Business leaders can play an important role in their employees’ lives in the type of work environment they provide for them, says Lillian Roberts.
The president and owner of Business Cards Tomorrow Pompano Beach says that how you treat employees at work filters down to their interactions with family and friends.
“You recognize people as individuals, not necessarily what their title is or what their job function is, but first and foremost, you recognize them as human beings,” says Roberts of the 45-employee company, part of T.K.O. Distributors Inc. that does business as Business Cards Tomorrow.
Creating that environment has helped grow the printing company to 2007 revenue of about $5 million.
Smart Business spoke with Roberts about how to value and respect your employees to create an environment for growth.
Q. How do you create an environment where employees are treated as individuals?
It’s a lot of little things. It’s things that I started out in the beginning. We recognized their birthdays when we were a small company, we’d have a birthday cake for each individual person.
Today, we do $10 for lunch. It sounds like nothing, but it’s appreciating that person and recognizing their day.
I would tell other leaders to think about how the decisions they make and how they treat their employees go far beyond the walls of the business and the eight hours of employment for the day. If they’re a leader who blows up at the slightest thing, they’re teaching their employees that it’s OK to do that.
Be patient, and know that they’re affecting more than just that employee when they’re talking to that employee; they’re affecting that whole person’s circle of people.
You can either manage by fear or manage out of love. I manage out of love. If you need to sit down with somebody about something and it needs to be discussed or counseled, you don’t do that in an open environment where you yell at them or belittle them or try to push them into doing their job faster or better by embarrassing them.
It means that you sit down and have a talk with them, you address them as a human being, and you help them to have the tools that they need to do a better job.
Q. How do you develop a level of respect in your company?
When we hire somebody, we let them know they must respect each other, they must respect our customers, and they must respect the management, and the management will respect them back.
First, it comes from the owner, so the owner or CEO has to live their life that way. If something happens or there’s a mistake, they can’t have an outburst. An owner’s responsibility is to be even keel; no matter how bad your day is or good your day is, you should be even keel.
Obviously, if it’s really good, you have a little more bounce in your step, but even on your worst days, a true leader does not show how bad it is. A true leader provides hope. When you provide hope, even when there’s no hope, amazing things happen.
The second way that it happens is there has to be zero tolerance. I don’t care how good one particular employee is in my company, if they’re not respectful and they don’t respect each other, they don’t have a job here.
A lot of companies will go, ‘You’ve got to let that person do it, because we can’t replace them.’ Everybody in the company can be replaced, right down to me. Bad behavior is bad behavior, and it’s unacceptable.
If you allow bad behavior in an organization, it will do more damage than just about anything else.
Q. What’s the benefit of valuing and treating your employees as individuals?
You love coming to work. I have 45 people who go home at night, and depending on the kind of day they had, [that] will determine when they sit down at that dinner table or talk to their friends, whether or not they’re going to have a smile on their face or they’re going to be stressed out.
If they go home to a family and a couple of small children and they’re sitting at the dinner table worried about their job, or if they’ve been yelled at and are preoccupied and wondering do they get to keep their job, are they going to have that energy within them to say to their child, ‘Hey Tommy, how was school today? What did you learn? What are you doing?’
That child then grows up and thinks work is bad, working for somebody is terrible, you get treated poorly, and that’s what gets portrayed to them. What if that small child grows up to be an employer? They learn to treat people bad.
HOW TO REACH: Business Cards Tomorrow Pompano Beach, (954) 485-9880 or www.bctpompano.com