Though the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on entire industries, we truly believe that stronger, more sustainable businesses will rise from this experience.
This article was originally printed on Forbes.
Many entrepreneurs envision creating a new business as a passion project, a labor of love, or a dream come true. They imagine that by cultivating a plan and pouring their soul into it, the lines between the entrepreneur and the business may become so blurred that the two become one.
This is the ideal, but it’s very rarely the reality. It certainly wasn’t the reality for me when, after being absent from the workforce for over a decade, I was thrust into a failing business that was overwhelmed with debt. Sadly, like so many small business owners who are struggling through the current pandemic, I had extremely limited financial resources at that time. But I was lucky enough to tap into what I believe is a sustainable business’ foundation and most important resource: people.
As so many businesses go through digital transformation and adopt technologies like machine learning, AI and predictive analytics – and as even more businesses shift to remote work during the pandemic – it can be easy to lose sight of how important human engagement is to your company. As a stakeholder capitalist, I have built my success on the notion that it takes a village to get stuff done. Serving my stakeholders – especially my community and my employees – has served my business well.
Success is a two-way street.
Whether you’re talking about work schedule, policies or environment – if it doesn’t work for the people you serve and those who provide for your company, it will not work for the company or its owners. Your relationships with stakeholders – whether they’re clients, customers, staff or vendors – is your primary resource for success, because success is a two-way street.
Humility drives engagement.
The best decision I ever made as a business owner was to engage each and every person I work with on an authentic level. Admitting you don’t know an answer is not a sign of weakness. In fact, confident humility is an invitation for others to engage.
Humble leadership gives everyone the opportunity to courageously ask questions. And humility is crucial to authentic engagement, because it allows business leaders the opportunity to show their genuine good nature, inspiring trust, loyalty and empowerment among management and the rest of the team. A humble leader prizes honesty, admits when they don’t have all of the answers and vows to find a solution.
Kindness is free (but it pays dividends).
When leaders freely express gratitude, they plant the seeds for collaboration and innovation. Cultivating a creative and resourceful team means tending to them regularly as you would nourish and water a garden. Show gratitude for everyone – even those who make the seemingly smallest contributions – and you will have a strong harvest.
When it comes to feedback, more is more.
Don’t wait for quarterly or annual reviews to tell someone they’re doing a great job or provide constructive feedback that will help them do their job better. Frequent feedback is especially important during big shifts and uncertain times (like we have been experiencing this past year), when people are more susceptible to feeling lost or anxious.
Recently, my business has shifted from doing formal reviews for everyone annually to informal positive and constructive feedback given on a consistent or even daily basis. The key to informal feedback is to keep the conversation short but genuine – even a basic “Hey, I just want to acknowledge that was great” is valuable. When management consistently praises employees for their positive work, it’s much easier to give them redirection when necessary.
When leaders and CEOs make a habit of chatting with individual employees, they’re forming an openly communicative work environment where important conversations happen as-needed instead of systematically. In an ever-evolving work and economic environment, consistent organic feedback keeps everyone on the same page and on their toes, so that the entire organization can pivot quickly.
Gratitude and compassion are contagious.
Leadership might worry that stepping up employee communication could lead to burnout or compassion fatigue. But I’ve found that consistently investing time and energy in the people who matter to your business is an investment in saving your business time, energy and money in the long run.
Over the past two decades, I’ve found that gratitude and compassion are contagious. As a leader, the more I live in a space of gratitude, the more I see it reflected in my employees and the easier it is to recognize when someone isn’t on the same frequency. In this way, gratitude is a great organizational barometer and even an HR tool for detecting and addressing negative or toxic energy before it affects the entire team.
Compassion stems from constant conversation and knowing people’s “stuff,” including struggles they may have in their personal lives. Three words – “How are you?” – are all it takes. When you know someone is struggling, you cannot help but react to them with more compassion. When employees feel safe to say what’s on their mind, it’s easier to address an issue before it spreads.
Though the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on entire industries, I truly believe that stronger, more sustainable businesses will rise from this experience. We need leaders who understand that people are their most important resource. When you serve the people who serve your business, everything else falls into place.
Written by Dianna Chane, Chief Experience Officer with Livly, the PropTech company whose mission is to create a better life for every resident and community manager.