People person

Erika Fleming’s favorite part
of her job is the time she spends with people.

As president of Miami International
University of Art & Design, she
has ample opportunity to be out
among her 300 employees and
1,800 students at the Miami
campus. And to make sure she
takes advantage of that opportunity, Fleming sets time aside to
go out and visit people, whether
it’s attending the annual holiday
party, a lunch with employees,
student events or meetings
where she involves employees
in the decision-making
process.

“People are going to work
hard because they want to meet
a goal,” she says. “They might
have an incentive, they might
have a dollar figure they want to
work toward, but you’re more
successful when you have that
bond with people.”

Fleming’s focus on creating
relationships has helped the
school reach 2007 revenue of
$45 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Fleming about how to create an
environment that fosters
involvement, openness and
trusting relationships.

Create an open environment. It
doesn’t happen overnight, and
it’s not something that you can
say and not follow up with
action. If you communicate to
your people something, you
need to follow through with
action.

Establish an environment of
trust with people so that they
know they, in fact, can trust you,
confide in you, and that you will
follow up and do something
about it that doesn’t end up
affecting the employee and
undermining a supervisor.

A lot of it has to do with building trust with people. That’s
sometimes why having meetings
where it’s not necessarily about
the job or a project or goals but
more personalized type of conversation, where you get to
know your people as human
beings, what’s important to
them, where you can celebrate
not only successes about the job
but have a personal relationship.

It requires a lot of time outside
the office with more one-on-ones, small groups or personal
conversations, funny kind of
moments, not necessarily conversations about the job. It’s difficult to do because your time is
always so limited, and people
always want to spend time with
you, and you have to find the
time to do it.

You can’t have meetings to
say, ‘I have an open-door policy
and you can come in any time,’
because people just aren’t going
to believe what you’re saying.
It’s about going out there and
having the personal contact
with people and sharing with
them, so they can have that
comfort level to come in and
talk with you.

Create personal relationships with
employees.
It’s the small things.
For example, acknowledging
people’s birthdays, making a celebration that’s not just having a
cake for everybody in the month
but having something personal.

If somebody has a relative or
somebody who’s sick, or, God
forbid, there’s a death in the family, you go to the hospital or the
funeral, talk with them and help
them go through that hardship.
It’s having a bond with someone
where you’re able to help them
on a personal level and, at the
same time, be able to rejoice
when they have something
exciting happening in their life.

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