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Take care of your greatest asset

For the last two weeks we have been in our “southern office” outside of Orlando. With the latest COVID surge more meetings are virtual. We flew out of Charleston just ahead of a snowstorm. Because of the pandemic we learned to work remotely. We can now work anywhere there is a good internet connection and phone service. Lynnda and I had some timeshare weeks to use so we decided to move our “office” to a warm climate.

It was a productive two weeks. We did a couple of virtual presentations to groups and a number of other virtual meetings. We visited the technical center of a successful company near Orlando interested in expanding to the Shale Crescent USA. SCUSA has the feedstock they require and abundant economical energy. Every product requires building blocks (raw materials) to make it. A house needs lumber and concrete. Metals require ore. TVs, cell phones, skis, video games, medical equipment and PPE require petrochemicals from natural gas. The Florida company we visited uses advanced carbon technology to make their products.

One product they make is fire resistant roof tiles. In places like California and Colorado a lot of homes are lost to wild fires. Most of the time hot embers catch the roof on fire destroying the structure. These advanced carbon roof tiles will prevent this. In addition, they also make fire resistant facades that can be used for homes or commercial buildings. I was impressed with their test results. The roof tiles are designed to hold their color and last longer than current tiles in use. These great products can be manufactured more economically in the Shale Crescent USA than overseas or in Florida and can compete with products made in Asia on cost and performance. Shale Crescent USA will be helping them to make their expansion a reality.

We met with the CEO and COO, their staff and many of their technical people. All had great attitudes. Everyone smiled and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. The technicians were excited to explain the products they were working on and understood how their success would benefit people. We could tell by the introductions; the executives knew their people. They were more than just employees. We didn’t hear complaints by the executives about the difficulty of finding and retaining people. The executives are leaders who care about people. That may be their secret to retention and employee engagement.

Companies are looking for people to hire at a time when people are choosing to leave the workforce in large numbers. At a recent manufacturing conference, every company I talked to was looking for qualified people. These are career type jobs with good wages. They were still having trouble finding people. Companies need people and there are people who supposedly don’t want to work. OR, maybe they do want to work but are looking for the right company.

One of the biggest employee complaints is a lack of appreciation. It doesn’t cost anything to be appreciative. A simple “thank you” or “great job” goes a long way. I worked in a country club kitchen in college as one of the cooks during the summer. The hours were long. We didn’t have air conditioning. Chef was demanding. After a big dinner I still remember Chef and all of us cooks sitting down together having a beer and Chef says, “Boys, we fed 400 people tonight. Great job.” It made me feel good and part of the team. I came back the next summer.

Years later I choose to retire from my company of 34 years. After a couple of mergers and several restructurings the fun was gone. Our division had an incredible year financially. For me it was stressful with long hours. I led the division in sales. Never any appreciation from my manager or concern for me or our team until I chose to leave. Numbers were more important than people. I found another company that was people oriented and started having fun again. I won and my new employer made a lot of money.

People are the most important asset companies have. Nothing happens until someone sells something. Someone has to operate equipment. Someone needs to repair equipment. People are responsible for the success or failure of organizations. The Florida company executives understand their greatest asset is their people. The executives never made that statement. They didn’t need to. The actions of their people told us they felt they were valued members of the team. These leaders are taking care of their greatest asset.

How about you? Are you a leader or a manager? We manage things. We lead people. Leadership expert John Maxwell defines a leader as, “Anyone who influences people and develops people.” Do you treat people as a valuable asset? How well do you communicate with your people? Do they understand what you expect from them? Do you command or do you influence? How do you develop people? Are you a good coach? Would you want to work for you? Do you ask people to do things you would never do or haven’t done? Do you use the words “Please” and “Thank you” frequently?

Are you developing yourself as a leader? Are you constantly improving your skills? At one time I worked for the VP of Sales & Marketing who admitted he hadn’t had any sales and marketing training in decades. That was okay until he tried to manage based on outdated information. My sales team constantly upgraded our sales skills. The first person we need to develop is ourselves.

People are looking for purpose and significance. They want to be part of a successful team and will follow leaders because of their vision, like our Florida executives. Many workers on the sidelines are looking for the right team to be part of. For organizations looking for employees, maybe they first need to develop effective leaders. Thoughts to ponder.

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Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com, is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert, soccer coach, professional speaker, author of four books and numerous published articles.

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