Opening the door Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2008

Lisa Spector says good leaders are those who can get employees to buy in to their mission.

“To me, a leader is someone that can get the buy-in from a team — whether it’s management or the company — to want to reach the same goal and develop a culture and an excitement to all work together toward that goal,” says the founder, president and CEO of Staffing Plus Inc. “Somebody that can do that is a great leader.”

Spector strives to achieve that goal at Staffing Plus Inc., where she has led the 90-plus-employee staffing solution company to a growth rate of 40 percent during the past two years.

Smart Business spoke to Spector about how to get buy-in for the company’s mission and how an open-door policy can help you communicate that mission.

Q. How do you get employees to buy in to your mission?

Our company is very much built on a warm and fuzzy culture. We do a lot of things internally to have everybody really be excited and happy to work with the people that they work with.

No. 1, we hire for attitude and aptitude. I am part of the interview process for a large amount of the people that work here. Recruiters, directors, salespeople, management, certainly, I am involved in that process.

It’s putting a backbone in a skeleton as to the culture and the integrity of what you want your company to be and represent. Once you’ve got that, once you’ve got the platform of who you are, and what you are and how you brand yourself, then interview with those skill sets in mind.

If you keep on hiring people with great attitude and great aptitude, then you develop that culture, and then they want to join you because of that culture, and that’s part of how you get them to buy in.

Even though it’s a lot of people, if you instill and motivate and get the directors of the different divisions to be able to be part of that, then they kind of instill and motivate within their teams. So, I don’t think it’s difficult to grow a huge organization with those things in line as long as you have enough people believing in it.

Q. What advice would you give a leader who wants to create that warm, fuzzy environment?

Lead by example. If that’s not there, start doing something that will percolate that being there. If it’s a very stringent environment and you want to make it warmer, invite different teams to go out after work for hors d’oeuvres and just to get together.

Just for people to get in a social setting with each other whereby it’s fun ... it’s not just going to work, nose to the grindstone and leaving.

Q. How does an open-door policy contribute to your culture?

Anyone in the company at any level understands that if they need to speak to me, they can speak to me. They will not be boo-hoed if they’ve got an issue or a problem. Certainly, we encourage going through the normal line of leadership, but if they don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason doing that, anyone and everyone understands they can speak to me.

When I say open door, I mean that even if I’ve got somebody sitting in front of me in a meeting, if somebody needs to get to me, they’ll come in and ... I answer their needs first, because once I do that, I can go back to my original meeting. That whole culture of taking care of things now — or almost now — is what I think differentiates us because instead of somebody having to wait for several days for an answer from me, it’s done on a pretty constant basis, whether it’s verbally, through e-mail, through meetings or through just dropping by.

I walk around the building. I want to get my touches on the people. I encourage our management and everybody to do that, to really be out there with our guys. Sometimes, you can just look at somebody’s face and all they need is for you to say, ‘Hold on a second, are you OK? You look like something is bothering you.’

That happened earlier today, and it already got back to me that, gosh, I sat down just 10 minutes with someone and gave a hug where needed, and that had an enormous impact.

Whether it’s, ‘You did a great job. I recognize you did that,’ giving a $25 Starbucks gift certificate because they collected extra money on a difficult account. Whatever it is, it’s just recognizing strengths.

HOW TO REACH: Staffing Plus Inc., (800) 550-9212 or