Monday, 15 February 2016

Love, Loyalty and Leadership

February is traditionally the month where at every turn, there’s talk of love. I write this post on Valentine’s Day, and by its very nature, this day, and how we celebrate it, remains a subject about which many have a fervent opinion. But what about love and leadership?

Really???? Who are we kidding??

Many of you will be familiar with the Harvard Service Profit Chain concept, which essentially suggests that businesses which thrive and grow, are businesses with customers who are engaged with the brand, who love it, who will remain loyal to it and who will recommend it to their family and friends. What drives that is an experience which leaves customers feeling that they are not only satisfied - but also connected emotionally - to that brand. In turn, what drives that is employees who are engaged with the company in which they work and who deliver an experience that their customers will love. And this is where we, as leaders, come in.

Much of my time is spent talking with leaders about the skills, strategies, tools and techniques of ‘Executive Presence’. One of the pillars of my framework is ‘engage’, and what I mean by that is leaders who have Executive Presence know how to win the hearts as well as the minds of their employees. They know how to attract, develop, challenge, support, motivate, enthuse, direct and retain great talent within their business. They know how to deal with, irrespective of the industry in which they work, the most difficult and yet most critical raw material in business there is – and that is emotion. It’s difficult because it’s not black and white. It’s critical because it’s always there.

Leadership is about delivering results through others and, therefore, it quite simply means that leadership is a relationship business. Great relationships are built on great communication. And it’s not easy to communicate effectively – especially when faced with negativity, cynicism, passive aggressive behaviour, depression, arrogance, ignorance – to name but a few. So where do we start? Well, like all great relationships, how about considering:

  1. How well have we communicated our vision of where we’re going? How clear, concise and compelling have we made it? Everyone – no matter where they work or what they do – wants to know where the business is heading. A litmus test; pick five people at random and if what they say is not consistent (and not what you want), then the answer to the question is ‘not well enough’.
  2. How often do we really make time to listen to our people? I’m not talking about simply through corporate structures such as employee satisfaction surveys, appraisals, etc. I’m talking about making and defending time to be with our people, to listen (without distraction!) to what they’re saying and to genuinely care.
  3. How often are we focused on the right answers rather than the right questions? Our early career is necessarily built on developing technical competence – which means amassing the right level of accurate information for our area of expertise. However, there comes a point where this simply doesn’t matter. We have people in our business who know the right answers. (By the way if we don’t; we’re not hiring the right people.) The higher we rise in our career, the more important it is to understand that effective leadership is far more about asking a continual array of powerful, searching, stretching questions based on a genuine curiosity to understand.
Amongst many, many other skills and strategies, it is this that builds loyalty amongst our people; it is this that helps them to love working for the business, the team and for you, and it is this that helps us to be better leaders.

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