The thing we love most about the companies we get to work with is how committed they are to serving and helping others. It’s really easy to look at running a business as a sterile thing that just happens all around us and to forget that at its core, success is always fueled by humans. The humans who run, operate and support the business, and the humans who decide to buy from us. Lucky for us, our clients get it.
But the balance between keeping things “professional” and valuing the people that make a business what it truly is can be tricky at times. As a founder, CEO, or department head, how do you continue to drive results when life-stuff happens for your team members? And what about when personal distractions occur in your own life? How do you keep the ship pointed in the right direction when personal transitions threaten to get in the way?
Adam invited his good friend, Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich and author of the book, Spin Sucks – Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age, to answer these questions, and more. As a founder who’s been through her share of life transitions while still running a thriving business, Gini had some great insights to share on this topic.
Human Stuff Happens to All of Us – Founders Included
Gini first told the story of how in 2013 a major life change was underway for her personally, and what she did to continue growing the business throughout. Overnight, her life changed when the foster child she’d been waiting months to bring into her home finally arrived at her door. Gini had to adapt immediately into working parent mode with very little warning. And because of the constraints the foster system puts on confidentiality related to the child, Gini couldn’t broadcast to her clients why she was less available or more distracted than usual.
To manage the business needs most effectively, as she could, Gini embraced transparency with her clients, letting them in on as much information as possible, which opened up more understanding on their part. Gini also spent time adapting her schedule and workflow to accommodate her new life routines. When one of Gini’s team members had a life crisis of her own recently, she treated her with the same level of compassion and flexibility, insisting she take the time she needed to recover while the team adapted around her short time away.
A Harvard Business Review article notes that creating a supportive environment like this for your team is a great way to acknowledge the human in all of us. In the article, Annie McKee, author of Happy at Work, reminds that flexibility around workload is helpful, and at the same time needs to be “grounded in reality” in order for it to work well.
Be specific about what the realistic workload expectations and needs are, and do your best to work around your team member’s limited capacity by filling in with the other resources you have at your disposal. Then keep checking in and assessing along the way to ensure both the team member and the company’s results are still being supported as equitably as possible.