by Jim Kennett, Vice President, Operations
It’s not unusual for people to join Active Staffing because they want to learn new skills, build their career, or transition to something new. Our associates learn every day they’re on the job with us, and that’s a good thing!
They’re not the only ones who learn, however. We learn from our people as much as they learn from us. Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the lessons our associates have taught me that have helped me become a better leader, manager, and co-worker to everyone in our organization.
Here are 7 lessons I’ve learned from our associates over the years.
Direct communication is critical.
When Active places an associate on a job, it’s critical to be clear about the duties, pay, location, and expectations of the job. Nuance doesn’t cut it; we have to be direct about what needs to be done. When we’re not on the same page, we see high turnover, our clients don’t get the performance they require, and our associates miss out on wages and opportunities. The same lesson applies to the way I’ve learned to lead my team, saying what’s on my mind and having very direct conversations. It’s harder to lead this way, but transparent communication improves engagement, satisfaction, and, in the end, revenue.
When we’re hiring a new associate or deciding if they are the best fit for a specific assignment, we want to be right. Our associates are standing by, looking to us for a decision, and anxious to get to work. I’ve seen situations when we get so wrapped up in being right that we make no decision at all. Our associates lose confidence and move on; they won’t wait. Meanwhile, our competitors fill the order. As a leader, the fear of making a bad decision is real. I’ve learned from our associates to take calculated risks, make a decision, and move ahead. Being decisive gives my team confidence and assurance that I’m leading the way.
During an interview, I’ve learned that the more you allow the candidate to talk, the more they will let you know whether they are a good fit for Active Staffing or the job. Sometimes our recruiters are eager to get their points across and follow a script. Likewise, I’ve seen managers and businesspeople talk without having a conversation. Our best hires are people who help us learn about them. My best outcomes as a leader are when I listen and let the conversation unfold. As the old saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Lead by example.
I believe there’s value in leading by example. I call it participatory management. For instance, if my team is in the office, then I am too, not working from home because I can. Being there, leading the way, makes a huge difference in morale and helps more work get done. I learned this from experience and from our associates. The people we hire look to the Active team for the unwritten rules and cultural norms that will make them successful on the job. They follow our example.
Ask for help.
We insist that Active’s associates ask for help on the job, whether it’s to lift a heavy item or get direction on what to do. We tell them, “If you don’t know, ask.” I’ve learned to turn that message back to myself and my team. Better outcomes always come from a group decision, when there are more minds in the game and more players on the field. For our associates and our staff, the job will get done faster and more effectively if you get help and learn from the assistance you receive.
Hire for strengths, build upon weaknesses.
We can’t hire the job seekers who come through our doors without understanding what they are good at, where they fit, what their weaknesses are. Their personality and drive must fit with the culture and pace of the company and the requirements of the job. It’s the same when building and leading a team. I’ve learned I can’t know it all or always be the smartest person in the room – that’s not the role of a leader. My role is to hire well, aim for diversity of skill and experience, and help each person become better in whatever job they have on the team.
Putting people in new or uncomfortable roles allows them to grow. For our associates, I advocate letting them help make the decision about the job they’re best suited for (see point 3. Listening). Empowering our associates in this way creates buy-in, reduces turnover, and allows them to choose for themselves. Don’t dictate what’s best for someone else. I apply this principle as a leader: if you’re going to bring me a problem, be ready to offer a solution, too. My role is not to “rule” but to listen and help people make the best decision for themselves and for Active.
In the end, Active wants and needs happy, productive associates at work for our clients. We also want and need happy, productive staff members on our internal team. My philosophy is to always be learning, adapting to and adopting different points of view from each person, generation, skillset, and circumstance of the people around me.
I believe that approach has helped me become a better leader and deliver a better result for my company, colleagues, and employees.
Jim Kennett is vice president of operations at Active Staffing. He joined the company in 2017 as Southern Region Vice President, was named Vice President of Sales in 2019, and was promoted to Vice President of Operations in 2020. In this executive role, Jim has overall responsibility for the company’s recruiting, operational processes, branch teams, and human resources function. He also leads the salesforce and sales culture, including sales training, and target account management. Prior to joining Active, he spent nine years as a vice president for a global staffing firm. Jim earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and is working on his master’s degree at the University of Miami. firstname.lastname@example.org