Craig Hurlbert says great leaders inspire employees to believe in their vision and be passionate about their jobs.
But while the ability to do so is the mark of a great leader, the co-owner and CEO of Turbine Air Systems Ltd. says you shouldn’t overestimate your importance to your business. Instead, by putting the focus on your employees, they, in turn, will help your company succeed and make you a better leader.
Hurlbert has focused on his 200 employees by building relationships, establishing an open and honest culture, and developing a set of values for them to live by at the provider of turbine inlet cooling solutions for the energy industry, which posted a 20 percent increase in revenue from 2004 to 2007.
Smart Business spoke with Hurlbert about how to hire the right people to help you grow your company and how to establish the relationships, culture and values to help them succeed.
Find the right people. Spend time with them and find out if their passion is across the board or unique to their work. Do they have the intellect to do what you need them to do? Do they have a passion for life to put behind the intellect to inspire others to make it happen? Do they have the character and integrity to make it happen in line with your values?
History is a good predictor of the future. If they’ve gone about with passion and you talk to people who’ve been around them and ask, ‘How did they do this?’ you can tell whether or not that person has the energy level you’re looking for.
You do your best to pick, and you get better over time. References can help, but, at the end of the day, it has to be your call. You’ve got to believe in this person and let them know you believe in them.
Believe in and trust your employees. Believe that you have confidence in this person, and when you communicate it, it will come across that way. When you’re hiring an individual, look at them and say, ‘I know you’re the right person for the job; I’m excited that you’re in this position. I support you 150 percent, and I will be there when you hit the tough patches along the way.’
It’s one thing to say that, but it’s another thing to actually do that. At every single turn, be there for them. Don’t let them come to you and whine and whimper with every issue they have, but let them know you’re there to help them.
There’s no quick fix. It takes time to build that trust; that’s not something that happens overnight. If your actions are consistent, caring and in line with your values, then trust is a natural byproduct. People sometimes try to build that trust too quickly and expect that because you’re in a position of leadership, they’ve earned it. Earn that trust through consistent actions over time, and once you’ve been there and done the right things, then the trust is there.
If it doesn’t come, you know that you’ve done everything you can to develop it, and maybe that relationship is not meant to be.
You have a much higher probability of the business succeeding and behaving in line with the corporate values. You have dedicated people who aren’t afraid to hide problems. It’s more fun to work enjoy being around; you just enjoy it a lot more.
Create an honest and open culture. It starts with an expectation that you’re going to have an open culture and that dissenting views are welcome. Make sure it’s there. It starts at the top, and you need to drive that through all levels. Have consistent dialogue with team members in different forms, such as meetings and newsletters.
It helps coordinate the whole business together to achieve a great result for the customer.
If you have people who are playing to one sheet of music and another group playing to another sheet, the probability of a good end result is diminished. But now everybody knows where you’re going and understands the values and how you’re going to get there.
Live your values. Sit down and go through them. Here is what we believe is important to the business, beyond strategy and people, this is how everybody is going to behave from the top down.
That exercise is great; however, that doesn’t set the values. You have to systematically live those values at the top every single day, and if you don’t, the company will never achieve them.
Commit yourself. Pick things that you’re willing to live up to. If you live those values over time, then the culture emerges around those values. Take a stand when those issues come up.
Set the expectation from the beginning that this is the way you’re going to behave. People will hold others accountable to the values if you have a culture where the values are important. If you’re not living the values, you’re making a mistake.
Do some soul-searching and ask why you don’t believe in these values. Maybe you don’t believe in them, and if that’s the case, you need to do the first step over again. You have to believe in it yourself, and if you can’t, then it’s going to be impossible to drive them through the organization.
It defines and gives the business a language to speak from and something that you can hold on to.
HOW TO REACH: Turbine Air Systems Ltd., (713) 877-8700 or www.tas.com