October 3, 2008
News & Opinion: Guest Post IV - Lee J. Colan, Ph.D.
Below is the last post we have from Lee Colan. We'd like to thank him for the providing the material and hope you've all enjoyed it. If so, I would humbly recommend looking into his new book, Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees: How to Ignite Passionate Performance for Better Business Results. If you'd like to learn more, head on over to his website, www.theLgroup.com.
Engaging the heart tends to be more challenging for leaders than engaging the mind. It's the softer side of leadership, but it's often harder to get your hands around. Traditional leadership development programs don't emphasize the skills necessary to engage employees' hearts, and many organizations don’t reinforce these skills with their leaders. As a result, many leaders tend to be less comfortable with this side of engagement because they simply have never learned how or what to do. Emotional engagement creates an advantage that is very difficult for your competitors to duplicate, so it’s worth learning to do well.
The heart represents the emotional side of people that is based on connections. This side requires the art of leadership that focuses on relationships. Engaging the heart creates passion. Although we might like to think otherwise, the truth is that we live in a world driven by emotional decisions. Seventy percent of customers' buying decisions are based on human interactions. Likewise, employees are primarily driven by emotional and personal considerations. When people go to work, they don't leave their hearts at home. We may live in a high-tech world, but leadership is still a high-touch job. How often do you hear people speak with envy about companies with "real heart"--companies like The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, Harley-Davidson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Chick-fil-A? Outsiders are constantly looking for their "secrets" to success. The secret lies in the hearts of their employees. These companies have created connected teams and, as a result, have built dominant businesses.
If you're going to engage your employees' hearts, you must first meet their basic emotional needs:
When you fulfill these needs, you create self-reinforcing connections--connections between your employees and you, between their work and their purpose, and between each other. These connections establish strong, intangible relationships that yield amazing tangible results. Engage employees' hearts and watch their passion grow!
Inspiring the Heart of Your Team--Part I
All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives. People care less about working for a company and much more about working for a compelling cause. Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won't have the heart to go the distance.
Your organization's real purpose may not be apparent at first glance. For instance, a company that distributes building products to home builders may not seem to have a compelling cause; but a deeper look reveals that they "help make the American dream a reality." That's a cause worth working for!
But don't wait for your organization to communicate a purpose that your team can latch onto. Take the initiative now to engage the hearts of your employees so they will develop a passion for their work. Define a compelling purpose. Step back and look at the big picture. Think of how your team improves conditions for others. Your purpose should answer the question, "What difference are we making?" It should stir the emotions.
For example, a customer call center may have a purpose to brighten the day of each and every caller. An information technology department’s cause could be to improve personal productivity. For a purchasing department, it might be to ensure that all company products are made with the best raw materials available.
Inspiring the Heart of Your Team--Part II
Intimacy makes people feel connected. It's a basic emotional need to belong, to not be alone. At work, a need for intimacy means feeling like part of a team and being connected to those around us. When this need goes unmet, employees feel alone and disconnected. They become just a set of hands punching a clock. They leave their hearts at home--they disengage.
Engaging leaders do what other leaders might consider to be corny. These leaders make it a priority to establish activities and "traditions" that connect employees to each other and to the customer. The purpose is to foster intimacy, belonging and fun. And I can assure you that their employees certainly do not think these events are corny. Try some of these rituals with your team:
Inspiring the Heart of Your Team--Part III Celebrate employee birthdays and special occasions.
Create team cheers.
Coordinate social events and gatherings.
Post photos of team members and customers.
The number one need expressed by employees is to feel fully appreciated for their work. Although leaders widely recognize the need for employee appreciation, it tends to be a blind spot for many leaders. In other words, leaders generally believe they are much more appreciative of their employees than their employees think they are.
The engaging leader knows that appreciating the person is just as important as appreciating his/her contributions. The most effective ones had one thing in common--they expressed a sincere interest in, and appreciation for, their employees as people. "Sincere" is the operative word here.
Learn something new each day about one of your employees. Ask them about their families, hobbies, leisure activities, etc. You will begin to understand and appreciate them more fully. Then weave this information into your interactions with them. They will return your appreciation with passion for your leadership.
The bottom line is this: we do more for those who appreciate us. Appreciate your employees and you will engage their hearts!
Inspiring the Heart of Your Team--Part IV
Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less. Excellent leadership, in any venue, is about other people... not ourselves. If we are fortunate enough to build a great team, we will all excel. Staying humble enables us to use our leadership platform to take a stand and conquer much more as a team than we could alone. Humility is not only a desirable trait in leaders, but it is also the fuel for leadership excellence.
Humility is expressed in our actions, not our words. We cannot afford to be like the guy who was a member of a nationwide, professional association of leaders in the workforce. He was voted the most humble leader in the entire association for leaders. The association presented him with a medal that said, "The most humble leader in America." Then, they took it away from him at their next meeting because he wore it!
Ask yourself with each decision and interaction, "Who am I doing this for--myself or my team member?" Nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves, but the humble--and excellent--leader is generally focused on others' success. They know that the fastest path to success is to make other people successful.
Maintaining our humility is a constant struggle for most of us. So let me know about your battles--and victories--with humility.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, applied this definition and took his stand when Starbucks wanted to move into a particular international market. However, Schultz was discouraged by every analysis he read, even after he spent over a half a million dollars on consultants, telling him not to go. Further, all of his direct reports were against the move.
On the advice of one of his gurus, Warren Bennis, he met again with his team, listening to their concerns and answering their questions and asking for their support. In the end, he had mobilized the support of his management team, and as Bennis had encouraged, he went with his heart, with what he thought was right and entered the market in question. Schultz stood his ground and, ultimately, was able to score another successful expansion of Starbucks into the international marketplace.
Please share time when you acted on courageous instincts... and were rewarded!
The Humble Leader