“I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t think that I am coming down on you,’” says Fuellgraf, president and CEO of Fuellgraf Electric Co. “You know upfront this is the culture we are working in. It’s not a negative culture. It’s an aggressive culture.”
Fuellgraf says when you do come across the wrong way, you have to show your vulnerability and apologize.
“You aren’t always right,” he says. “When you’ve come down too hard on somebody, you apologize and explain why you did what you did and make sure you are sincere in your apology. Then, sit down and try to talk through the situation again. Both people see it from a different perspective at that time, and you get a better understanding.”
Fuellgraf led the company of 100-plus employees to revenue of about $14 million in 2006.
Smart Business spoke with Fuellgraf about how he identifies positive characteristics in potential employees and how he communicates change.
Q: What does it take to be a successful leader?
You have to be able to listen to your people. That’s probably one of the most important things, to understand where they are coming from and why. You have to walk the walk and demonstrate from your own perspective what you are expecting your team to do.
People have to recognize that you are willing to listen to them and use their ideas. You have to demonstrate that their opinions are valuable and you aren’t just listening to them and going your own way on everything. They have to see the results of their input. Once you establish a plan, you stick to that whether it’s your way or my way.
Q: How do employees know that you are listening?
I’m a very upfront, outspoken individual. I try to develop a team that operates the same way.
I want people to bring their problems, questions and concerns to me and say it right upfront, not to stifle their own ingenuity. I want them to bring things right up front to me, and I’ll be upfront with what my interpretation is, and we work through something. They know I am listening to them because I am talking to them, reiterating to them and I’m trying to establish an action plan with them.
Q: How do you identify positive qualities in potential employees?
To be a leader, you need to have the ability to read people. When you sit across the table from someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye, talk to them and let them talk about themselves, you pick up quickly where their goals are and where their motivations are. I like to know about families, their kids, what they do. Are you a coach? Do you go to your kids’ games? What are your activities?
If it’s somebody who doesn’t have time to do that because I’m the kind of person who is at work at 6 a.m. and get home around 8 p.m., it’s not a good thing. I’d much rather have someone who gets their work done within a reasonable time frame so they are home. I think that you need to relax and need to have the family time to make your work effort worthwhile.
It’s very important to be family-oriented. I try to tell people the No. 1 thing is to take care of your family. The company will come second. If your family is happy, you’re going to be happy, and you’re going to be a better employee.
Q: How do you communicate change?
The biggest thing is to get people involved and motivate the individuals to be a part of it, to see what the positive effects of the change could be. The people have to understand clearly the reason for the change. They need to understand and keep communicating that this change may be for a long-term effect.
As you are communicating, you are trying to get the people, and yourself, to stay focused and not to drift. You have to make the conscious decision that you are going to have to wait and see that change through and get your team to understand and believe that something is going to happen.
You keep communicating why you are making the change. You have key people sit down and work through that process to see what the result could be. Maybe you do it on a microlevel so they can see what will happen on the macrolevel. Once you get the buy-in of your management team, it’s going to filter down. They will communicate it for you.
HOW TO REACH: Fuellgraf Electric Co., (724) 282-4800 or www.fuellgraf.com