Lead Like You Mean It

Lead Like You Mean It

Successful leadership practices transcend all industries and company sizes—from a local pizza shop to a 141-year-old public company—in all economies. It all boils down to a simple principle, leading with intent—the intent to treat people like people, because people are people first, then employees, clients, etc. Now if it were truly as simple as it sounds, there would be far more companies in the “best companies to work for” category. 

Masterful leaders connect people with purpose. Beyond a focus on performance to achieve company goals, they continuously demonstrate concern over the individual’s well-being. This is the secret ingredient in Nick’s Pizza and Pub outperforming the entire pizza industry. This two-store organization in Illinois generates a net operating profit of 14 percent compared to its industry average of under 7 percent.

It is also the number one principle espoused by Doulas Conant, the just-retired CEO of Campbell Soup Co. He advocates a blend of leadership that is tough-minded on standards (accountability) and tenderhearted with people (empathy). His book TouchPoints is a great read.

Employee engagement enrichment

Companies are no longer defined by product patents and technology, but rather by the performance of their people. Successful ones actively develop employees as whole people, not just as producers. They have moved beyond engaging employees on behalf of the corporation to employee enrichment—caring about their personal needs as well as business performance.

It’s about nurturing an emotional connection, being real and truly putting people first. The three most critical components of a culture of enrichment are:

  • Trust
  • Authentic relationships
  • Clear, frequent communication

This holistic development contributes to building a richer, more meaningful life for employees beyond perks, benefits and parking spaces. These are “soft”, emotional attributes compared to the old rules, but there is strong evidence that ties cultures of enrichment to high financial performance.

Command and control Trust and track

By creating great systems, hiring great people with values and attitudes that are in sync with the company and teaching them how to perform tasks, leaders can trust their people to do great work. Trust and track gives power and responsibility to the employee for the company’s success. Teach tasks hire for values and attitude

Transparency is another key to a high performance culture driven by trust. Being open about the company’s challenges and progress says, “I am counting on your help and insights.” Each employee at Nick’s Pizza knows how to increase their value to the company, how to access the resources to build their skills to accomplish that and how to share ideas to increase team performance. They know how to get a pay increase. They also know exactly what the other employees are being paid and why they are being paid that rate.

“What” “Why” rules

“What” to do is not enough in today’s business environment. When workers  (especially younger ones) understand the “why”—how what they do fits into the big picture and where the company is headed—they will exercise creativity and innovation to meet, exceed or redefine objectives. Along with values and purpose, the “why” gives them the insight to solve issues, know how they are doing, where they are going, and when they are entitled to a raise or promotion. Some of the most innovative ideas often come from the front line.

Conant walked around Campbell’s campus nearly every day for 30 minutes, visiting with employees to learn what they needed to perform better and how they viewed the company’s progress. He spent another 30 minutes identifying individuals and teams that were making a difference and writing personal letters that let them know they cared enough to say thanks.

Annual performance reviewContinuous feedback

A strong culture of enrichment requires immediate, frequent and authentic performance feedback. When everyone understands at all times operating results, objectives, and what they must accomplish to earn a raise or promotion, an annual review is unnecessary.

Nick’s managers and employees coach in the moment to provide immediate feedback. After each shift, new team members are asked, “What one thing did you do well?” and “What is one thing you would do to improve your performance?” Their managers also share one thing the team member did well and one thing that could use improvement—performance review in the moment.

Managers should know how to have difficult conversations, making statements based on data, not feelings or speculation. People need to feel safe in having the latitude to experiment, and if they fail, learn from mistakes without fearing repercussions.

Get to know the whole person

To connect people with purpose, companies are getting to know the whole person as an individual—their aspirations, their challenges. To strengthen the emotional connection between people, companies are creating community to instill a sense of belonging and pride.

Here are some ideas that make these abstract concepts practical:

  • Include opportunities for employment candidates to share their personal situation/interests during the interview
  • Create family-oriented social events
  • Brown bag discussions about childrearing issues
  • Professional speakers
  • Create employee-based events both inside and outside traditional work hours
  • Skill-based lunch n’ learn with in-house or outside expert
  • Brown bag special interest groups like book clubs, athletic teams, running club
  • Special theme days built around holidays, birthdays, etc.
  • Make a big company more intimate by organizing by departments or business units
  • Leaders spend meaningful time talking to their workforce – on their turf
  • Share personal accomplishments in visible places like Intranet, newsletter, all-hands meeting
  • Managers know and acknowledge important dates of all direct reports
  • Provide tools to create community online like SharePoint and Yammer
  • Managers know their employees’ aspirations
  • Face time coffees with CEO (mix departments and allow time for employees can mingle)
  • Emphasize gratitude
  • Video by water cooler – capture the casual (put a screen up & project) virtual and physical can have a conversation. Verbals and non-verbals become part of the conversation

When leaders enrich the lives of their employees, their employees deliver outstanding customer experiences, enrich the communities in which they live and create evangelical customers.

We are problem solvers and innovators when it comes to leading from the head and heart. For relevant ideas that are practical and authentic call us 952-933-8365 or 800-742-6800.

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