Throughout my career, I have found that the best form of coaching is through examples and experiences. There is a unique way to use what happens in our day-to-day life and review it as it pertains to how humans and organizations act. After all, human behavior is one of the reasons many of us have gone into HR and it is the reason that many Leaders lose sleep at night trying to figure out how to tackle employee issues.
So, what does your parking lot say about your Leadership style….I will explain.
Recently I had an experience with a company and a parking spot. I go to this company, let’s call them ABC Group, a few days a week for work and have been getting there early in the morning. There was a spot by the front door available and so I parked there.
Randomly one day, an employee of ABC Group approached me and said they noticed I liked the front parking spot. They wanted to let me know that the owner of the company also liked the front spot and going forward if I was going to continue to visit the establishment to please park elsewhere so the owner could resume parking there. I thanked the employee for letting me know and offered to move my van, but they assured me it was ok for that day but going forward to park elsewhere.
I found this to be very interesting, knowing and working so closely with the Owner, if it was an issue, he would have mentioned it to me. I started rehashing the experience in my mind and I wondered if the owner knew. There isn’t a sign posted at that parking post saying there was a restriction in parking or preferred parking, it’s an open parking lot and an open space.
Oddly enough, this has happened to me before as well at another time in my career at another company that we will call DEF Group.
At DEF Group, an employee approached me and wanted me to move my vehicle immediately before the owner arrived for the day as they feared the owner would be upset. In this instance, I did approach the owner to relay our conversation. The owner agreed jokingly stating they should probably just put up a sign so they could avoid this from continuing and stated that I didn’t have to move my vehicle immediately, but they were glad that I did. I was astonished by this response.
Fast forward to my most recent experience at ABC Group, I decided to mention something to the owner and apologized for my parking spot relaying that I did not wish to upset them in the process. This time, the owner was flabbergasted at the fact that the employee had said anything. ABC Group Owner relayed that his company didn’t operate like that, he knew exactly who said this to me and no one had assigned or preferred parking spots as no single person in the company was better than another, including him.
We’re halfway through and you’re probably asking yourself so how does this align with Leadership? Here is the connection: Through my interactions with both companies there were stark differences in how the employees approached these two leaders and I think it is worth taking a hard look at how you portray yourself to the employees around you.
Here were five distinct differences I noticed in my interactions with both organizations:
Community-Building CEO (ABC Group)
This CEO is excited that front line employees are willing to approach and discuss things going on in the facility.
Quality issues are captured quickly; they have also been able to initiate ISO certification processes in a record time – 10 months!
There are new ideas and process improvements being made each month. Despite a decline in sales, they are experiencing an increase in EBITA.
They have a goal of being the plus 20 employer and it shows! They strive to offer more than other employers when they are able, and it fits within a reasonable budget.
Employees here have leaders that assume the responsibility for mistakes, so unless it is a grossly negligent matter or intentional errors disciplinary processes are never engaged. As their HR representative, I haven’t issued a disciplinary action form in almost a year.
Preferred Parking President (DEF Group)
Employees relay information they think their leader wants to hear; the Leader has been caught off guard with quality issues and findings during some external quality audits.
Performance is affected; the team is engaged enough to maintain status quo however there is no real push within the team to do more.
The machines and processes used remain constant; there is no evidence of process improvement or investment to the team. The most common complaint I hear amongst the employees is that ideas do not matter because they are not listened to.
Employees do not really fear making mistakes, they fear getting caught or having things blamed on them for disciplinary purposes, so they spend more time covering up mistakes or figuring out ways to blame the system or processes for errors.
Now, could you approach an employee of the Community-Building CEO and receive negative feedback, of course you could! However, it is my belief that as leaders we should be placing ourselves last.
Our customers we serve include our employees, and we should be concerned with their experience just as much as we are focused on customer experience. In fact, we probably interact with our employees more frequently than paying customers so I would wager to say their experience may be weighted a little heavier than our paying customers. Cause if we have happy employees, then we have happy customers, right?
In closing, I’d like to leave you with some Leadership characteristics that I recommend and try to convey in my personal leadership style. They include:
Empowerment: the ability to assist others in realizing their full potential.
Standing Back: Employees have priority; give credit for their work; let them fail if needed to learn.
Humility: Place yourself in their shoes for perspective.
Authenticity: Be true to yourself professionally, publicly, and privately.
Courage: Take risks and allow others to take risks as well; overcome fears and share lessons learned.
Accountability: Hold yourself and others accountable.