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Leadership Thought #378 – You Are Your Employees

June 29, 2012

Free Photo of Man Sitting in Front of People Stock Photo

I am in and out of many businesses and the one characteristic all high performing organizations have is good employees.  You can feel it in the atmosphere. There is a certain way the employees interact with one another and hold themselves.  There is a sense of confidence but not arrogance.  If you are a guest, you are treated that way and random people will interact with you to make sure you are being taken care of.  It’s one of those things you clearly notice about the work environment when it is not present, which sadly is usually the case.

You are your people – it is that simple.  Who you hire and promote is an obvious reflection of your own ability to judge talent and gauge cultural fit.  When you lower the bar for one person, you lower it for everyone else.  It’s better to let a vacant position stay open for an extended period than to fill it with the wrong person.  All it takes is a few bad hires to turn your culture upside down.  Your employees will typically notice this much sooner than you will and in strong cultures will isolate and reject the miscast individual.  In mediocre to bad cultures, people just shrug their shoulders and go about their business because they’ve seen this play before.

If you stop and think about it, we spend an inordinate amount of time at work.  The people we must interact with professionally every day have an enormous impact on our mood, attitude, and daily quality of life.  People can either make you feel good about yourself and what you are doing or not or make you feel nothing at all.  The office can be rife with politics, tension and dysfunction or a pleasant and enjoyable place to work where people respect one another.  Sure, there is a cultural continuum, but I find both negative and positive energy tend to accelerate very quickly.  You feel this the moment you walk in the door and talk to a few people.

The next time you decide to hire or promote someone, I want you to ask yourself some pretty basic questions:

  • What type of energy does this person emit when you meet them, and do they smile easily and make good eye contact? Are they likeable?
  • Does the candidate possess basic social skills and good manners?
  • Is this person a good cultural fit with our organization and will they make it even better?
  • Can I see myself spending extended periods of time with this individual and enjoying their company?
  • Does the candidate listen well and ask good questions or are they more interested in what they themselves have to say?
  • If it is for a management position or higher, can you see this person as a good role model for younger staff?
  • Do you feel comfortable aligning the future of your company and your own professional destiny with this individual?


You would think that every business would use some version of the questions above to help with screening all applicants, but this happens much less frequently than you think.  As a leader, there are no more important decisions than employee decisions.  You can be a genius with business decisions but if you get the people part wrong, you will inevitably lose out to your competitors who get that part right.  They will also enjoy themselves a lot more in the process.