient, but when the mood is dark around me, I can be pulled down. During these times, I concentrate on changing the mood.
What one thing can bring a company down or prevent growth?
The first thing that comes to mind is overextension. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do too many things. This dilutes the effectiveness of the company and is a quick way to lose competency.
A full 80 percent of technological initiatives are never completed. Scope creep happens too easily and ends up wasting valuable resources and time. My advice would be not to be overly optimistic or ambitious when setting goals and diversifying the company.
Be honest about what you don’t know. Keep things simple and stick to what you do really well.
Also, be willing to ask for advice. Tapping into others’ expertise can save you a lot of time and money. Don’t be too prideful to ask for help.
What have you learned from your mistakes?
The quality of the staff members you hire is critical. It’s human nature to see talented new hires as flawless. I’ve learned to pull myself back and remain objective at all times, including the honeymoon period. I need to honestly assess whether each staff member not only has the right skill set, but also is a proper fit for the organization.
It has also been a challenge to remember that everyone is wired differently. It is tempting for high achievers to assume everyone wants the same things from their career. That can lead to a lot of frustration.
How do you define and measure success?
The organization cannot be successful unless the staff members feel successful. Therefore, we strive to manage the needs and objectives of each individual with that of the company. We ask probing questions during the interview process and after they come on board.
My strategy when interviewing is to find out as much as possible about what makes the candidate tick. I ask about their hobbies, background, prior jobs, likes and dislikes. It helps me place them in the right role.
For example, if someone hates it when their calls are not taken, I know a sales position would not be a good fit. However, a payroll specialist might be, since their calls would be anticipated and welcomed.
HOW TO REACH: Payroll 1, (888) 999-7291 or www.payroll1.com