Sharing ideas Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Even though she’s been in the business for two decades, Lori D. Marcus still doesn’t think she knows it all, and she doesn’t hesitate to ask employees for their opinions.

By getting employee input, the principal of QUAD656 LLC — a recruiting firm that posted 2007 revenue of about $10 million — can then use the best pieces of advice to complete a task.

“Now that’s not to say what you tell me I’m going to necessarily do, but through that conversation, something else might arise or it might give me a different way of looking at something,” Marcus says.

Smart Business spoke with Marcus about how to communicate with your employees to build a successful company.

Q. What are the characteristics of a good leader?

It’s all about communication when people need help. It’s a very open-door policy. You can help somebody through a process and ... you can work with them hand in hand, and you can role-play a particular situation.

You can share with them your ideas, and that’s valuable as being a team. You can elicit information from a whole bunch of people. You can get their perspective. Everybody is going to have their own style, and when you’re young in your career, whether you are on a leadership track, a management track, you are building a foundation.

So, that foundation, you need to have ethics, and you need to be loyal, and you need to be honest, but you are going to adapt your own style based upon what you pull from each person you are working with. I think that helps to build a good leader.

Q. How do you set up an open environment?

Communication is really the key. When you set that groundwork when you bring somebody on board that that’s the expectation, then you foster that expectation. You reach out to your team members or to your employees, and you share information from them, and you solicit information back — that makes them feel a part of the organization.

Q. How do you communicate your culture to new employees?

That’s part of the interview process. You want to surround yourself with people who have positive attitudes, people who are solution-oriented, people who communicate well and show very good listening skills. Those are the types of people that we like to bring on board.

This is not an environment where I tell you what to do and you do it. This is an environment where you will create your own success, and by gathering information from every moving part, you’ll be able to form your own style.

Q. How do know during the interview process that what you’re seeing is the real person?

Part of it is to make the person feel comfortable in your environment so that they open up a little bit more than just the typical, standard interviewee. Work through situational examples with them and see what kind of solutions they bring to the table.

It’s very, very easy to find the person that comes to you with the problem. It’s a lot harder to find the person who’s going to come to you not only with a problem but with a series of solutions, and have a true discussion with you as to the positive and negatives to each of those solutions — which one to move forward with and which one makes the most sense given whatever the situation is.

The perpetual critic is what you want to be careful of. You want the person who comes to you with the solutions, as well. It’s very easy to sit back and identify problems. It’s that much harder to identify the problem and have the solution, as well.

Q. What is the best way to communicate?

E-mail is great. But nothing beats a face-to-face meeting, and it’s always important to know, when you are going to have that meeting, that people who are called into that meeting know what the agenda is.

You have to take away any element of fear or surprise. When I worked for somebody and every time he would call me into a meeting, I would never go until I knew what was on the plate. That’s a recipe for disaster — to call an employee in and have fear. That’s not productive.

People make mistakes.

They’re a part of life. People fail at things, and it doesn’t necessarily go to the crux of who they are as a person. It just means they made a mistake or they need to do something differently. If you can look back on it and use it as a learning experience and you can look at it calmly and put perspective to it, that’s the way to learn.

If I want to have a productive conversation with somebody, I want them to be prepared. The element of surprise doesn’t make a good leader. You want somebody who is thought out, who’s had an opportunity to, as I said before, come up with solutions. If there is a problem, come to me with solutions. Let’s figure out together how we are going to work on it.

HOW TO REACH: QUAD656 LLC, (610) 687-6441 or