Bringing out the Best in People

CEO Business and People Message: Cindy Sheridan
April 3, 2024
By Cindy Sheridan

Open communication. Emotional intelligence. Workplace Culture. We keep hearing these buzzwords as areas that we – as leaders – should place more focus. But how do they really translate? When it comes to action, what should we really be doing to build and maintain a welcoming and successful organization?

Since I came onboard as PHCC’s chief executive officer, the folks here at PHCC—National have focused on building an inspiring culture among our team – one where all individuals have an opportunity to participate and contribute to the success of the association … and one where we are all committed to making it easier – not harder – to perform our work every day through improved processes, tools, and collaboration.

An important part of our employee culture is alignment with the PHCC Core Organizational Values, which include “Professionalism and Integrity,” “Member-focused,” “Leadership and Innovation,” and “Collaboration.” We strive to represent those values in everything we do.

At the same time, this strong cultural alignment perfectly positions us to fulfill PHCC’s Strategic Goals of Awareness, Workforce Development, Member Resources, and Organizational Impact and Effectiveness. After all, we represent you, and our work is directed at ensuring your success every day.

Staff Fit for Purpose

One way we are attempting to instill a positive, rewarding culture is by recognizing our employees for jobs well done. For example, we recently restructured some of our internal positions to meet employees where they are and leverage their talents more appropriately for them personally and for the future of our organization. We believe these changes will strengthen our team, enhance our services to our members, and contribute to the overall success of PHCC.

It’s important to look at some of your current challenges … things like work styles of different generations, technology competency, leadership development, etc. Then consider your purpose and your goals and the ways your work has transformed. Do your current job descriptions and organizational chart acknowledge those factors? Do you have programs in place to properly train and mentor every employee to succeed in their roles? Are you consistently providing productive feedback?

Feed Off Each Other

As you ponder ways to build a well-geared team, it’s important to know that you don’t need to do this alone. PHCC is all about sharing best practices. Ask our industry partners for help, participate in state and National education sessions, and talk with other contractor members about what they’re doing, then bring those practices back to your company.

Our own QSC Program Director Beth Dobkin has been making the circuit lately, sharing strategies on how to “build a culture of trust.” Recognizing that many businesses don’t have a formal retention plan, she offers suggestions of things you can do right now to retain your people and create trust. “When trust is established, employees feel safe, can take risks, can be vulnerable, and can openly communicate ideas, concerns, solutions, and more,” she says.

Her tips align with some others I’ve heard recently, including those shared at a workforce development panel discussion at PHCCCONNECT2023. Among them:

  • Listen to employees, talk with employees, and really learn from them. “You have to listen to understand, not just listen to respond,” said one panelist.
  • Make sure “all communications are clear, direct, and made with respect.”
  • “Give [employees] a vision; show them what’s in it for them.”
  • Invest in training, better recruitment processes, and more community involvement.
  • Meet employees where they are. The success of PHCC Academy® – especially the online apprentice training – is a testament to the need today for flexibility (helping those taking care of elders, taking care of children, living in rural areas, etc.).
  • Be transparent. Employees will more likely trust management and be open and honest themselves if they believe their manager is doing the same.
  • Frame conversations positively. When an employee relays bad news, a manager must respond calmly and avoid accusations.
  • Establish a true open door policy. Don’t just say your door is always open; encourage employees to bring problems to you and then respond positively and constructively, take action, and – assuming possible – keep the discussion confidential.
  • Meet individually with employees on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be long, but it should be substantive. A face-to-face meeting rather than an email or phone call will make things clearer and give employees a better sense that you’re listening. Ask specific questions; give both positive and constructive feedback; and listen to their concerns and ideas.

As Michael Evans of Milwaukee Tool said during the panel discussion: “There are so many good opportunities, especially the disruptive ones … start listening and paying attention … start thinking a little differently.”

Cindy Sheridan, CAE is Chief Executive Officer of PHCC—National Association. With decades of association management experience – most recently as the Chief Operating Officer of the PHCC Educational Foundation – Sheridan and her team work to ensure that PHCC contractors are the best choice for professionalism, reliable products, and knowledgeable service.

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