WHETHER IT’S increased competition, technology changes, cost structure challenges or other
mega-hurdles, leaders are being pressed for more
of everything. With stress levels and demands at
an all-time high, we need to develop new ways of
inspiring and engaging our employees. Being a
servant leader when times are challenging is hard
work, but the payoff is tremendous.
I served as president of a billion-dollar company during a particularly difficult time. In the
face of some significant challenges, we transformed our culture, capabilities, leadership and
customer focus into best in class. I’ve learned
through experience there is no better way to win
than by leading with the heart and using love
(yes, love!) to develop a competitive advantage.
Here are a few tips.
• Develop goals with the customer at the center. Talking about what you need to achieve (usually
a percentage growth number) is fuel for the brain.
Improving a customer’s quality of life is fuel for
the heart. By shifting the communication focus
to winning by making a difference, you tap into
the brain and the heart. Now you’ve got super fuel.
• Give the gift of self-confidence to your
team. Letting others know you believe in them is
powerful and life-changing. The words “I have the
greatest confidence in you,” especially in tough
times, can give people courage to make the bold
decisions necessary to change a trajectory.
• Make straight talk the universal language.
When I visited our manufacturing plants, I would
often ask the team to take me on the “points of
pain” tour. While highlighting all the positives, the
team knew I expected them to share the challenges
without sugarcoating the facts. This approach
helped further my understanding and resulted
in a more solutions-based discussion. Similarly,
when I communicated the unfiltered truth about
challenges, not only did employees respond with
greater followership, they were also more likely to
come up with new solutions. Two-way straight talk
is the most powerful form of communication.
To paraphrase the advice of author Kate
Forsyth, may you have a kind heart, a fierce mind
and a brave spirit! C
Lead with your heart
COSTCO MEMBERS Kevin Cloutier and
his brother Dave built their Oakland,
California–based company Feet First
Eventertainment ( feetfirstevents.com)
around a quotation from Plato: “You can
discover more about a person in an hour
of play than in a year of conversation.” The
company takes a playful approach to team
building, whether it’s helping groups make
movies at a Hollywood studio or building
systems to deliver clean water to developing nations.
“While big corporations have budgets
set aside for social activities and team building, smaller ones may find it more difficult
to fund the same kinds of programs,” Kevin
says. He offers these tips to keep your team
motivated without breaking the bank.
Get out of the office. With today’s busy
schedules, many people don’t leave the office
all day. Remind employees that even if they
choose to eat at work, they can still get out
of their workspace. How about a break on
the patio? Sometimes all it takes is a change
of scenery to recharge the batteries.
Add a soundtrack. Starting out as DJs
many years ago, the Cloutiers learned early
on the important role that music plays in
everyone’s life. It is amazing how just adding
music to a workspace can perk up the office
and bring people together.
Unplug to reconnect. Technology is
amazing. It helps us in almost every facet of
life, except one: interpersonal communication. The more time we spend on our devices,
the less time we spend actually interacting
with each other. And as our reliance on
technology grows, our personal relationships suffer. Encouraging your staff to
unplug for a few minutes every day will help
them foster better relationships in the office
and create a better work environment.
Set aside time for play. Playtime is time
to decompress. It might be as easy as putting
a Rubik’s Cube on your desk, setting out
Legos in the conference room or even joining
an after-work bowling league. Co-workers
who spend a couple of hours laughing and
playing together end up learning things they
never knew they never knew. C
Work time can
be playtime, too
Denice Torres (denicetorres.
com) is a speaker, consultant,
writer and inspirer, and a
former senior executive at a
Fortune 50 company.
FOR YOUR BUSINESS