Clear, Concise ‘Leadership’ Skills Are Seen as Key to
Kitchen and bath firm owners and managers need to truly “lead”
if they want to increase productivity, retain key employees and
make the most of the company’s talent pool. In order to do that,
however, they “need to do more with more more interaction with
employees, more communication, more partnering and more coaching.”
So says Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., a Pittsburgh, PA-based author
and business consultant who spoke about this topic at the recent
Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Orlando.
“Effective leadership is always the key element to motivating
and retaining staff,” Sujansky says. “Whenever employees are asked
to identify why they left a company, ‘lack of leadership’ is often
cited as one of the top five reasons. In order for employees to
want to contribute, they must feel that they know where the company
is going and that it’s strategically strong. Strong leaders instill
Sujansky suggests implementing the following practices to get
employees excited about the com-pany and eager to produce
- Set clear expectations. Just like the company, each employee
needs a clear focus, Sujansky says. “Continually communicate with
your employees and state your expectations of them. Tell them what
you want, what they did right, what you expect of them, and how you
will measure their progress,” she adds.
Employers should share their organizational vision and goals, so
that employees “understand the big picture,” Sujansky says.
“Realize that your team members want to know where the organization
is going and how that direction impacts their personal objectives.
The more you reveal to your employees, the more leadership they’ll
feel that they have.”
- Show respect. Business owners and managers need to stay attuned
to employees’ need for “life balance, as many people are sensitive
to keeping work life, home life and community life in balance,”
Sujansky comments. “To respect employees’ time, consider flexible
work schedules. This could include longer work days and shorter
“Another great way to show respect is to get creative with your
benefits plan. Employees may have more sophisticated needs in this
area than you thought possible. For example, some companies now
offer shopping services, adoption reimbursement and even pet care
and pet insurance for employees. When people feel respected,
they’ll be more loyal over the long term.”
- Make the work day meaningful. Employees want more than just a
job, Sujansky points out. “They want to contribute to the big
picture. Therefore, leaders need to provide challenging and
meaningful work assignments that stimulate their employees. When
employees feel bored, their motivation declines and they lose focus
of how their work fits into the big picture.
“Delegate meaningful work whenever possible so employees can
learn something new and feel challenged,” she adds.
- Provide appropriate praise and recognition. “Recognize and
celebrate even the small accomplishments, since praise and
recognition inspire people to increase productivity,” Sujansky
comments. “Employees appreciate spontaneous and positive
recognition along the way instead of delayed recognition during a
One way to give praise and recognition is with a simple ‘thank
you,’ Sujansky says.
“This can be done in a moment in the hallway, by phone, or during a
drop-in visit,” she says. “‘Thank you’ is a powerful phrase that
can make a person feel appreciated and valued. Whatever you choose
to do, remember that rewards and recognition are great motivators,
so use them freely.
- Continually coach. To keep morale high, coach and facilitate
every day, Sujansky suggests. “The ‘I tell/you do’ method of
management simply does not work for motivating and retaining
people,” she notes. “Instead, become a coach to your people and
encourage them to try things their own way. Allow for mistakes to
happen, as mistakes are often our greatest learning opportunities.
When people know that mistakes are understood as a part of the
experience, they’ll be more creative and take more risks.
“When you need to correct employees, do so constructively by
offering information on ways they can improve, attain and surpass
desired results. Most people are grateful for constructive
feedback. It shows that you’re paying attention to their progress,”
While these guidelines won’t guarantee that valuable employees will
stay with you through good times and bad, “they do increase your
chances for leading, motivating and retaining key people when your
company needs them the most,” Sujansky observes. “By partnering
with your employees and creating a work environment that’s
enjoyable, meaningful and focused, your company can achieve great