Eliminate the negative Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

Michael Perry not only believes in leadership by example, he lives it.

If you encourage employees to join community organizations or to serve on nonprofit boards, Perry says it is your responsibility to do the same. Perry, who serves as president of H.B.D. Construction Inc., a full-service general contracting firm, says the best way for leaders to communicate their corporate vision is through their actions: If they believe in something, they should pursue it. And it’s a philosophy he lives each day at H.B.D, a full-service general contracting firm that reported $128 million in 2007 revenue and employs 130 people.

Smart Business spoke with Perry about how to delegate responsibility, communicate with your staff and create an environment of positive attitudes.

Allow employees to think on their own. Delegate responsibility where applicable. You do that by assigning responsibilities throughout your process to your managers and holding them accountable for the performance of their project. We have review meetings, whereby the projects are analyzed on a monthly basis. We have yearly reviews for all staff, including administrative, and that’s where compensation comes into it.

I’ve only been president for four years, and delegating was a little difficult at first, only because I worked my way up through the chain here at the company and was, at one time, a project manager. When you realize that there’s way too much to do it all yourself, you’re forced into delegating, and you learn quickly.

When a person is first hired, give them small amounts of responsibilities, and then quickly ratchet that up as they perform. You wouldn’t have hired a person if you didn’t trust them out of the chute.

Our company has an established set of checks and balances on virtually every operation — the way our costs are handled, our schedules, our procedures — so I rely on those checks and balances. If a person is not representing my company well, I will certainly hear about it quickly.

Constantly communicate. When you have a problem, 98 percent of the time you can trace the source of that to either a mis-communication or a lack of communication between the two parties. To avoid those problems and to have smooth projects, you have to communicate internally and externally.

The best way to do that is to avoid sitting in the ivory tower, letting your employees handle all the problems. When a problem exists that your employees can’t handle, I want them to bring it to me, and then we’ll work toward a solution. To do that, you have to listen to your employees and allow them to bring things to you and not be fearful.

The proof is in the pudding. If you run around screaming at everybody and firing everybody, that will get out pretty quickly as your method of operation, and that’s not a successful one.

I believe in keeping things at a civil level. When problems arise, we learn from them, not only individually but as a company, and then we share those with each other and use them as a tool rather than a reason to get rid of somebody.

Any good leader needs to be a good communicator. If you can’t communicate with folks, you’re probably not going to be leading a company. If you’re a good communicator and you have an employee who’s not communicating well, focus on that with them and help them improve upon it.

Keep the ideas flowing. You can foster teamwork by having regular assemblies of your management team and fostering an idea-sharing environment, as opposed to working individually and not gaining knowledge from each other. I always say that our business is constantly learning because it continually evolves. Things change in business, particularly through technology; there’s always improvements made, so you need to keep up on those.

It’s too big of an arena for one person to think they’ve learned everything, including myself. You foster that by getting together and giving everybody the opportunity to speak up about things they’ve learned, problems they’ve had, and hope that you gain as a company from that.

Practice the art of positive thinking. No. 1, steer away from negative people and associate yourself with positive people.

No. 2, when you have a negative situation, create a way to turn it positive. You don’t want to have rose-colored glasses and walk around saying everything is wonderful when it’s not, but when you’re faced with a negative situation, deal with it, and then move back to a positive mode of thinking.

I was a bit of a negative thinker in my younger years, and I changed that around as I got older. I was preparing myself to take on a bigger role in our organization, and I realized that I was going to be faced with more problems and challenges than I had in my former position.

I did a checkup on myself, and that gave me a wake-up call: The business was the same, the company was the same, the only thing that changed was me.

Positive thinking has helped me to deal with things, and I try to pass that on to my employees. Positive attitudes are contagious.

HOW TO REACH: H.B.D. Construction Inc., (314) 781-8000 or www.hbdgc.com