One of the important distinctions that Linda Lausell Bryant makes to her employees is this: we are a team and not a family. Though you may run a close-knit group of employees working toward a common goal (in Bryant’s case Inwood House, which focuses on teenagers’ health issues) you’re running an organization and not a household. In an interview with The New York Times Bryant says, “We’re not a family, because in a family you can never fire somebody like your Uncle Joe. You just can’t. You have to put up with him because he’s family. In an organization, if someone is taking the organization down, we can’t accept that because the organization is bigger than any one of us.” Earlier in her career, the organization had taken on the role of a family, and Bryant knew that she needed to stop it.
Bryant now realizes that sometimes a leader has to disappoint his/her people, but she’s okay with that, “I’d like everyone to be happy, but I can take it if they’re not. And I no longer feel like it’s my job to make sure everyone is happy. My job is to fulfill the mission of this organization, and to make sure that all the pieces are in place so we can do that.”
One of the ways she brought the organization together was to start quarterly meetings with all employees – from the maintenance and cooking staff to the executive team. Not only does everyone bond over successes and failures, but they get to brainstorm solutions.
And Bryant makes sure that all new hires fit the office culture, that everyone is passionate and hard-working; Inwood House is not just a place-card to hold someone over until they further their career.
Bryant’s management lessons are applicable across a number of fields, especially in smaller businesses; the leader needs to take the reins and run with it.