Remember to practice what you preach.
Sue Bingham is the founder and principal of HPWP Consulting. She works closely with company leaders to analyze their organizations and facilitate the implementation of commonsense systems that have a positive impact on their organizations’ bottom line. She has a passion for helping companies embrace and transition to high-performance work environments.
Where did the idea for HPWP Consulting come from?
HPWP is an acronym that describes the focus of our company: high-performance workplaces. The company was created from the desire to combine best practices and my personal belief that every workplace should be fulfilling and challenging for everyone involved.
While the idea is simple, it’s hard to make this kind of workplace a reality. We’ve developed a leadership workshop that truly changes the way owners and managers look at their roles as company leaders and their workforce. Once the mindset is changed, we begin the practical work of changing systems and behaviors through on-site coaching.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend a lot of time communicating with my team and clients. I make it productive by separating the “results,” such as a decision on next steps, from the simple “activities” like phone calls. Every action taken should have a clear and desired outcome in mind.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start by creating a vision of the desired outcome and then develop a roadmap to get there. For example, if I’m designing a training workshop, I think of what I want the participants to walk away with in terms of feeling, knowledge, and skill, then I design an interactive process that will get them there.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
We’re seeing a trend of leaders having a vision for a great workplace culture and being willing to invest in accomplishing that culture change. Smart leaders recognize the impact of culture on performance and are committed to taking their corporate culture seriously.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think in terms of results and outcomes. I work backward to find the most creative and effective way to get there. I have a habit of quickly moving to a common goal to build win-win outcomes. Ultimately, that builds trust in relationships.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Almost all my jobs have been great and with good companies, but some companies were more progressive than others in treating their employees respectfully. For example, I worked in one manufacturing company where the upper management would conduct a “walk-through” of the facility that often ended with the management publicly humiliating employees for perceived minor infractions. It became known as “The Walk of Shame.” Unfortunately, this was not unusual for manufacturing companies.
I learned that I wanted to change companies’ cultures so no one ever had to endure that.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I worked for many years as an independent consultant. If I could do it over, I would find the courage to create the team we have now at a much earlier date. It felt risky to take responsibility for my employees’ incomes and well-being at that time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Remember to practice what you preach.
The HPWP philosophy is about doing the right thing at its core. Every day, I consciously apply the philosophy as a filter to business challenges and opportunities.
Even though I’ve used HPWP as a filter for many years, I know it can be hard work. For example, it’s not easy to have positive assumptions about people all the time. And sometimes, it’s hard to find the time to engage people when you’re up against a deadline and the work needs to be done quickly. But practicing these principles is critical if you’re serious about building an empowered, high-trust environment.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Without capital resources, I began growing our consulting business through the use of independent contractors. I made a serious investment of time and resources to make them feel part of an important movement.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I tried to do everything — including accounting and invoicing — by myself for far too long. I overcame it by simply making the decision that I wasn’t adding value or really saving anything. I then started delegating.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create a different kind of network for nontraditional HR professionals. So many HR people are focused on “protecting” the company from a few untrustworthy employees that they create rules and unneeded bureaucracy that negatively affects the vast majority of good people. The traditional HR networks reinforce the focus on the negative, so I want to see one that’s focused on making a positive difference.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I always wanted to be a dolphin trainer.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I spend a lot of time working remotely with team members, clients, and partners. I love software that takes the hassle out of collaborating, like Hackpad. I use Hackpad to gather everyone’s input during a conference call. We can then achieve highly collaborative documents in real time.
Mightybell has also been instrumental in helping me network with professionals who are passionate about creating empowered work cultures. Doodle allows me to organize a meeting with 20 busy executives, thought leaders, and consultants who might live in five different time zones. It’s convenient and saves an incredible amount of time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There are so many. Right now, I would recommend Mark Samuel’s book, “Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability.” Don’t let the title throw you off — this is a book about being the best person you can be and living your life in a truly accountable way.