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The Management Edge

Kentucky executives find path to operational excellence paved with fun and mindfulness

By Susan Gosselin

Management in the modern workplace is a complex task at best. How do you juggle the ever-increasing demands, while helping your employees do the same?  How do you manage the balance between work and home, while still having time for healthy friendships and healthy habits? How do you create a collegial atmosphere at work where people feel valued, and are clear about their work priorities?

The answer, our sources say, lies in a foundation built on respect – and a healthy dose of fun and fellowship.

“We start by offering leadership training to any person on our team in a leadership position,” said Bob Young, managing partner at English Lucas Priest & Owsley LLP in Bowling Green. “Also, many in our office have taken leadership roles in various professional organizations that provide terrific leadership training. We encourage and pay for this professional involvement. I am a big believer in having the right people in the right places.”

Young said people in the right places also means offering employees the chance to direct the future of the firm and take charge of their workplace culture.

“We created three committees that are led by various team members: a technology committee, to take advantage of those in the office with great technology skills; a diversity and inclusion committee, to make sure we are doing everything we can to diversify our firm and make people of all backgrounds feel valued; and an employee wellness and special events committee, to plan our employee outings, events and perks, as well as handle our workplace policies and employee mental/physical health initiatives,” Young said.

“We open the committees up to anyone who wants to join,” he said. “The work of our committees has clearly made this a better place to work, created a better work product for our clients, and allowed me as managing partner to focus more on strategic planning for the firm. “

Guarding her time is half the battle for Liz Toombs, president and owner of PDR Interiors of Lexington. “I am a person who thrives on routines, so I work that to my advantage by keeping my business and personal life on a schedule. I have specific hours earmarked for working, regularly scheduled workouts to help clear my head, and consistently hold weekly meetings with my team to make sure things are staying on track without micromanaging them. Now, of course, not everything goes to plan all the time, but keeping my routine as much as possible allows me to better handle surprises when they come along.”

Keeping track of multiple priorities is key in an organization that juggles multiple clients, said Nancy Wiser, president of Wiser Strategies of Lexington. “Organization is our secret to success. We manage intricate marketing and PR projects that involve multiple team members and clients, so we have to stay on top of where we are and what’s next. Our shared project-management tool keeps us on track and allows us to be creative, whether it’s branding/design, video or complex communication problem-solving.”

While the sources for this article say technology, management training and transparency are the foundation of good management, they also agree it is the little perks and the “soft skills” that can truly set the tone in a corporate culture.

“During the warm weather, we do food truck Wednesdays,” Young said. “We bring in local food trucks once a month for each team member. About once a month and especially around holidays, we allow our team members to leave work early (usually on a Friday) with pay to make for a longer weekend.

“This year, we allowed each team member paid time off to vote. During inclement weather, we order pizza for everyone in the office so they don’t have to go out. The firm pays for and allows our team members to host any special birthday, baby or wedding shower for our team members,” Young said.

Debra Locker, president and owner of Louisville-based Debra Locker Group, urges business leaders to develop a deeply personal style – one that takes the time to value the people around you for who they are, and what they’ve achieved.

“I believe in saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ sending handwritten notes, remembering birthdays, offering congratulations and building relationships that lead to friendships,” Locker said. “When you make your living doing PR, your reputation is everything. I make it a priority to keep my solid reputation intact through the relationships I nurture.”

What techniques or tools do you use to stay sharp and improve your performance as a business professional?

We recently polled our readers with that very question. Here’s what they told us:

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl

Chief, Louisville Forward, Louisville Metro Government

“Work-life balance may be an overused term with a seldom-achieved outcome! I’ve borrowed a friend’s term and am now aspiring more to ‘work-life integration.’ If you choose purpose-driven work, then your life will have more balance – and joy. My physical, mental and emotional life is further enhanced by exercise and a plant-based diet.”

Nancy Spivey

Marketing Director, DBL Law, Erlanger

“I stay up on the latest business news and happenings impacting the local economy. When I read something fascinating or something that I want to learn more about, I proactively reach out to those mentioned in articles through LinkedIn or through mutual connections. The key is to be timely and open about why you are reaching out.”

Michael Lawrence

District Sales Manager, Trexis Insurance, Lancaster

“Practice makes perfect. Express ideas, articulate your thoughts and accept feedback from others to improve. If you keep quiet, you will never know if you are right or wrong in your thinking. Stay physically fit. Read books and articles not associated with your profession. Learn from other disciplines.”

Annette Manias

President, Oasis Solutions, Louisville

“I am a member of a Vistage group for CEOs. They help with ideas and to hold me accountable.”

Lee Hamilton

Realtor, Semonin Realtors, Louisville

“I try to follow a routine that includes quiet time, working out with others in the community, volunteering and developing relationships with others. I also try to do the best I can with the latest technology to communicate, for scheduling and marketing.”

Daniel Fulton

Business Consultant, 2028 LLC

“Prioritize reading each day, ensure each week has at least one networking meeting, and write regularly.”

Abby Laub

Special Projects Editor, The Lane Report, Lexington

“I spend time outside every morning getting fresh air and natural light – even if it’s cold – to wake me up and set my biological clock for the day. It’s better than coffee, especially on days when I know I will have lots of time on the computer.”

Susan Gosselin is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]