I choose my clients with some of the same processes in which I choose contractors, or employees. Finding people that are complementary to me both drives my business forward and creates stronger, better relationships. I also believe in treating interns a little differently. The two biggest truths I’ve learned in business are this:
1- Interns should not be getting coffee.
2- Leaders should not brag about personal success gained off their employees’ hard work
1- Interns Deserve Respect (and Pay!) not the task of getting coffee
When I sourced for a new intern, I found the incredible Erin and before her, it was the amazing Raquel. Both budding P.R. professionals, we talked about agencies and targeted companies even before they came on-site so I knew their career path. Especially in Erin’s case, I wanted to know where she felt her journey should go so I could do my best to prepare and educate her about the field. We’ve gone through a few exercises to find Erin’s passions and strengths. I’m hoping that by investing in Erin, she’ll choose to stay longer than her 3-month internship.
It’s my job as her manager, to spend time educating Erin on best practices and industry information. In return, Erin has thrown her entire heart into ideas, assignments and P.R. tactics. As much as I’m educating, I’m giving Erin freedom to do the work she needs to do with as little or many parameters as she needs. While some staples of any generation are true, none is more true than Millennials and feedback. But, we forget that any employee out of college needs more feedback and real-world examples before they strengthen in the ways which managers believe is better. I, however- don’t. Millennials like Erin come across as more heartfelt and passionate than a lot of Generation X’ers, (myself included.) We’ve become almost cynical and compliant. Erin’s presence, (along with Raquel’s,) has helped us all dig deeper into why we’re doing, what we’re doing.
Raquel, on the other hand is one of the most independent and soul-filling people I have ever come across. She’s a Libra like me and strives for compassion and equality in every situation. There are people in this world that literally, complete a project or purpose. Raquel has brought such heart to our P.R. strategy and business and I have come to trust and rely on her in a way that I haven’t been able to trust or rely on anyone! Entrepreneurship and growth happen in personal ways as well and when you hit a personal level of understanding weaknesses of yourself and your business, you’re better able to work towards strengths. My inability to hand over projects was causing me to work 85-90 hours a week, barely seeing my kids. Raquel takes on some behind the scenes greatness to help make sure I can make it to meetings and travel as clients need.
My interns matter and I tell both Erin and Raquel often, that I couldn’t grow or be the best, without them. And, it’s the truth. Invest with time and money into interns, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes business sense. When Erin and Raquel and I meet, I always grab the tab. Not because I’m Ms. Moneybags, but because coffee, or lunch or even smoothies can show how much I care about their commitment. And, I really value down-time with my team- it’s important. I try to give feedback often and with important details. I praise more than I correct. Most of all, I take each of my interns, contractors, client and vendors exactly where they are. They do the same for me, and it’s created a web of strength and trust.
2- Stop Bragging. Start Engaging
I recently remembered a past employer when I was discussing a difficult situation with a friend who needed advice. He was having an issue with an employee and wanted to know why the employee seemed to have come to resent the success of the company. After asking a few questions, I told this story:
A while back, I worked for a company that was run by a younger professional. While his heart seemed to be in the right place, his foot always found its way into his mouth during company meetings. He wanted to convey that if he grew wealthier, the company could afford better employee perks. However, all his employees heard was, “Please help me become rich. Then, I might give you raises.” It’s no wonder the employees felt that way, especially because raises had been promised for the past year and a half. Employees started to resent his success and eventually when he bought new property and cars, his team almost completely detached from the company’s vision.
I explained that the owner never meant to come across as he had, but bragging made him feel more powerful. He thought when someone had money or things, it demanded respect. As you can guess, even in a room of his peers, the respect faded into resentment and the employees left for other companies. I asked my friend if he had bragged in this way. He looked at me and said, “I was just talking about a car I bought.” I asked if his employee drove a less-expensive or older car and he didn’t know. While sometimes, personal issues at home can guide an employee’s attitude at work, managers must remember that everyday interactions can have a lasting impact.
When we brag, or tout what we have, or want to have- in terms of things, money or wealth in front of our employees or team, the focus becomes US and not the team or goal. I reminded my friend to treat his employee, even if he felt he wasn’t “worth” it. If at one time the employee was higher-caliber, it meant something had recently happened. A discussion out over lunch or drinks, can help the employee feel better valued. I also suggested he bring a token of an apology. While most bosses don’t say, “Thank You!” enough, they say, “I’m sorry,” even less. The power of a great apology can literally change relationships. Being a leader means you’re willing to apologize and find the responsibility, to move the situation to a healthier path.
These are simply two truths in business that I’m trying to live out, everyday.