Some people are labor. They want to come in and do certain set things. Whether it be fixing toilets or submitting annual reports, this employee is not looking to innovate, think critically or in general, create positive change. Businesses NEED people like this. Not everyone wants the added responsibility of creating the path, some just want to walk the path that someone else forged. At the end of the day, if you are reading this, you are probably someone who is always looking to improve things. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you probably want to challenge yourself to think outside of the box too stand out from the crowd and create value for your team. But not everyone has the same goals in mind.
I remember a few years ago for the first time it occurred to me that not everyone thought like me. IE: when I was a kid, I never really dreamed about being a baseball player or a fire fighter. For whatever reason, I always wanted to be in charge of a business. I wanted to be the guy who made decisions and competed with other businesses for success. I wanted to be a decision maker and an innovator. Instead of dreaming about shooting threes like Larry Bird, I wanted to close deals like Donald Trump. Furthermore, I always assumed that everyone else wanted the same thing!
Never once did it occur to me that someone would not WANT to be the decision maker. That some people, actually many people, really just want to settle into routines that they know and are good enough at to do on a consistent basis, earn a living, and give them the financial security they need for their families and their social lives. Once I realized this, it helped me to understand that my value was not just as an employee who did the jobs given to me, but also as someone who would set an edge in any organization I would work within. It helped me to recognize where the true source of my success lied. Not in just leasing apartments or managing the staff in my day to day position where I worked, but in the way I was able to leverage things I had at my disposal to a hilt by not just accepting the work processes as they were handed to me but by constantly tinkering with them to make them the best they could be.
In doing this I was able to create added values to my company and expand my roll in a way that made me more indispensable to the organization. Not only was I striving to excel with the individual revenue units that I was charged with overseeing, but I was also creating new ways for us to look at and grow profits across the board by trying to apply new ideas to existing processes that the whole company shared.
And the reason I said all of that is to say this: as team leaders, we need to be ready to identify the players on our teams who are going to give you more than just a product from an existing process. Foster an environment where they can suggest ideas. Have meetings with staff where you go through what they are doing, where they are encountering friction or where they think things are not ideal. Encourage them to give feedback and make suggestions of ways that things can improve. Even if they are strictly “labor” that doesn’t mean you can’t learn valuable insights about them if you take your time and hear them out.
Always remember to give credit to those that are making the suggestions, even if YOU are going to ultimately make the implementation of the new idea. The same employee that helped you recognize a major oversight in process that saved the company 1% annually may not be so quick to share with you if he or she feels like you are just trying to take all the credit to yourself. Even if they are not expecting credit and did not realize that the feedback they gave you would create a change, once they understand that you are unselfishly spreading the love around, they will garner new found respect for you as their manager and feel appreciated, leading to a happier more productive workforce.
Not everyone is going to take what they know and think critically and strategically about it. Not everyone wants to be Bill Gates or Steve Forbes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find valuable action items by talking with them, creating an open environment where no idea or question is too stupid or not worthwhile, and spreading a bit of credit around when we create new realities for the companies we work for. Remember, at the end of the day, its all about the bottom line. Any time you help the bottom line, you are creating value for your company in a concrete way that will help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Jason Kleinerman is an entrepreneurial minded management expert specializing in multifamily residential real estate. Currently a Regional Manager for Universal Management, LLC, he has helped shape the direction of this residential firm over the past 6 years in a team setting while driving bottom line returns over many different assets through shrewd management and thorough planning.