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How patience develops leaders Featured

1:25pm EDT March 2, 2011
Lea Bailes, president, Guier Fence Lea Bailes, president, Guier Fence

Lea Bailes saw great potential for Valerie Eaton to become a valuable leader at Guier Fence. The only person he needed to sell on developing this untapped talent was Valerie.

“She came into our organization as an associate doing material sales and not getting paid a whole lot to do that,” says Bailes, the 70-employee fence company’s president. “I saw a lot of potential in her to do a lot more than maybe she thought she was even capable of doing or that somebody would allow her to do. I started approaching her about changing roles.”

Bailes wanted Eaton to become involved with outside sales and residential sales, but she turned down his offer several times.

“One day, I guess something changed, and she came back and said, ‘Yes, I want to do it,’” Bailes says. “She ended up being our top residential salesperson for that year. After seeing her accelerate through that, we saw a whole different side of her. We saw this competitiveness and this drive come out.”

So what’s the key to discovering this kind of hidden talent in your organization?

It starts with a patient approach.

“You may see something and you may want something, but it may take time,” Bailes says. “You may be dealing with someone who has a totally different personality than you.”

If you see talent in one of your employees, you need to get that person to recognize it in themselves. You also need to see how committed they are to you and your company. So give the person a small challenge that takes him or her out of his or her comfort zone.

“Move their cheese a little bit and see how they respond,” Bailes says. “If they get upset and start throwing a fit, they’re probably not your most loyal employee. But if they move into the problem and move to what you’re trying to get them to do, they’re probably a very loyal employee.”

It may be as simple as just rearranging the person’s job responsibilities a bit or asking them to take on a small but important project. Whatever it is, the way you present it to the person can go a long way toward their acceptance of both that task and future assignments.

“The way I present it is, ‘This is the greatest area of need in the company; you have an opportunity to come in and be a hero and fulfill this need,’” Bailes says. “We try to portray it like they can ride in and save the day. Try to motivate them through the thought that they can do that. It’s not false. We’re not trying to trick them into doing anything. We really are trying to fill a need.”

If the person handles the project successfully, be vocal with your praise. But you need to go beyond a pat on the back to create true engagement. Show people how their effort helped your business.

“Appreciation motivates people, but so does a sense of getting a job done,” Bailes says. “Crossing something off a list or providing a certain result is something that really motivates people. Review the results with them. Tell them, ‘You did X, and this is exactly what you’ve accomplished, and you should be proud of that.’ Give them that feeling of accomplishment.”

Keep feeding the person challenges and increase the difficulty based on how well they perform.

“You have to be patient and look for those small daily changes,” Bailes says. “I’ve seen managers that weren’t patient and they just run good people off.”

It was through a patient approach that Bailes was able to groom Eaton into a leader who is now responsible for managing her own sales staff.

“Find someone who has an intense passion for what you’re doing and the company itself and then train them how to manage,” Bailes says. “Take the loyalty and instill the management skills.”

How to reach: Guier Fence, (888) 782-6508 or www.guierfence.com

Make your business interesting

Lea Bailes won’t try to convince you that his is the most exciting business in the world. But he will argue that Guier Fence is a lot more than just 70 employees who dig postholes in the ground.

“I struggled with this myself for a while dealing with telling people what my job was,” says Guier, the fence company’s president. “You have to figure out how to make what everybody is doing meaningful. For us, the meaning for what we do is we beautify people’s properties. We protect children and dogs. We keep people from falling into pools or falling off of balconies.”

If your employees feel a sense of purpose in their work, they’re more likely to stay loyal to your business.

“You have to look at it from a consumer perspective,” Bailes says. “There is a reason why someone is buying what we’re selling. If you start looking at your business too introspectively and you look at the day-to-day stuff that you grind through, we all have that. You have to get past all that and not get bogged down in what you don’t like and really look at it from the end perspective.”