Why You Want Beam Holders in Your Business

This is part one of a two-part series on beam holders. Read on to find out what that is, and how you can find them.

I love it when I come across a new phrase in business. Especially one that describes someone or something that I encounter frequently and can then use myself.

I recently came across such a useful phrase as I was reading an interview with Sharon Sloane, chief executive of Will Interactive, a company that makes training videos.

Her interview was in Corner Office, the weekly NYT column by Adam Bryant. He asked her what she looks for when she hires people.

She responded that she looks for “beam holders.” By that she meant, “Someone who feels personally responsible for the welfare and growth of the company and will do whatever it takes.”

She explained that she wants people who are personally invested in the success of the company and are willing to go the extra mile.

You know the type she is talking about. The ones who stay late for days to make sure a deadline is met. The manager who picks up trash off the warehouse floor when he is walking around or steps up to help a customer when the line is too long. The customer service rep that stays on the phone after her shift has ended to make sure a customer is satisfied.

You will never hear a beam holder say, “That’s not my job.” If it helps the business succeed, a beam holder will take care of what needs doing at that moment, whether it falls within her job duties or not.

This person will also not say, “I don’t have time to do that.” If time is an issue, the beam holder will take responsibility for finding someone who can handle the task or project.

I look for those types of people too when I go into an organization because they are the ones who will help me pull it out of trouble. I refer to them as Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions. They aren’t hard to spot. In fact, I can generally tell within just a few minutes whether I’m talking to a beam holder or not.

These are the folks that have taken on additional responsibility for no extra pay when the company was downsized. These are the people who still show passion for the company they work for. Despite often being mistreated, unappreciated and expected to do more with less, they are still loyal to their companies and want to see them succeed.

I’ve encountered beam holders at all levels of an organization. Sometimes the CEO has pretty much thrown in the towel, but he has people in the warehouse who are still busting their butts every week to make the delivery schedule and customer service personnel who still do their best to handle the increasing customer complaints.

Sometimes beam holders may be the silent ones, initially hesitant to talk to me. It’s because they have been punished for speaking out before, or labeled difficult when they pointed out problems with the way the company was run. These people are sometimes the unhappiest because they know how the company could and should be run better. It bothers them immensely to see how far off track it’s gotten.

Beam holders are the people you want in your business — in good times and in bad. They will devote themselves to the company and do their best to see it succeed.

Come back for part two when I discuss how to find and hire beam holders for your business — how you can get those Super Stars in Game Breaking Positions.

 

 

The One Person Every CEO Needs

I love reading “The Corner Office” column by Adam Bryant in the New York Times on Fridays and Sundays. Adam talks with CEOs and other leaders about management and often asks about the lessons they learned on the road to success.

It’s refreshing how honest many of these leaders are. Yesterday, the column was about Penny Herscher, who is CEO of FirstRain, a business analytics firm. She admitted that she has a strong personality and started out too autocratic, sure she was right all the time. People told her they didn’t want to work for her, or they just left the company.

She mentions a mentor who made a big difference in her life. “He was one of the only people who would hold up a mirror to me and say, ‘O.K., that wasn’t good.’ I needed somebody who would tell me the truth. Many leaders with strong personalities never hear the truth because their people are afraid to tell them. The people who will tell you the truth are the most valuable people in your life.”

Bingo! In my career as a turnaround authority, I’ve seen so many companies in dire situations, on the brink of failure or bankruptcy. Sometimes the root of problems isn’t that hard to determine. Many of the employees knew it. Many in senior management knew it. But no one wanted to tell the CEO the truth.

Usually it’s because they fear losing their jobs, they might be punished, or ostracized, or they have tried several times in the past and their suggestions were ignored.

Every CEO or business leader has to have someone who will deliver the truth, no matter how unpleasant. You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.

I read an article online about a company that says it only works with “enlightened leaders.” The title of the article is “Destructive Leadership Practices: Is Your CEO in Denial?”

The author, Jeannie Walters, writes about a time she worked with a growing technology company that had a successful product and received a lot of press. But the high rate of employee turnover was hurting it and great talent didn’t stay.

Turns out, the CEO was “inflexible and demanding. They were too fearful to tell the truth about feeling overworked and under appreciated. Every new employee learned the secret code of ‘don’t ever offend the CEO,’ which also meant never critiquing his original work. This included the design of the logo (it was awful) and the user experience of the very product they were selling.”

She presented her findings about the company to the CEO, which were confirmed by the marketing director during the meeting. He didn’t want to hear it and declared all the information was wrong. Fast-forward a few months: the marketing director is gone and the company eventually shut down.

You’re most likely not going to like hearing about which areas are not working in your company, whether it’s that your management team isn’t functioning, your relationships with your vendors are not good or your business is not as well off financially as you thought it was.

Every CEO needs at least one truth teller in his or her life. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to make yourself open to hearing it, believing it and acting on it. It helps to remember that while you may go through short-term pain, it’s all for long-term gain. Don’t be a CEO in denial.