Many years ago, I read an article that featured an interview with Herb Kelleher, the co-founder of Southwest Airlines. In the article, he stated that he and his mother (who was a Harvard graduate) would often debate who was more important. He argued that it was the employees of a company, and his mom argued that it was the customers.
With all due respect, I would argue, why does it need to be one or the other? From my point of view, this debate is like having two children and being asked which one we love the most, because both your customers and your employees are equally important.
Since it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find and hire the superstars, I would like to use this article to help you continue earning the trust of your employees, who at Elite we refer to as our internal customers.
Putting first things first, as business owners we need to recognize that our internal customers are much like our external customers. In your case, your external customers come to you with transportation problems that you solve, and then they pay you with their hard-earned money.
Your internal customers come to you with needs as well. Those needs include being able to save enough money to buy a home, or having the funds available that they’ll need to educate their children. Simply put, you should provide them with the right opportunities and help them fulfill those needs. In return, they pay you with their work efforts and their contributions toward your success.
So the question is, what can you do to keep the stars you have, not just for a few years, but for the length of their working careers? Although there is no formula that will guarantee results, there are a number of things you can do to keep your stars as your stars.
Winning Employees’ Hearts
First, and most importantly, never forget this cardinal rule of managing people: We have to keep (win) the hearts of our employees, because once we lose their hearts, their minds will follow. I actually coined this rule long ago and have lived by it for decades. Now, here is how you can implement it:
With every superstar who works with you, you need to look beyond the employee component of your relationship, and consider them as a person, just like you. This means that you need to truly care about your employees as people, and the things that are important to them need to become important to you. Once they realize that you really do care about them and their families, as well as their goals, they will then care about you and the goals of your company.
Secondly, you need to be a great listener, you need to pay close attention to their suggestions and you need to always thank them for their input.
I’ve also learned that you need to be a shoulder that your employees can lean on. By being sympathetic to their personal struggles, you’ll find that if you have the right people, they will not take your sympathy for granted, but they will go to the ends of the earth for you. You need to let them know that you recognize their talents and strengths, and you need to give them praise for jobs that are well done.
Beyond that, you have to show them the humility that all employees seek. This means you’ll need to set your pride aside to let them know that they are much more gifted than you in many ways, you’ll need to admit to your mistakes, and you’ll need to give heartfelt apologies at the appropriate times.
Lastly, if you plan on keeping their hearts, you’ll need to constantly share your vision of the future and paint a clear path to their success in the coming years.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that people don’t leave companies. They never have, and they never will. People leave people, not companies. If you’d like to continue earning the trust and confidence of your employees, then I would encourage you to apply the principles that I’ve shared with you. If you do, then I’ll make you a promise: Beyond being a great role model for your employees, the morale of your employees will go up, your shop’s productivity will go up and any employee turnover problems you have will disappear.