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Agile Computing Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, William Schmarzo, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski

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Sounds Like a Personal Problem

If you expect your employees to treat the company’s problem as their own, then you need to treat their problems as your own

When an employee has to miss work because his wife is sick, or when another does not show up to work because her mother has to deal with a serious disease, if it sounds like a personal problem, it is. Yours!

You are the CEO. The entrepreneur. Your passion fuels this business. Day in, day out, round the clock, you are thinking of growing and improving the company. You are 200% consumed by it and expect your staff to be as well.

You need your team to stay late to meet a deadline, or come in early to deal with an emergency. You want them to think, live, breath the company to beat the competition and continually emerge as the winner. Rightfully so, you expect them to know that if they take care of the clients, the company would do better and that's what is required for them to continue to have a gainful employment.

Yet, success requires more than a simple quid pro quo relationship of "You work for me, and I pay you." Success requires your entrepreneurial passion to be present in every facet of the business.

If you expect your employees to treat the company's problem as their own, then you need to treat their problems as your own.

Do Whatever It Takes
Take the time to understand what is occupying the mind of your team. Reach out to them, be a good listener, and genuinely do whatever it takes to solve the problem. Don't do lip service. If there is nothing you can do, offer them time off so they reconcile on their own.

You may ask, how can I afford this. If everyone stops working due to their personal problems, how do I run the company. In return I say, you can't afford not to do this.

Even if you think about it in the most analytical, even borderline selfish way, you will recognize that you pay your team for progress, not for showing up at work, clocking in, warming a seat and clocking out. If one is pre-occupied with personal issues, they will be substantially less productive and will most likely influence the rest of the team in a negative way.

Yet, if you assist them to quickly solve their problem, not only have you gained their productivity back, you have also earned their respect and loyalty. They feel one with the company and next time the company at large, or a team member, needs help, be it business or personal, they will jump to help.

Now, the company's problems are their problems. Leading by example, you have infused your passion in your team which in all likelihood will become your largest competitive advantage.

Will It Become a Free for All?
One of the beauties of running an open company is that abuses and disingenuous actions quickly become apparent. As part of your loyalty to the entire team, you must swiftly address abuse. Interestingly enough, employees do recognize that a few people can ruin it for all, and will also rise to the occasion and guide others to not confuse the company's compassion with a free pass.

Loyalty and the CEO Grade
If we went by the book and our performance as CEOs was being graded by MBA students, many of us, including some legendary CEOs we have all read about, would get a failing grade.

As the numbers go, the moment an employee is not carrying his/her weight, they must be cut and room should be made for replacements.

However, in most instances these purely by the numbers short-sighted savings cost us dearly in the long-term. It ruins the winning attitude throughout the company. Employees will only do the minimal effort to keep their job and will project the company's attitude directly back. While you may not be within an earshot and hear it, the conversation in the hallway goes as "The company does not care about me, why should I bust my butt for it."

You understand that the market has ups and downs. Sometime you do great, and sometimes you get by. People have ups and downs too. We need to be loyal to those who have been loyal to the company and be patient while they are sorting out their problems. It may seem expensive, but don't consider it a cost, look at it as an investment. You will have a dedicated and loyal employee for years to come.

Remember, the secret ingredient of every recipe is Love. With love, making four course meals is as easy as pouring cereal in bowl. With reluctance, frying an egg will produce below par results.

So be bold. Don't be concerned with your CEO grade as viewed by outsiders. Be concerned with how your employees grade you as a CEO. If your employees see you on their side, they will work side by side, with passion and love, ensuring your company's success. After all, that's the only CEO grade that counts.

More Stories By Siamak Farah

Siamak Farah is the founder and CEO of InfoStreet, a leading provider of Small Business Software as a Service (SaaS). Active in its day-to-day management, Siamak has assembled and leads a seasoned team of industry professionals at InfoStreet. Widely regarded as a SaaS pioneer, as early as 1994, InfoStreet began shaping a vision, a team and a technology which is now transforming the way business gets done. As president of one small publicly listed software development firm and the chief operating officer of another, Siamak has extensive small business management knowledge. This, combined with years of experience as a software developer, places him in the unique position of having hands-on knowledge of technical, marketing and management issues, the very combination required for a successful Software as a Service provider. Prior to founding InfoStreet in 1994, Siamak worked at NeXT Computer, side-by-side with industry visionaries. During his six years at NeXT, his responsibilities grew from technical sales and marketing to district sales management. Before joining NeXT, Siamak was the Chief Operating Officer of Microstat Development Corporation. During that time, he was responsible for the day-to-day operation of this publicly listed R&D firm. Siamak began his career at Vertigo Systems International. During his time at Vertigo, he was instrumental in its growth from a startup with just six people to a full-fledged business employing over 70 individuals. The positions held by Siamak span the gamut of those required in the operation and management of a software development company. Siamak set out to experience these roles by deliberate design. At the age of 22, he already had a vision to create a software development firm. Leaving nothing to chance, Siamak systematically chose positions that would provide him with experience in all facets of a software business: development, customer service and training, executive management and finance, and sales and marketing. Having been in the industry for more than 25 years Siamak has striven to include a cutting edge technological vision in his work. As evidence, Siamak has been and continues to be active in the envisioning and creation of forefront technology. 3D-animation, Internet technology, and object-oriented programming, and Software as a Service are just a few leading edge technologies to which Siamak has actively contributed. A member of the Society of Industry Leaders, Siamak is a frequent speaker at conferences that focus on the Internet and SaaS such as ISPCON, INBOX: The Messaging Industry Event, the Layered Technologies Pact conference, SoftLetter’s SaaS Univeristy and more.

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