‘Employees first’ makes happier workers


Ask the top toy company how they know what toy will grab the attention of children and they’ll tell you, “We go directly to the source — the kids.”

Ask the automobile industry how they design a car that will sell and they’ll tell you the same thing — “We let our customers design what they want individually. Choice is everything.”

Ask a manager how he knows he is a good manager and …

Well, if you’re asking Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies located just outside New Dehli, India, he’ll tell you to look on the company’s intranet where his grades, along with the managers’ grades, are published for all employees to see. In addition, HCL developed an online “smart service desk” where employees file complaints.

However, this is not your typical information technology (IT) complaint ticket process. Traditionally, a person would fill out a complaint ticket and it is sent to the IT department. Next, the complaint would be answered by the IT person and then the ticket is closed, making the assumption that the problem was handled. With Nayar’s employee system he has added a couple of twists; the complaint is read personally by Nayar, posted for others to see and then is closed only by the employee that submitted the complaint … assuring satisfaction.

Nayar’s management philosophy “employees first, customers second” has had a dramatic effect on turnover and employee satisfaction in his company. As a result, executives globally, from some of the largest companies, and professors from Ivy League business schools are taking note.

The idea is a simple one and one that is working in a variety of industries; if you want to know what “they” want — ask “them.”

Leadership is a relationship with people and is found everywhere, not just at the highest levels of organizations or society for that matter. Success in leadership, success in business, and success in life has always been, and will continue to be, a function of how well people work and play together.

Servant leaders are concerned with empowering the employee rather than dominating them. Trust is established through being honest and open, keeping action consistent with values, and showing trust in followers. This type of leadership inspires others to become leaders. Leadership is also self-development. Just as the engineer has computers, a painter has canvas and brushes, a musician has instruments, the leader has self-development. In a survey conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, 72 percent of respondents indicated social skills as the most essential factor to business success.

How can your company get strong long-term performance from your people? Consider implementing a process that includes:

Commitment to the Growth of People — Commitment to personal and professional growth of human capital is the cornerstone of success.

One of the most challenging tests is for the leader to acknowledge the importance of growth and development for each and every individual in the company. The leader can provide on going learning by developing structures, programs and activities where everyone can grow. Most importantly, a leader understands and accepts the need to create self-awareness, even when it disturbs more than it comforts.

Listenning — Traditionally, leaders have been valued for their communication and decision-making skills. Leaders must reinforce these skills by making a commitment to listen intently to others. They, identify the will of the group by listenning receptively to what is being said and what is not said. Servant leaders promote work environments where individuals can be accepted, authentic, honest, listened to and productive. They understand that the organization’s potential is based on how well it helps people reach their capabilities.

Building Community — Leaders seek to identify a means for building community because they understand that people work best in communities. The leaders are actively involved in the life of the community, modeling personal skills, setting examples and developing everyone’s comfort level with a participatory approach to community efforts.

Creating Commitment — Leaders recognize that productivity emerges from commitment, not control. People work best when they try to accomplish valued missions. It is passion for important purposes that brings out our best. Leaders are those who champion meaningful visions and encourage people to commit their best to achieve them. Persuasion is the preferred mode of influence. Decisions are reached through collaboration and open communication. Effectiveness is developed through enabling others to act. People should be directly involved in the discussions about the needs and direction of the community.

The collective intelligence always is far superior to any one person’s idea. This model of leadership encourages individuals to step up on their own initiative because they see it as a worthy objective. There is a deep belief in the unlimited potential of each person and that it is the role of the leader to invite, develop and encourage this valuable resource. Use daily challenges as opportunities to develop the judgment and decision making capacity of everyone.


Michelle P. Simms is a personal development coach. Her philosophy is to develop personally, as a leader, and as a professional. Michelle works with individuals worldwide at www.SimmsInternational.com.

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