Steve Kaplan's Blog

May 16, 2011

Be Approachable

Filed under: Tips — stevekaplan @ 3:25 pm

This is the third of my five keys to leadership.

Be approachable. Whether you have one employee or one thousand, it’s a huge mistake to isolate yourself. Every Monday, I would wander down to the mail room and strike up a conversation with Phil, the mail room clerk, about sports, weather or current events- just small talk. Phil’s job took him to all departments, all employees. He was very social, turned into the pulse of the company; everybody liked him and enjoyed chatting with him.  I enjoyed Phil’s company too, but aside from that, I learned more about my employees’ concerns during those impromptu five minute sitdowns than I ever could from an hour-long meeting with my managers. What Phil knew about the concerns of the rank and file simply would not have filtered up the management chain on its own.

I once asked a renowned Chicago surgeon the secret to his success. His answer: great pizza. He knows that even the best  surgeon in the world wouldn’t get far without a crack team in the operating room, particularly first-rate nurses. So every month, he orders pizza for his entire staff. In December, he throws them a lavish holiday lunch. The rewards come back in spades. Nurses claw over one another to work with him, and he’s the one surgeon who has no trouble getting overtime help.

A little goes a long way. I’m always amazed at how much mileage you can get from a dozen doughnuts, a five-dollar box of chocolates, or letting an employee go home early once in a while.


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