Joining forces Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2008

Mark Hall has always thought of himself as a co-worker rather than as an executive.

Hall — founder, president and CEO of PinPoint Holdings Inc., which does business as PinPoint Resources — says that a business coach set him straight on that several years ago.

“You have to understand that you cast a very long shadow and where your shadow lands has big impact,” says Hall, whose work force solutions firm posted 2007 revenue of $8.1 million. “The attitude of the leader determines the attitude of the pack. It is a conscious choice.”

Smart Business spoke with Hall about the three strategies he employs to manage his staff.

Q. What are your keys to establishing a successful team?

Empower good people to do their job, communicate with them and get out of their way. If you create the stage for your people to be successful, more times than not, they’ll be successful. It’s not complicated.

When I was an employee, I used to hate being dictated to, so we’ve mutually set objectives. Nobody wants to have it slammed down their throat, so we talk about it rationally, look at it analytically, and at the end of the day, they have to make the decision because they’re the one that’s committing to it.

After we set the objectives, they come up with a plan as to how they’re going to achieve the objectives, and that plan is presented to the leadership group. When I approve it, then it’s time to execute. Every week, we have a checkpoint to see our performance against the plan. Plan your work, work your plan and hold them accountable.

Q. How do you measure the success of that empowerment?

Recently, we had two different camps of thought in our leadership group, and our COO played mediator. One side was a little farther left, and another side was a little farther right, and we ended up settling in the middle.

I didn’t have to inter-cede at all. To watch an organization’s leadership grow and arrive at conclusions right in front of you, it’s just incredibly rewarding.

My job is to work myself out of a job. If I have to be there, making all those decisions for them, why do I need them? And I don’t mean that in a cold way. I give them parameters to operate within, but I don’t give them carte blanche. I’m not going to let them go out and do something that’s going to have eternal consequences to the company that I built.

Q. How do you stay out of the way of your team?

It’s terribly hard because you want to be involved in everything, and you take exception at how they do it. I got caught up in the trap of, ‘You didn’t do it the way I would do it,’ and I realized that as long at they’re doing it with integrity —according to the legal, moral and ethical values and principles of the organization — it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

That was a breakthrough for me. It helped me begin to let go and give more and more control over, breaking the entrepreneurial grip. If you don’t let go, you choke it off.

My office is physically located within earshot of sales and the guys putting request for proposal responses together.

There are times when I literally have to get up and shut my door because I’m so tempted to throw myself right in the middle of it.

I’m not abdicating the responsibility, but I’m not down in the details. When you have good people that are taking care of the details, you don’t need to be in them.

The way I look at it is, they have the livelihood of 200 families sitting in their hands, and one of those families is mine. If I didn’t trust my employees, they wouldn’t be working here.

Q. How do you communicate with your employees?

It’s all about building relationships. Start with taking one to lunch every single week. Start with the secretary and finish with the VPs, and when you’re done, go back and start again.

You’ll learn more from your secretary and your receptionist about how your business really runs than you will, oftentimes, from your executives because they’re on the front lines. They live it, and they see it.

You spend about 45 minutes just talking about kids and life and church and what they want for their life, and you actually end up spending just two to five minutes on how things are going at work. Employees have to know how much you care before they care what you know.

Employees have to feel as though this lunch is an environment where they aren’t going to be chastised or criticized for speaking their mind. They need to feel it’s OK to disagree.

HOW TO REACH: PinPoint Resources, (800) 371-1948 or www.pinpointresources.com