Listen and communicate to the max. You find the best ways to communicate, and you just do everything you can to be out and be with the people as much as you possibly can.
Face-to-face meetings are very effective. We’ve got about 15 to 17 offices. I try to get to each of them a couple times a year. I’ve found small groups are effective.
I’ve found what I want to communicate isn’t necessarily what they always want to hear. Everything you have to cover is not always pleasant news. You can be as direct as you possibly can be without beating someone over the head. It’s getting the right tone and the right message and explaining things that may be uncomfortable.
It sets a tone for the way you do things. The way you treat other people helps communicate the intent you have. You don’t have to make it uncomfortable to deal with things you might disagree on. It really supports an idea of working together.
If you want to make a change in the culture, start with yourself. My dad always used to tell me, ‘The fish stinks from the head.’ The CEO has to model what they want to see.
If that means they have to walk around, smile more and do some management by walking around, then that’s where you have to start. But it really starts with the leadership of the firm or the company.
It might come from the leadership group, and if they see something that might not fit, then they have to call it out and let people know that’s not acceptable.
People are going to slip, and you have to realize that. But if someone is always slipping, that’s a problem. You have to identify it, deal with it and correct it. If it’s not corrected, you might have to ask somebody to leave.
Say ‘no’ sometimes. The most difficult thing is to put your foot on the brake every once in a while. Opportunities tend to come in bunches. In our case, it is merger opportunities. A lot of people knock on our door, but we have regional growth we’d like to experience.
If a great opportunity comes up in another part of the country, and it looks really good, then you have to have the discipline to say ‘no.’ Fortunately, we’ve talked about it enough, agreed what we want to do and how we want to do it.
Our goal is to grow incrementally into the balance of the country. If it is someone from California or Texas, we have to have the discipline to say, ‘By having that much distance between our offices, we think we would lose the value of our culture and the opportunity to work together.’
You have to believe the plan you laid out is worth sticking to. If you can’t come to reconciliation, you have to get a group together and say, ‘I can’t get to the answer myself ,and I need help.’
Find balance for yourself and your staff. Any time you do too much of something, you’ve gone too far and you are probably going to step off the tightrope.
The Personal Tightrope Action Committee is about how to create balance in life, whether it is as a parent or as a professional. Part of what we learned is everybody has a different balance. We try to take things that we have learned as a group, gather information and make it available.
Any one of our staff members that is having a child for the first time, we have information that we’ve gathered and recourse we have come in contact with. The goal is to help them with information and support so going through that first-time experience is a little easier.
We also assign a buddy to anybody that joins the firm. Their purpose is to help them get the lay of the land and develop a level of comfort within the firm to figure out how this big machine works
Optimize activities and events as opposed to maximizing them. There’s a lot of ways you can maximize profitability, but when you do that, you are stealing from the future. You need to strike a balancing act between profitability, investing in the future and sharing the rewards that come.
My goal is to optimize our position as opposed to maximizing it. A lot of it is more art than it is science. It is a little bit of feel. You can tell if you haven’t made enough investments. You can feel it from the business. You just have to have a pulse of what is going on.
It’s a feel you develop from being involved with people and the various leaders throughout your organization. I probably ask for input, if not every week, it’s monthly. I have a management team and I find it’s beneficial to have a group evaluate situations, and it helps to get a different perspective.
It is laying out a long-term plan with different parameters.
HOW TO REACH: Plante & Moran PLLC, (248) 352-2500 or www.plantemoran.com