Donna Craig: The Employee Whisperer

Donna Craig is a leadership coach in Kansas City and helps tap into the employee psyche to improve communication in both directions.

Donna Craig, a leadership coach and behavioral change specialist, says leadership is not about what you know, but who you are as a person. She believes the strongest, most successful companies are those that consider their employees their most valuable resource. She built Leadership Resources KC based on that philosophy. Craig’s company is part of the Texas-based Leadership Management International (LM) franchise, which offers leadership and organizational development consultation services to clients worldwide. Craig discussed her experiences in a recent interview with KC Business.

KCB: What are some of the services and resources that LMI offers business leaders? Do they differ per branch?

Craig: Each office has the freedom to make their business their own in the sense that each of us has unique strengths and abilities. Some offices offer in-depth work in assessments; others offer extensive strategic planning. With that said, we all offer services that help owners and executives develop their key people so they can grow their business.

KCB: What approach does Leadership Resources KC take?

CRAIG: Entrepreneurs are sure their business is unique, and it probably is. In some ways, companies are different from their competitors. What makes them unique is also what makes them successful. But what’s not unique is that, within those four walls, there are people working, and people are people. They have similar psyches regardless of who they are or what their background is. I help executives understand that no matter what type of business you have, you may have people problems. And that’s where I focus.

KCB: How are you able to provide measurable results for your clients?

CRAIG: Most entrepreneurs, owners and executives already know what gaps exist in their businesses that may be costing profits, stress, family time or health issues. What they lack is a clear path to reach their goals. We give them the discipline they need to recognize what their priorities are. We offer a proven system of goal setting and behavior modification. Through coaching and accountability, companies who work with us see measurable results and a return on their investment.

KCB: Why is it important to motivate and engage employees?

CRAIG: One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we can’t motivate other people. We can, however, create a motivational environment. People are motivated to perform at peak levels when they feel respected, understood and appreciated. Although employees need to be fairly compensated, money is not the answer to motivation. When people know what their contribution is and how they fit into the big picture, their motivation increases. They may not recognize it that way, but most people want to be part of something bigger than they are.

KCB: What is your No. 1 tip for new business owners?

CRAIG: It’s to be a lifelong learner and be open to listening to employees and outside resources. It’s hard to know what you don’t know, and what you don’t know could be the one thing that will excel your business. It can be difficult for most entrepreneurs because their business is their baby, and they want things to be done their way. If it’s not done their way, it can be very upsetting for them. They need to learn how to look at things differently. Getting input from their employees and empowering them to do their work can be very beneficial.

KCB: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about leadership?

CRAIG: I have learned and am still learning that people—whether they are a colleague, client or employee—appreciate and respond well to someone who is transparent and not afraid to be vulnerable. And that’s tough. But if you let them see you make mistakes just like they do, and you are willing to admit to those mistakes and take responsibility for them, they will see you as a human being just as they are.

Story by Kathryn Jones