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Leadership 101: Motivating Your People

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Wed, Jul 05, 2017 @ 04:12 PM

stathakis, leadership, motivation, people, michigan

Here at Stathakis, our people are the foundation of our business. Being in the service business, if our people are not trained, motivated and managed well, nothing else really matters. There simply is no way to make up for people problems in a service business. But motivating people isn’t a straight line from A to B. People are individuals and what may excite one person may not do anything for another. And let’s face it, no matter how talented someone is or how self-driven, we ALL need to be motivated to continually do our best and strive higher, even us leaders.


So do you want to know how to motivate your teams? Great leaders don’t have just one way to motivate people, they have at least a dozen ways! If you as a leader need some motivation to motivate, consider the following list of some of my go to ways to get people fired up, engaged in the work we do and doing their best.


Ask questions because the more informed you are the better your decisions will be and the more your people will respect them. If they believe you are making decisions without really knowing how it impacts everyone, they are far less likely to comply. Lots of questions signals that you really want to know what is going on and makes your help and input much more effective.


Provide specific, positive feedback to your people. People need to know what they are doing right and they need you to notice. Specific praise from you the leader is gas in your employee’s tank and the fuel for more good work. Why? Because event he best employees may get defeated and deflated if they think no one notices their effort. And even if you have a problematic or less than stellar team member, try your best to find something, anything to call out as positive, it can be remarkably effective in turning things around.


But don’t be afraid to hold people accountable. Positive feedback is important to morale but so is accountability. Your people need to know that when they deliver less than expected, it is unacceptable. To your lower performers, this accountability can provide the incentive to toe the line. For your high performing people, seeing others face consequences for nonperformance is its own kind of positive feedback.


Be clear and realistic about what you expect. Your people can’t win the race if they don’t know where the finish line is. And don’t set expectations too high hoping the higher they are, the harder your people will work. High-level performers get demotivated if the goal is unreachable or unrealistic.


Walk the walk. You must, must lead by example or what you say carries significantly less weight. You are a powerful role model but if you have rules that you don’t follow, you will be forced to rely on threats and force to assure compliance. But when you lead by example, your team is INSPIRED to do better. Inspiration is much more effective long term.


Be a know-it-all. Your competency in what you do provides direction and stability for your team. Understanding the many moving parts of your business is a critical part of leadership. Your employees need to feel like there is a reason you are in charge and captaining the ship, you are the expert. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever be wrong and even go off course, only that you must be the one who continually strives to know and understand more because you are the one who has to see the bigger picture.


Reward and recognize hard work, integrity and responsibility. These people are the core of your business and need to be told, rewarded and grown. People that are natural hard workers with a high degree of integrity and responsibility can be the best seeds to plant long term. Which brings us to the next key point.


Encourage and look for opportunities to grow good people. If you find an employee that has desire, a willingness to learn and work and a sense of responsibility, you can TEACH them the skills for the job. Training someone on reporting or how to use inspection software is MUCH easier than trying to instill a strong work ethic in someone that doesn’t already have one.


Be authentic and connect with your people. People can sense authenticity and it builds trust. That doesn’t mean you have to be nice or touchy-feely, just be yourself. And get to know your people because people who feel seen and cared about will work so much harder for you. If you think you don’t have time, delegate some of your other duties to managers under you because the caring and connection must come from you.


Be a visionary. As a leader, you MUST offer a clear picture of the future for your people. Of course change is inevitable but presenting a vision for the future as you see it gives your employees a sense of security in your leadership.


Leading a large team is like nothing else. It is often tiring, thankless, lonely and comes with so much responsibility, even the toughest and most well suited among us can falter or lose sight of our real purpose in leading a team. When you are struggling to motivate your team, go back to these points and work out some ways to do more and better for you, your people and your organization. The work is hard but the rewards are there.


Tags: Leadership

Consistency Versus Innovation

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Tue, May 30, 2017 @ 12:26 PM

innovation, leadership, creativity, janitorial industry, industry leader

Innovations in our industry, like team cleaning, tech savvy floor cleaning machines, color coded microfiber cleaning cloths and even janitorial inspection software were all born from someone thinking, there has to be a better way to do this. Progress in the Building Services industry, like most other industries, is reliant on a balance of creativity and consistency, straddling the line between innovation and standardization.

Or more plainly put, we must be creative in coming up with solutions to our customers’ problems and pain points, but then we must consistently use those fixes to create reliability. We need to innovate and then standardize. After all, what is the point of coming up with creative, innovative solutions if we don’t maximize their impact by applying them across the board?

There is a balance here because all too often, consistency and standardization can be seen as killing creativity and innovation. But in an industry like ours, we are ultimately in charge of solving problems, not creating for creation’s sake. So our creative energy and time spent innovating is in the service of our clients and our own business finding new and better ways to do what we do.

Companies don’t grow because they do the same thing over and over. Yet, they also don’t succeed by constantly shifting their approach. Incremental innovation and using creativity to solve problems and then creating standardized approaches from these innovations moves our industry forward.

Tags: Industry Best Practices, Customer Focus

Leadership: Urgent Versus Important

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Mon, May 15, 2017 @ 01:37 PM

urgent important leadershipFormer U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, said:

"I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent."

From this, we get the so called "Eisenhower Principle," an idea about the optimal way to view and prioritize your workload. Let’s not forget that before becoming president, Eisenhower rose through the ranks of the United States Army, serving as a five-star general and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II. And of course as POTUS, former President Eisenhower was by all standards, a very productive leader. Now, these principles can help anyone wade through the day and structure it in such a way as to get more of their critical work done. But no one needs this kind of balancing of important and urgent as much as leaders do.


So what is the idea of important and urgent? First let’s look at important versus urgent and what they mean in this context. Important activities generally lead to outcomes that drive us forward in achieving our goals, be they professional or personal. While some important tasks are also urgent, this isn’t typically the case. The important activities tend to be more long range and because the rewards or consequences of doing/not doing them are down the road, many of us put them off in order to focus on what we perceive as urgent. Urgent activities require immediate attention, and are more often related to achieving someone else's objectives. That urgency often puts us in a reactive mode. Urgent activities are frequently the ones we focus on because they demand our attention and the consequences of ignoring them are felt immediately.


What is so often is the biggest source of tension and pressure in the lives of leaders? It is the time demands placed on us. Think about the personal and professional goals you balance on any given day. Then think about how often you find yourself wishing you had just a few more hours in the day to contribute to them. So how can these ideas of urgent and important help you balance your workload and prioritize better? It isn’t completely revolutionary, but consider the Eisenhower “box” as a way to visualize urgent versus important, especially if you are in a high pressure, high demand leadership position.



There are, of course, tasks that are urgent AND important and these items you will do immediately. There are also activities that are important, but not urgent. These you schedule to do later. But you must really make room for these in order to move forward on YOUR most important goals and objectives. Then we have those items that are urgent, but not important. As a leader, these activities are best delegated to someone else. Finally, you have those activities that are neither urgent nor important and the goal here is to remove as many of these unnecessary distractions as possible.


Ideally, you should put the most resources into the Important, but not Urgent quadrant. These items may not have a pressing deadline but are nonetheless important. They are the activities that you believe are most likely to help you find happiness, contentment and success. This also means that as a leader, you may have to give up and delegate tasks that you while you enjoy, are not critical so that you can focus on long range planning and the things you simply cannot delegate to someone else. And if you aren’t certain what should go in your Important But Not Urgent quadrant, you might need to spend some time considering what is really important to you and ultimately, what you want your life to look like. If you don’t, it is all too easy to get bogged down with Urgent and never get to your Important.


As leaders, we all struggle to balance and prioritize our workloads, delegate and make time for long term professional and personal goals. The Eisenhower Square, while not a cure all for the stress and pressure of leadership, is another way to look at what you are doing and adjust to get you closer to your vision for your life.


Tags: Learn Everyday, Leadership

Finding the Middle Ground With Janitorial Industry Tech Advances

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Tue, Mar 07, 2017 @ 02:06 PM

janitorial industry technology

The janitorial business, like many other businesses, has become a hotbed of new technology. From people processes to floor cleaning equipment to janitorial inspections and more, it seems more and more of our business is becoming automated or at the very least, directed by the technologies we have come to depend upon. Technology in commercial cleaning has grown so quickly that we often forget where we started back in the mop and bucket days.

While there are always some downsides or adjustments to emerging technologies, innovation is so integral to both the growth and professionalism of our industry and managing costs and quality for our customers. Technology has driven efficiency, cost savings, even safety and enhanced compliance. While talk of robots may seem farfetched or the stuff movies are made of, technology will take us there eventually, perhaps much sooner than we think. Some of us are slow to change, often to the detriment of our businesses and our customers. While others of us reach and grab at every new shiny toy, which isn’t often the best long term strategy. So how do we find the middle ground when we live in a period with such dramatic, rapidly advancing technology?

First, we must focus on technology for solving problems rather than technology simply for technology’s sake. Floor care has, for example, made incredible leaps and bounds in terms of automation and required labor hours. This fine tunes the service and cuts long term costs. Small advances are continually reshaping an entire industry. Likewise, as some janitorial companies were struggling with issues of consistency and communication in their janitorial inspections, smartphone applications, like QualityChex were created to manage this problem by creating consistency through accountability and then communicating findings to everyone that needed the information. A great use of available technologies to create an easy process to manage a vital element of service.

Another issue? Janitorial budget cuts meant a great many of our facility managers just didn’t have the dollars they once did. They still needed solid maintenance so between Smart Cleaning processes like zone cleaning and janitorial equipment efficiencies, we were able to help them get closer to their hard numbers without their overall maintenance slipping beneath an acceptable level.

The reality is that even though technology is changing our industry so fast it can feel tough to keep up with, as an industry, we must realize the vast benefits technology has to offer. Those companies on the forefront of it will be best poised to over their customers convenience, efficiency, cost saving, value and results now and in the future.



Tags: Cleaning Industry Updates, Industry Best Practices

People Don’t Forget the Way You Make Them Feel

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

leadership, leaders, image, attitudes

There’s a Maya Angelou quote that says something along the lines of, people will forget a lot, but they won’t forget the way you made them feel. There’s a great deal of truth in this idea, which is why it can be useful to consider how you, as a leader, make the people around you feel. Of course, I can almost hear you saying, I have so much on my plate already, I wear so many hats, put out daily fires AND now I have to add to that thinking about how my teams FEEL about me?


Here’s the thing, asleaders, we are like well-optimized engines. Many of us operate so effectively, so efficiently, and at such high speeds that there isn’t much we can do to adjust out output and performance other than making minor tweaks and adjustments to the way we do things. One way to impact what we get out of our teams is to consider how we interact with them as a whole and individually, and yes, how we make them feel.


Think about how the people you spend your workday make YOU feel. Maybe it’s your financial person who is on it, so precise, so anticipating of problems before they happen that you FEEL secure with them on the task. Maybe it’s a team member that is so naturally enthusiastic that every time you have a Big Idea, their enthusiasm is like fuel for your tank getting you revved up for the next set of concrete tasks that will get you and the team to a goal. Maybe it is an employee who has caused some internal conflicts before and now makes you FEEL like you must be more guarded.


Just like different people you work among can make you feel a certain way, you as a leader can leave people feeling something. Whether that something is good or bad isn’t just your responsibility either. For example, an employee who is being spoken to about not meeting their agreements isn’t going to be feeling too good about it, but that’s outside of your responsibility. But consider this, do you do things that positively impact how you leave people feeling? This is especially important with your core team. Do you listen to their suggestions? Do you give them credit for good ideas? Do you give them your time and attention? Do you return their calls or emails relatively promptly, especially if they need direction or approval before moving forward on their responsibilities? Do you stick to the facts and try to stay neutral when delivering criticism? Do you show appreciation when they go beyond your expectations or put in the extra effort?


Like any human person who doesn’t wear a cape, you are going to fall short, even more times than not. The reality is most of us have so much going on, have such a laser focus on the future and health of our companies that we can often miss what’s on the periphery. You need not completely change your leadership style or become the next ‘feel good’ business guru, however, you can occasionally slow down and tune in to how people might feel after your interactions and adjust your style even incrementally to get more of what you need from your people.

Stathakis Open Positions

Tags: Learn Everyday, Leadership

Ubuntu & Giving Thanks

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 @ 01:54 PM


“You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality Ubuntu, or’ I am because we are’, you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world.” - Desmond Tutu


Ubuntu is an African tradition that tries to show us different ways to think about humanity and working together. It is our company philosophy here at Stathakis. Ubuntu, or “I am because we are,” tries to show us that as humans, we are much more alike than we are different. Ubuntu invites us to see that while we are individuals, we do not exist apart from each other.

It was a tough year for many of us--economic uncertainty, social issues, a contentious election season and of course, any number of personal problems we as people face on any given day. We all know of people who are suffering with the passing of a loved one, sick or infirm family and more. Thanksgiving might be tough for us, the idea of sitting among people, even loved ones with whom we disagree or have issues. Or the idea of trying to be grateful at a time when we are struggling in our own lives. But that is one of the things Thanksgiving is supposed to be about, seeing past our differences, seeing past our own hardships to come together and eat some food, have some laughs and even maybe watch some football. 

Ubuntu as a philosophy is a cornucopia of good ideas and ideals. Ubuntu urges us to work together to help everyone. Ubuntu presents us with the truism that there is enough for everyone and that by helping others, we help ourselves. The future is unknown and sometimes it can be a challenge to believe that there is enough for all of us, that things will get better or that we can find a middle ground with people who think differently than us. Ubuntu tells us we can.

This Thursday, many of you will join family and friends to break bread and give thanks. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American tradition meant to embody the ideas of gratitude in the face of hardship, different people coming together making connections and finding understanding. In Ubuntu there is a phrase, “sawa bona,” it means “I see you.” In spite of our differences, our troubles, our strife, Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to sit across from each other and say with our actions and words, “I see you.” And we give thanks, for whatever we can whether it’s our families, our children, our friends, our health or maybe even the promise of a good season for the Detroit Lions.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you and your families and sawa bona.

Tags: Culture, Leadership

Do You Wear a Mask?

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 @ 05:06 PM


Halloween is just around the corner and it has gotten me thinking about the masks we all wear, on both Halloween and every other day. Leaders might at times wear a mask more often because we have the added responsibility of others looking to us. Sometimes we wear a mask to hide what we see as our flaws and inadequacies. Sometimes we don a mask to create a persona of sorts. Like John the tough guy, Jane who always helps, Steve who works harder than anyone and Anne who has the big ideas. Masks can also offer a façade that depersonalizes the professional realm a bit, perhaps making it easier for us to make tough decisions on a business, rather than personal level.


Of course, there are times when each of us must throw on the mask. For example, a mask that gives us a feeling of toughness can help bolster our confidence to endure a challenging transition. Or a mask of heightened professionalism can make terminating an employee a little easier to get through on both sides. And a mask during difficult times when you feel you must insulate your team from some of the concerns behind the scenes can be a positive in helping your people stay focused on what is important. But experience tells us that some of the most effective leaders have learned how to chuck masks of all kinds and be their authentic selves on and off the job.


Being authentic doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep in mind that you are at work. No one must share every thought, concern and emotion to be authentic. And yet, having foibles, flaws and even emotions aren’t liabilities with your people. In fact, the more your team sees you as a real person, the better they can connect with you. That connection can foster tremendous support and loyalty. Consider Superman for example, it is only when we learn of his weakness, Kryptonite, that he becomes most human. And allowing your team to see your mistakes or missteps can give them the room and confidence to take thoughtful risks, cultivating a culture of innovation and development.


Halloween will have come and gone in the next few days, so consider what masks you wear at different times. Which ones might be worth taking off to help you and those around you connect with your authentic self and be even more present and effective as a leader?

Stathakis Open Positions

Tags: Leadership

The Case For Civility At Work

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 @ 11:22 AM

incivility at work, stathakis, leadership, janitorial jobs

Maybe it’s this unusual election season, maybe it’s the amount of time so many of us spend online, but it would appear that civility, or politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech, has changed. It would seem as if we are often more aggressive, more impatient, ruder, disrespectful in our interactions. As is usually the case, this incivility can at times bleed over into the work place.

While incivility can happen anywhere-- online, the dinner table, at a store--when it happens in the workplace, the consequences are high. From termination of an employee to higher employee turnover, greater stress at work, lowered productivity and creativity, to the creation of a toxic workplace, a lack of civility at work has tangible costs.

What can incivility at work look like? When we talk about incivility, we are creating a net around those behaviors that are not always obviously awful or constitute an instantly fireable offense. It can be things like hostility, a ‘bully boss,’ not listening, disruptions, disrespect, eye-rolling, dismissiveness, rudeness, insults and name calling, blame and it can come from any level of an organization. Now of course, we are humans with a range of emotions that are not in check 100% of the time. Who among us hasn’t cut someone off or handed out the criticism too harshly or blamed someone for an issue? An infrequent slip into incivility is manageable, a pattern of incivility is a whole other thing and must be addressed lest it become toxic.

There are things all of us can do to keep our negative emotions in check in the work place and contribute to an overall workplace culture of respectfulness, inclusion and civility. First, check in with yourself and honestly try to assess how you communicate verbally, written and in your body language. Email has become a great way to communicate but it can be challenging to read nuance, sarcasm and tone via text. And negative body language is as easy to read as a nasty email so keep it in check. Second, know your hot buttons. When you understand what most easily sparks anger or defensiveness in yourself, it can help you take control of it rather than it take control of you. Third, especially when you are feeling triggered, angry, irritable, stressed or all of the above, take a breath and a moment to think about how you speak or act. In fact, I find it can be helpful in larger conflicts to actually ask for time to collect yourself, check emotions and get some perspective. It can be as easy as, “Alex, it looks like we are both pretty fired up about this and I don’t want to say something in the heat of the moment. I would like to put this discussion off to another time after I have had time to think about this from all sides.” Fourth, when there is conflict, work toward solutions over blame, rely on facts over assumptions and take responsibility for your actions. 

Whether you are a worker, supervisor, manager or the CEO, you can model civility and respect to create an inclusive, positive discourse and work place culture.

Tags: Leadership


Posted by Chris Stathakis on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 @ 10:05 PM


The adage is almost always true, if there is any constant, it is change. As leaders, we must be ready at any time to shift gears in response to things outside of ourselves—market forces, competition, the labor pool and more. But what do we do when something within ourselves must be changed? There isn’t a single person who doesn’t have something they would like to change about themselves no matter how adept, influential or experienced they are. Yet as a leader, we are so often our only source of true accountability. Though we coach and manage others, who else is there to coach and manage us? So often, it must come from within, yet change can be so difficult on one’s own. If you are seeking to change something or adopt a new behavior or action, how can you stack the deck in your favor and make it more likely that you will succeed in making changes that become positive lasting habits?


Let’s look at an example. Say for instance that although you are a skilled leader and coach, you struggle to arrive at work at the time you planned. Maybe that’s earlier than others, maybe it’s on time, maybe it doesn’t even matter but whatever time you set, you seem to chronically miss. In order to meet your goal of arriving at work at the time you planned you need to first identify the specific behavior/action you are intending, in this case, arriving at your planned time. Second, you must break this behavior into smaller “units.” So for instance, that might look like putting out your clothes the night before, waking up as planned or a few minutes earlier, showering, dressing, breakfast, the commute in and parking. Third, after identifying the smaller “units” of your intended behavioral change, you must make a plan to tackle them individually if necessary in order to accomplish the overarching goal. Fourth, you must identify the obstacles that are likely to get in the way of achieving your goal. Maybe your closet is a mess making you resistant to putting out your clothes the evening before. Maybe you get distracted because your kids don’t have their own things ready for the day and you are using time you haven’t allotted helping them get out the door. Perhaps you need to prepare a quick breakfast that you can grab and go each morning ahead of time. Finally, you must build in some rewards and incentives for meeting both the smaller “units” and the overall behavior. These reinforce your efforts and make it more likely you’ll make cement these changes.


So let’s say your goal is to take better care of your physical health. You break the main goal into smaller “units” like eating better, going to the gym and making and keeping recommended preventive care for medical, dental and vision health. There are likely obstacles to each of these and even sub obstacles. Take working out, you’ll need to identify the best time for you to go, have your things ready to grab with, for instance, an extra set of gym clothes stowed in your trunk for when you forget. You might need to make sure your phone is charged and that you have headphones with you. And you’ll need to allot some short term and long term goals like a massage, some new music or athletic clothing to stay motivated as the changes become habits.


Even if you surround yourself with good advisors the reality is that leaders must be both self-motivated and self directed. And nowhere is this more challenging than changing entrenched behaviors within ourselves. By understanding the best strategies for effective behavioral changes, you can stack the deck in your favor and set yourself up for success.

Tags: Leadership

Leading Through Uncertainty

Posted by Chris Stathakis on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 09:04 AM

leadership, chris stathakis, michigan building maintenance companies. commercial cleaning detroit

“Leaders instill courage in the hearts of those who follow.
Somebody has to go first.” ---Andy Stanley


Our world seems to change at lightening speed. Of course, technology drives much of this but it can seem that as soon as we get comfortable with one way of doing things, someone or something comes along and changes it forcing us to begin again. Of course, you could fight the change and dig in doing things the way you always have but it seems that those organizations that seem to fare the best in today’s environment are those helmed by leaders that can forge ahead even in uncertainty. Today more than ever, once you find success, you cannot be content to rest and get too comfortable, becoming a prisoner of the past. Rather, you must be willing to be open, adaptable, dynamic and agile.


But what must a leader possess to be able to be the person that “goes first” and lights a candle in the dark for all who follow? We have learned that in leadership, learning itself is a critical component of both survival and success. Transformation and growth aren’t one-shot deals, they’re a mindset and one that you must keep strong and flexible even as you find success. Certainly you can manage uncertainty and change with good information and strategizing, yet you cannot remove uncertainty all together.


Do you have the adaptability to respond to the uncertainties your organization is facing? Could you be more adaptable, more agile, more dynamic or more open? Do you learn everyday? Of course as a leader, you must balance that adaptability without becoming overly reactive, like a driver overcorrecting on a slippery road. And yet, balance what you know about what mad you and your organization successful with a willingness to adapt to the way our lives change everyday and you will likely instill courage in the hearts of those who follow you.

Tags: Leadership

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