Make yourself available
Villar doesn’t mince words when it comes to defining how much
responsibility a leader has to take in leading a culture of communication to motivate employees.
“You need to set an example so that people look at you not
only as somebody who is their boss but also somebody that
they admire,” he says. “You always need to respect other people’s feelings, regardless of rank. People really have to see that.
And always make yourself available to your subordinates,
whenever they need you, make sure you are there.”
Villar knows new employees at Mercantil may be a bit reluctant to come to his door and those at other locations may never
get the chance to walk through it. But if the president and CEO
can make time for any employee, it creates a tone for every
leader in the company.
“It’s something that you do on a daily basis, you have to be
accessible to your people, you have to show that you are
steady, that you don’t overreact when something happens, and
that you are fair,” he says. “It’s a perception that people have to
have of you, and that’s not something that you can do in a
speech or in a meeting, that’s something that happens over
Every CEO would like to build up that rapport, but the problem is simple: People in charge are usually just a bit busy.
Villar faces those problems at Mercantil by taking the time he
does have to make an employee who walks into his office his
first priority. That means that if you only have five minutes to
spend with an employee, you stop whatever you’re doing and
give that person your undivided attention, telling him or her
you appreciate that he or she took time to come to you.
“It’s difficult because you also have other things to do,” he
says. “But have an open-door policy that people feel that they
can come to you, and if people talk to you, make sure you pay
attention, you take a minute to talk to somebody.”
Of course, anyone can leave his or her door open all day without having a real conversation. What you really need to concentrate on is the person in front of you. If you’re flipping
through your BlackBerry or answering e-mails when people
are visiting, they don’t feel like you’re paying attention to them.
If you have a meeting in five minutes, explain the situation and
then reiterate that until you leave, that employee has the floor.
Villar says that if you act like talking to employees is a pain,
you’ll quickly find that you won’t be talking to anyone.
“Make sure you don’t think you’re doing a favor by spending
a few minutes talking with somebody in the cafeteria or the
hall or anywhere,” he says. “And of course, with your immediate people, make sure they know and they feel that they can
come to you at any time, that you are always receptive. It’s not
enough to have your door open, you have to be receptive
when they come to you. If you show that somebody is bothering you because they interrupted you, then you might have the
door open, but nobody is going to come in.”