After years of attempting to effectively "train" managers and leaders using traditional approaches (the results of which left everyone wanting), it was time to embrace fresh thinking and a new approach. It was time to jump off the insanity train. (You know, doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.)
Of course what I wanted to see and hear most was how the success of the leadership and management changes in that short 8 weeks had impacted their daily, weekly and monthly numbers and the ultimate impact to their bottom line. But the discussion that unfolded went surprisingly a different direction.
I eased back in my chair continuing to listen, more intently now, to the duet of stories sung by them both. I assumed when we arranged this debrief meeting that numbers were going to be the driving theme -- increased profits, better percentages of productivity, product and money saved. Yet, that was not at all the most compelling elements of our discussion. It was the impact to their employees -- the human impact.
I was schooled that day on the deeper impact of the work I do. You'd think I'd know this since my company is named The Human Sphere were we champion the human side of business enterprise, carrying the belief that when employees are winning the company wins too! Yet, in working with many decision-makers, numbers drive the decisions and measurement of our engagement success.
On this day, the human side of our successful work shone through for the employees and the leaders. And this was my most significant "ah-ha" reminder. As they enthusiastically shared more results, I gained deeper clarity that the work was as much for the human needs of the leaders as it was for their employees.
When we talk about doing work "for an organization"...what we're really addressing is meeting the operational needs as well as the human needs -- all the humans of the organization, leaders included. Though some leaders may not wish to acknowledge this, human needs and operational needs are inseparable partners to the success of any company.
Here's what human needs of the leaders I heard...
I feel relieved - so glad this experiment worked
I want to meet the needs of my employees, but didn't exactly know how
I am so happy that they are happy and productive
I needed to be open to something different and so glad I was
I feel successful as a leader because I brought help that worked
I feel good about what has occurred
I was tired of feeling frustrated
The state of our staff really matters to me
I was bothered by what was not working
I don't like to see my employees suffer and struggle
I'm so glad they feel better equipped to manage certain challenges
It's a great feeling the plant culture is significantly improved
It's wonderful to see certain employees empowered and effective
I'm so proud of the progress
I am confident in our continued success
I appreciate the help -- we needed it
... this is just a start.
Thanks to this client, I've been reminded that leaders, decision-makers are very human, with intrinsic needs they may not wish to display. Some see certain leaders as "heartless." For those I see (for whatever the reason) a heart perhaps wounded, less activated, engaged or connected to those they lead.
For many, being vulnerable is considered a liability not an asset. There's little accolades for leaders who admit, "I'm afraid, I'm overwhelmed, I don't have a clue what do do, I'm at a loss, I need help." Rather, those emotional states are usually unconsciously masked by counterproductive behaviors, confusing leadership and diminished or handicapped performance.
In leadership, management consulting and HR, we work a lot with a variety of leadership competencies lists. I've yet to see listed "genuinely care about those you lead". Now I have seen empathy, an element of emotional intelligence, but simply put -- caring for the people you lead will payoff in unimaginable ways.
Think about it...what does caring do, what role does it play in certain contexts? One thing for sure, it drives and influences decisions. You can tell if, how much or what someone cares about by the decisions they make.
With regards to caring about employees, many leaders claim they care, but their decisions don't reflect it. What leaders most care about is where they will put their time, attention, passion and financial resources. Here's a great example -- Marriott's employee health and wellness initiative:
It's clear that acknowledging and meeting the needs of the human side of business enterprise carries huge benefits for all parties -- both internal and external customers.— Jacob Morgan (@jacobm) January 6, 2016
As leaders, perhaps it's time to more readily admit we have needs and feelings too. I think connecting with our own humanity bolsters our leadership effectiveness overall and ultimately the success of our companies.