Expert Advice of the Month: Amidst uncertainty, focus on your managers to be better leaders


This month we talk with Zaida Fazlic, vice president of people, culture, and change management at Taiga Building Products, the national building materials wholesaler.

Ask a simple question: what’s changed? and Zaida Fazlic, HR lead at Taiga Building Products, has a thorough—and thoughtful—answer, one that involves compensation, company culture, and coaching.

“A lot of companies and employers are feeling pressure from the employee side on wage increases. They’re feeling the pressure. It’s a difficult position to be in because, yes, you want to provide that for your employees, because we all understand the cost of living has gone up.”

However, raising salaries may be a tough decision to make, with the possibility of the economy entering a recession. “You have to make sure that you’re fair and on-market with that, but there are all these other things as well, as an employer, that you can focus on to motivate your employees.”

Those “other things” can and should include maintaining a good culture. That, says Fazlic, requires business leaders to focus on their managers, who in turn interact with employees. She cites Gallup polls indicating that middle management is the most important part of your ability to retain employees, because they are the link between C-suite executives and frontline workers.

Those managers must be aware of increasing pressure from below as well as above. “They’re kind of stuck in the middle.” But the pressures aren’t strictly generational. Though values may differ among age groups, Fazlic says, “there are basic things that all humans need regardless of your gender, age, et cetera.”

Fazlic regularly takes a couple of days out of her office to get out to branches and spends 10 to 15 minutes with individual employees. “I like to meet as many as I can, to put a name to a face and to get feedback.” Being out in the field meeting workers is an important part of her role, and now connecting with managers to guide them is part of that. “Being a good manager is basically like being a good coach. You’ve got to be able to give good feedback, you’ve got to be a good communicator, you’ve got to be able to inspire people. These are not easy things!”

That kind of pressure means coaching and leadership development are important at the management level. Things like giving tough feedback effectively can create a lot of stress for managers. These leaders need to be taken care of. “It cascades down all the way from ownership to executives to management. What they model cascades down all the way to your front line.”