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Kenneth W. Keller: Three more hats for a business owner to wear

Brain Food for Business People

Posted: December 22, 2009 9:39 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
If you are running an organization, you already wear many hats. That is because the owner, president or CEO is in charge of everything that goes on in the organization.

Contrary to popular belief, being in charge doesn’t mean the top executive sits in a big chair behind a big desk in a big office, snapping his or her fingers all day long, minions running here and there; or barking orders expecting they are instantly carried out to perfection.

Leaders fail to understand everyone in the organization looks at them all the time. Even when people aren’t visible, the leader is being watched.

Employees at all levels take cues from the person at the top.

People want their leader to be professional, friendly and focused. They want a boss who is pleasant, treats people with dignity and respect; who smiles and says “hello.”

Most employees will step up to the demands placed by a tough boss. Everyone wants a fair boss who does the right things for the organization.

There are three new responsibilities the man or woman at the top has, three hats that must be worn.

These duties are not seen on a formal job description, yet they are critical to success.

The first is that of Cheerleader-in-Chief. Some people running organizations don’t think they need to be cheering others on. Some leaders don’t feel they need to praise or compliment people. But it is necessary, especially in these times, when there is uncertainty about the future.

People need to be “pumped up” when they are at work. If the person on top is not “recharging the batteries” of the people in the organization something is wrong.

Maybe the owner needs to be hooked up to a battery charger first to have enough energy to pass to others.  

As the Cheerleader-in-Chief it’s not necessary to be joyful, happy-go-lucky or a joker. It is necessary to be polite, nice and pleasant, spreading a positive attitude of “can do.”

Employees at every level look to the person at the top as the one who sets the tone for the organization. If their boss has a poor attitude, why should any employee feel any different?

As the Chief Personnel Officer, employees need to know that the person in charge knows who is productive, supportive and working hard. Those same employees need to know the leader knows who is not.

Those who are dedicated, putting in the extra effort and doing whatever it takes for the organization look to the person on top to recognize the efforts being made.

Hard-working people need recognition and praise, even if not done in public.

The DNA of the dedicated employee consists of hard work, dedication and drive. This type of person wants the boss to appreciate them for what they do.

There are some bosses who do not believe this kind of employee needs praise. After all, the reasoning goes, if the employee receives a paycheck that should be praise enough.

Dedicated employees are not the ones who work really hard when their annual performance appraisal is coming up. Dedicated employees don’t work for money alone. They work hard because of who they are.

When a leader loses the support of these employees, they lose the core support of the organization. Hard-working, dedicated employees do 80 percent of the work in most organizations.

Those same hard-working employees want to know when the CPO is going to start calling on the carpet those who are not productive.

The hard-working employees want to know when the CPO is going to start providing the motivation to improve the work ethic and results of those who are under-producing.

The third new hat the leader must wear is that of Chief Future Communicator. This is the role of the visionary.

If people are going to stay at a place of employment, they want to know the organization of which they are a part will be around in the future.

Simply spreading the word that “things are fine” is not enough. Employees are smart enough to know if a company is not growing, it is dying. If people are working hard and see the company is shipping or selling more, they know something is going right and they want to be rewarded for their efforts by getting raises and rewards.

What helps keep people energized and focused is knowing that their efforts will mean something in the future. Everyone wants to be part of an organization that is growing and going somewhere.

It is the responsibility of the Chief Future Communicator to make sure employees understand the future of the company and their role in it.

While these three hats need to be worn by the leader, there is one more thing that needs to be said: These hats also need to be worn by every member of the management team.

Because if managers and supervisors are not cheering people on, dealing with personnel issues and helping the top executive set a vision to keep people engaged, why are they part of management?

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Brain Food for Business People” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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