When Aaron Feuerstein took control of fleece and textile manufacturer Malden Mills in 1957, he represented the third generation of Feuersteins running this Lawrence, Massachusetts-based company with a reputation for being a great place to work.
Aaron kept the tradition and good name alive by helping other local businesses and offering English classes for local immigrant workers. He also took exceptional care of the employees of his company by ensuring that they had safe, comfortable working conditions and paying them better than most of his competitors. Apparently, even the unions applauded his efforts and referred to him being “a man of his word” and “extremely compassionate.”
But his compassion would be put to an incredible test in December of 1995. At approximately 8:00 on the night of December 11, a boiler exploded at the mill. It was so powerful that it broke gas pipes in the building. The fire, fueled by the gas and the chemicals used in textile manufacturing, spread very quickly. Employees ran out of the buildings. More than 30 of them were injured, several quite badly.
The fire became so powerful that even the efforts of the over 200 firefighters on the scene were essentially futile. The fire raged out of control the entire night, with flames reaching heights of nearly 50 feet. By the time it was out the following morning, Malden Mills had burned to the ground.
The company had a $300 million insurance policy in place for the building. Aaron Feuerstein could have simply ended company operations or closed the Lawrence location and moved to a much less expensive location, as many of the former Lawrence-based mills had done. Almost immediately, though, Aaron announced that he would rebuild the Lawrence location to ensure that the community would not lose one of its largest employers.
But he did more than that. He demonstrated a level of compassion that is almost unheard of in the world of business: He promised to pay employees their full salary while the building was being rebuilt, and he kept his promise. When construction was delayed a couple months later, he announced that the people in his company would still be paid until the project was finished. By the time Malden Mills was up and running again, Aaron had spent roughly $25 million to keep employees on the payroll.
Aaron Feuerstein’s compassion would bring him international attention for being a hero. His story was widely reported in the media and he was even acknowledged during one of President Clinton’s state of the union addresses. His compassion would also end up costing him control of his company as creditors forced him out and replaced him with a CEO that they felt would move more quickly in terms of getting the company back to being profitable again. Unfortunately, his creditors were only focused on the short-term results.
Despite the apparent short-term disadvantages, companies are much better off in the long run with a leader like Aaron in charge. I’m also confident that Aaron Feuerstein’s obituary will be a much better read than that of the CEO with whom his creditors replaced him. Instead of reading something like, “He was really good at hitting the quarterly numbers,” Aaron’s obituary will read something like, “Aaron Feuerstein was an international hero who inspired hundreds of millions of people with his love and his commitment to being a person of honor and integrity. He always did the right thing, regardless of the personal costs to do so.”
About a month ago, my son, Cisco, completed his first trip around the sun outside of the womb.
In the picture above you can see him giving me a big, wet, sloppy kiss as part of the celebration.
Although his technique is not as refined as that of most adults, his timing is often uncanny.
For example, when he was around six months old, he had just started giving kisses to my wife and me. But we had to work to get them. We had to lay our heads in his lap, which allowed him to just lean forward and give us a kiss on the cheek.
About a month after he started giving kisses, my mother was passing through town on the way back from visiting her sister as she was dying. This was the last living member of my mom’s immediate family.
Of course, my mom was quite sad as she travelled to our house, and was sad when she arrived.
She had previously only been around Cisco for a few days of his life, spread out between periods of a couple months, so she was essentially a stranger when she arrived at our house that day.
I mention this because Cisco had never given a kiss to anyone other than my wife and me at this point. He had not even kissed the nanny who spent 25 hours per week with him for months.
About 15 minutes after my mom arrived, I had laid Cisco down on our bed to put a new shirt him. My mom came in the room and leaned down toward him. He immediately reached out with both of his arms to grab my mom’s face.
At first, she hesitated. I said, “Mom, I think he wants to give you a kiss.”
She leaned a bit closer. Cisco grabbed her face with authority and pulled her close. He gave her a big, wet kiss and held her there for a good four or five seconds.
My mom was glowing. In seconds, Cisco had transformed her sadness to joy.
It seemed quite clear that he felt her sadness and knew exactly what to do to help.
Cisco offers us a lovely reminder that when we slow down a bit and are fully present with the people around us, we become much more sensitive to what they might need to flourish.
This is the most important work of a leader – to help people flourish.
Cisco also reminds us that it doesn’t take a huge effort to help another person transform an unpleasant emotion. Just presence, and a small gesture is often more than enough.
As we near Christmas, let’s follow Cisco’s lead.
Let’s slow down a bit, be present with our team members, family members, and friends, and let’s not hesitate to offer even the most simple gestures of kindness.
However, that has been changing in recent years.
More and more businesses are realizing that in addition to helping us be happier and more fulfilled, compassion can actually be great for business.
One of the most touching and striking examples of this comes from an industry that is often referred to as a “commodity industry,” commercial aviation. But even in a commodity industry – perhaps especially in such industries – compassion can be a powerful differentiator.
Unfortunately, this powerful example begins with some very sad circumstances.
In January of 2011, near Denver, Colorado, a two-year-old boy named Caden was beaten by his mother’s live-in boyfriend. His injuries were so severe that he almost immediately went into a coma.
Medical professionals determined the next day that Caden would not survive, and that he would be taken off of life support that night so that his organs could be donated and potentially help over 20 people.
Mark Dickinson, Caden’s grandfather, was in Los Angeles on business when he received the tragic news. Mr. Dickinson’s wife immediately arranged for him to fly to Denver, with a connection in Tuscon, Arizona.
She informed the carrier, Southwest Airlines, of the circumstances and let them know that her husband would be rushing to catch his flight in Los Angeles because, if he missed his connection, he wouldn’t be able to see his grandson for the last time before the child was taken off of life support.
Mr. Dickinson arrived at LAX in what appeared to be plenty of time, almost two hours before the scheduled departure. But there were long lines at check in. By the time he got his boarding pass, he was already anxious that he might miss his flight. When he arrived at security, he noticed immediately that the lines were lengthy and moving very slowly.
Mr. Dickinson’s anxiety escalated significantly as the reality began to sink in that he might miss his flight, along with the chance to see his grandson for the last time. He told security about his situation and asked if he could get to the front. They told him he would have to wait just like everyone else.
After going through security, Mr. Dickinson realized that he was already late. On the verge of tears, he grabbed his shoes and sprinted to his gate in his socks. He arrived at his gate 12 minutes late. His heart must have broken.
To his surprise, though, he was met at the gate by both the ticketing agent and the pilot. The ticketing agent asked, “Are you Mark?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“We held the plane for you and we’re so sorry about the loss of your grandson.”
Although this may seem like a small gesture, as James F. Parker points out in his book Do The Right Thing, Southwest has mastered the art of turning airplanes around quickly. On average, they turn their planes around 15 to 20 minutes faster than their competitors—something that saves Southwest approximately $3 billion dollars per year.
So for Southwest, 12 minutes is essentially an eternity. Making a habit out of holding airplanes for 12 extra minutes would cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
According to an article on Dailymail.com, as the pilot escorted Mr. Dickinson down the jetway, Mr. Dickinson said, “I can’t thank you enough for this.”
The pilot replied, “They can’t go anywhere without me and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And, again, I’m so sorry.”
Little Caden was taken off of life support that night at 9:20 p.m. Thanks to the kindness and compassion of the pilot, and the leaders at Southwest who empowered him to make the call, Mark Dickinson was there to say goodbye.
When asked how the leaders at Southwest Airlines felt about the pilot’s decision in an interview with AOL Travel News, Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis stated that, “We fully support what our captain did. Customer service is important and we’re not at all surprised an action like this would take place.”
The leaders at Southwest weren’t upset with the pilot for holding the plane. They were proud of him—as they should be. Southwest is known as “the airline that love built.”
And, because the company’s leaders have effectively passed on their values and empowered employees to make important decisions on the spot, they helped ensure that the pilot valued being compassionate above short-term gain.
In the long term, his decision will also likely result in numerous positive business outcomes. It was an incredible example of customer service that inspired everyone who saw it, was reported extensively in the media, and will be talked about for years to come, providing Southwest with a tremendous amount of free, highly impactful advertising.
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
In our efforts to inspire leaders to see what’s possible, many people, including me, often discuss leadership practices from the perspective of what great leadership ideally looks like.
However, as anyone who has ever led a team knows, whenever there is more than one person involved in any endeavor, things are often quite a bit messier than the ideal scenario we may have in our minds.
One area where this is especially true is during a team decision-making process. Getting a group of people to come together and agree on a decision can be one the most difficult aspects of leading or working on a team.
Sometimes, even when the process seems as though it goes very smoothly, subtle forces are conspiring to prevent the best decision from being made.
I recently had a chance to chat with Don Maruska, the founder of three Silicon Valley companies, and the author a very helpful book on the topic of team decision making, called How Great Decisions Get Made.
In our discussion, Don pointed some of those forces, and offered some great ideas – below are three – for keeping those forces in check so our teams can consistently make the best decisions.
Getting Important Perspectives by Enlisting As Many People as Possible
For any major decision, it is well worth a little extra time up front to identify all of the stakeholders affected by a decision, and all of the people who could have a valuable perspective to share on the issue at hand, and do the best we can to involve them in some way in the decision making process.
This can be especially true when making a decision that affects our customers. Sometimes involving a front line person who interacts with customers every day could yield an incredibly value insight into the problem and its solution.
Solving the Most Important Issue
Another worthwhile use of time for any major decision is to ensure that there is clarity on the issue really is. It would be a shame to spend a good deal of time resolving an issue that is actually much less important than another issue that hasn’t been well identified.
In our discussion, Don suggested that we take some time for each stakeholder present to express their thoughts and concerns about the topic. Before the next person speaks about their own thoughts and concerns, they summarize what the previous person said to ensure that the previous person was heard clearly.
Removing Defensiveness from the Equation
Have you ever noticed than when you get into a discussion on a topic that you care about, you get a little charged up? That charged up feeling is likely a variation of the stress response in the body.
When people talk about something we care about, it’s as though they are talking about us. It’s easy to feel as though we’re being attacked when in fact it’s only an idea that’s being attacked. This results in the self-defense system – the fight-or-flight response – being activated in the body.
The fight-or-flight response is very helpful when we’re actually in physical danger, but when we’re simply trying to reach a good decision being in self-defense mode can have disastrous effects.
As Don mentioned in our discussion, we start to use less of our pre-frontal cortex – the executive center of the brain, largely responsible for rational, higher level thought.
Maruska offered a number of tactics that can be applied to systematically reduce the levels of self-defensiveness from the equation and thereby consistently reach better decisions.
- Take time very early to discover shared hopes around the topic at hand. This is already getting people see their commonalities instead of focusing on differences.
- Brainstorm as a group possible solutions and record them all without taking time to discuss them or agree or disagree with them. This gets as many ideas out as possible without allowing early dissent to prevent a similar idea from being mentioned, an idea that could end up being the solution.
- Without getting into a debate, have everyone state one negative thing about each option, and a few positive things about it. This tends to result in significantly less defensiveness because every idea is being treated equally.
- Identify which options satisfy shared hopes for the outcome.
- Map out the most promising solutions and take time to discuss how to improve them in ways that could result in everyone agreeing to implement the decision.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
A team member knocks on your door and asks if you have a minute. Before you’ve even finished your answer, the team member starts listing off several “very urgent” issues that need to be dealt with, and asks for your advice on what to do.
How do you respond? Do you immediately start offering suggestions for the best courses of action?
That is certainly how I’m wired to respond. I naturally prefer to give people advice. This is partly because I really enjoy helping people, and also partly because I’m wired to think I have all the answers (I certainly do not).
However, it has become increasingly clear over the years that if I truly want to be helpful to people, it is almost always better to ask good questions than it is to have good answers.
When we make the effort to ask good questions, three important shifts occur:
1. We don’t waste time solving a problem that doesn’t need to be solved
When we jump right in and start offering advice, there’s always a significant risk that we don’t fully understand the problem. This means that, at best, we might be solving a superficial problem instead the most important issue. Or, even worse, we might be offering advice that completely misses the mark.
By resisting the urge to start offering advice and begin with a question instead, we can get clarification on the issue, and perhaps even discover the root cause of the issue, or a deeper issue, that is much more important to resolve.
2. We help people develop their capacity to solve issues on their own
By asking people questions to clarify an issue and getting them to offer some ideas for resolving the issue, we encourage their brains to develop new connections, which empowers them to be better able to problem solve in the future.
3. We gradually free up time to focus on what really moves the needle
By training people to realize that we trust them to solve issues that don’t absolutely require our input, we gradually free up more and more time that we no longer have to spend on day-to-day issues.
Instead, we can focus on high-level strategy, developing our team culture, and spending more time serving our team members.
Developing the Coaching Habit
If you’d like some help overcoming the habit of giving advice and developing a new habit of asking questions first, I highly recommend the book The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier. Bungay Stanier (who added his wife’s last name to his surname of Stanier) offers a very practical approach to developing the habit of coaching: asking good questions that help people resolve their own issues.
He also offers seven, very powerful questions – each supported by behavioral and/or neuroscience research – that are designed to make coaching much more effective while also reducing the time we spend in any coaching meeting to around 10 minutes.
For example, one of the questions Bungay Stanier offers is “What’s the real challenge for you here?”
This question is especially useful when a team member lists more than one issue that needs to be solved, either in person or via an e-mail. Instead of trying to resolve each of the issues at hand, we challenge the person to clarify what is the most important issue at hand by responding with, “What’s the real challenge for you here?”
This question is very helpful for three reasons:
- It helps us save time by only spending energy on the most important issue
- It helps the team member to focus on what she or he can do, and what she or he really needs to affect change, instead of placing blame on others or making excuses
- A 1997 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology suggests that by simply adding the word you to a question we help people find a more accurate answer in less time
As with all of the questions Bungay Stanier offers, one of the most important elements of the effectiveness of the question above is making sure that we wait for a response in silence. Silence can be uncomfortable. When we ask a question and it’s not answered immediately, we may feel a strong urge to ask it again in a different way, or start leading the person toward the answer we want to hear.
Instead, Bungay Stanier urges, we need to learn to patiently endure the silence and wait for an answer before saying anything further. This simple move is one of the keys to saving time while also serving team members by helping them grow both personally and professionally.
“In fact, it is a constitutive characteristic of being human that it always points, and is directed, to something other than itself.” – Viktor Frankl
The key to finding happiness at work may not have anything to do with you at all.
It was a bitter northern Colorado winter day last December. The kind of day when college students hopefully wait for the magical e-mail letting them know class is cancelled. It never came on this day.
The campus was a barren bright white desert as windswept snow swirled across an almost-empty parking lot. I was on campus early for a meeting and as I was walking on an uncleared sidewalk, I saw one of the campus facilities workers on the opposite sidewalk get off his adapted backhoe and start manually and meticulously clearing a portion of the concrete. He was diligently making sure that from edge-to-edge, the sidewalk was completely clear.
As we made eye contact, he stopped what he was doing and silently trudged over to a piece of sidewalk about 10 feet in front of me, and upon noticing me, vigorously restarted his tried method of clearing the sidewalk.
As I passed, I said, “Thanks.”
He looked up and said, “How’s it going today?”
“Okay,” I said, “Ready for the snow to be over! You?”
“As long as I can keep these sidewalks clear for the students, I am a happy man!” he said, laughing hard to himself.
There was no supervisor there to motivate him. There was no one even there (except me) to see and reward him for a job well done. Pay and benefits in that type of job aren’t the greatest. The task itself wasn’t especially designed to be motivating.
So, then, what was motivating him? Maybe a better question is: What was pulling him through the apparent drudgery of the work in the unforgiving weather?
The object of his behavior was not himself, not his paycheck, not some reward or recognition. It seemed to be something more. His behaviors and attitudes seemed oriented toward something more powerful than the usual motivation suspects.
The purpose of a university, the students – as he said himself – was the object inspiring his exceptional work.
He was working to deliver the higher organizational purpose and not for himself.
It is this space between, the invisible leader, between him and the purpose that modern organizations and their leaders need to be especially concerned with. This space, this energy, is characterized in the psychological literature as self-transcendence.
Why should we care?
If you are in your office right now, chances are that that at least one of the people in the offices on either side of you dislikes their job.
With 70 percent of Americans disengaged in their work and managers and leaders theorizing how to motivate a purpose-oriented millennial workforce, commitment and motivation bestsellers are in vogue.
The problem is that most of these books focus on things we can “do” to push employees and not the things we believe in that pull employees toward something greater that themselves.
We try to keep employees happy, not recognizing that happiness and well-being themselves are not sustainable objects of behavior, rather, as Maslow and Frankl hypothesized, these are the side-effects of pursuing a meaning or calling greater than oneself.
Studies back this up. Psychologists have found that when over 435 college students were surveyed, 68% of them indicated that a spiritual calling and sense of higher purpose at work was important to them. When over 370 employees were surveyed, 62% percent of them indicated that a connection to a higher purpose was a critical aspect of their work.
This is precisely why focusing on the psychological and spiritual notion of self-transcendence to a higher organizational purpose is critical in the modern workplace.
Self-Transcendence Pulls, Motivation Pushes
“It is one of the immediate data of life experience that man is pushed by drives but pulled by meaning.” – Viktor E. Frankl
There is a reason we have tow-trucks and not push-trucks. Basic physics tells us that, “…when you push there is one component of force that adds to the weight of the body and hence there is more friction. When you pull the vertical component of force is against the weight of body and hence there is less overall friction. So it is easy to pull than push an object.”
This physics lesson provides an example of why most motivation tactics in our organizations ultimately fail or are short-lived. We are trying to push people by offering rewards, big salaries, and flashy perks. This is hard and expensive pushing! And, it almost always is short-lived.
Self-transcendence, however, pulls.
Self-transcendence can best and most simply be defined as the phenomenon that occurs when one’s behaviors are oriented toward an object outside of oneself. In the workplace, studies have shown that one of the most powerful objects of this behavior is a higher organizational purpose that serves society and others beyond the bounds of the organization.
In their book, Make Your Job a Calling, psychology professors Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy found that when employees have a calling with a “transcendent summons” (that is, an outside object inspiring behaviors) “…they are more committed to their jobs and organizations, more intrinsically motivated and engaged, and more satisfied with their jobs.”
By creating and fostering organizational cultures that are oriented toward a compelling global purpose, thereby inspiring a self-transcendence to this purpose, we can pull employees toward a inspiring higher organizational purpose.
Because a higher organizational purpose and meaning is never able to be completely satisfied because of its global nature, the pull will always be there.
That is why in organizations with a deeply held and compelling higher organizational purpose, there is a constant striving to deliver the purpose.
That is why, I believe, in the bitter cold, that worker was meticulously clearing the sidewalk.
In this striving to deliver a purpose, happiness and satisfaction are then allowed to ensue – attitudes the American workforce could surely use right now.
This is a guest post by my friend Zach Mercurio. Zach is a speaker, trainer, and writer who believes that what you do in your life and work will only ever be as good as why you do it. He has found that when people believe they matter, know why, and deliver that why consistently, organizations, teams, and their customers are happier, healthier and more inspired. www.ZachMercurio.com Blog: www.PurposeSpeaks.com
PLEASE NOTE THAT WE’VE FILLED UP OUR TEAM AS OF 9 DECEMBER 2015 AND ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING NEW LAUNCH TEAM MEMBERS.
Would you like a free copy of my new book, The Mindfulness Edge?
We’re giving away 200 copies to our special Launch Team.
Below, you’ll find an overview of the book, and instructions on how you can receive a free copy and be part our Launch Team.
How to Receive A Free Copy of The Mindfulness Edge
To receive a free copy of The Mindfulness Edge, all we ask is that you do the following:
1) Help us spread the word the week of 29 February – 4 March, 2016 by sharing your unique link to our book launch promotion via social media and e-mail (click this link to see how it will work).
You would skip right to Page 3 of the promotion and be considered to have purchased the book in the promotion, so you will be eligible for all of the $100s of rewards for referring friends without having to actually buy the book.
2) Sometime in March, 2016, we ask that you post an honest review of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.
3) If you apply and are accepted to be part of the “Advance Copy Team” on the form below (the link is in #4), we ask that you read the advance copy prior to 4 March, 2016 and post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads the week 7-11 March, 2016.
PLEASE NOTE THAT WE’VE FILLED UP OUR TEAM AS OF 9 DECEMBER 2015 AND ARE NO LONGER ACCEPTING NEW LAUNCH TEAM MEMBERS.
The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule
There is a simple practice that can improve nearly every component of leadership and personal excellence and it doesn’t require adding anything to your busy schedule. In The Mindfulness Edge, you’ll discover how a subtle inner shift, called mindfulness, can transform the things you already do every day into opportunities to change your brain in ways that improve both the “hard skills” and “soft skills” of leadership. A large body of research in neuroscience suggests that with mindfulness training, you can actually “rewire” your brain for leadership and personal excellence, while also becoming happier.
In this book, you’ll learn how mindfulness training helps you:
- Quickly improve business decisions
- Become more innovative
- Develop the emotional intelligence skills essential for creating and sustaining a winning team culture
- Realize the extraordinary leadership presence that inspires greatness in others
- Live a happier, more meaningful life
Advance Praise for The Mindfulness Edge
“This is an extraordinary book! The Mindfulness Edge will help you take advantage of your greatest strategic asset: your mind. This book offers a practical path to mastering your mind – and changing your brain in ways essential for effective leadership – with one simple habit. Develop this habit and you will not only be more successful both professionally and personally, you’ll be more fulfilled as well.”
Skip Prichard – President & CEO, OCLC, Leadership Insights blogger at skipprichard.com
“I thoroughly enjoyed this valuable book. Matt Tenney and Tim Gard show quite clearly how mindfulness can transform everyday activities into opportunities to change our brains in ways that improve essential leadership skills. They also offer a practical, enjoyable path to consistently being the leaders we aspire to be.”
Bob Hottman – CEO, EKS&H
“This is a game-changing book. Based on cutting-edge research and illuminated by real-world examples and practical guidance, The Mindfulness Edge can take your business acumen, leadership skills, and personal growth to a higher level. I have read roughly 2,000 business books and this one is now in my top 10.”
John Spence – Named one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world by HR.com
“I found this book very insightful. It serves as a practical training manual for improving self-awareness, and shows how self-awareness impacts nearly every aspect of leadership. This book will not only help you to be a better leader, it will also help you to enjoy the journey.”
Gregory A. Serrao – Executive Chairman, American Dental Partners, Inc
“In The Mindfulness Edge, Matt Tenney and Tim Gard present – in an engaging and inspiring way – a practical method of ‘strength training’ for the most important ‘muscle’ in your body: your brain. This insightful book is a game plan on how to apply mindfulness training to create the self-awareness and mental agility needed for impactful leadership. This is a must-read for any leader looking to raise the bar of excellence, while also becoming happier!”
Chris Thoen – Sr. VP, Global Head Flavour Science + Technology, Givaudan Flavours Corp.
“I truly enjoyed this book! The applications and narrative herein apply not only to leadership but also to life. With readable and to-the-point information on mindfulness backed by rigorous neuroscience, I strongly recommend The Mindfulness Edge to people new to the practice and to people with a long-standing interest.”
Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., CEO, The Unlimited Mind, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan, and Author of Neuroscience for Leadership
“I recommend The Mindfulness Edge to leaders of all types. The book offers a path to self-mastery through mindfulness and guidance for applying that self-mastery to enhance the effectiveness of your employees and company, thereby more positively impacting your clients. The authors explain the practice in great detail, inviting reflection along the way, and show how mindfulness training can be easily integrated into daily routines with a measurable impact on your home, social, and business worlds.”
Rick Staab – CEO, InterMed
“If you want one book that dives deeply and eloquently into one of the single best ingredients for a healthy and effective brain, The Mindfulness Edge is it. Matt Tenney and Tim Gard pair up to give spot-on insights that will unleash some awesome things already hanging out in your head. Bathe your brain in this book and get ready to find a whole new you.”
Scott G. Halford — Executive Educator, National Hall of Fame Speaker, and author of Activate Your Brain
“The brilliance of The Mindfulness Edge is that it deviates so significantly from the status quo. Rather than merely add to the cacophonous volume of information and advice that overcrowds our mental faculties, this book offers practical, achievable guidance on how to skillfully embrace the chaos and complexity of today’s business environment so that we can uncover truly innovative solutions on our own.”
Martin Sirk – CEO, International Congress and Convention Association
“As the business and investment worlds tentatively shift their focus away from short-term transactions towards longer-term relationships, we need excellent leaders to strengthen this trend: Leaders with the skills to align our corporations and institutions with the needs of society, the economy, and the environment. The Mindfulness Edge is a timely and practical guide for those aspiring to this task.”
Colin Melvin – CEO, Hermes EOS
“The Mindfulness Edge offers a fresh and highly-practical approach to mastering mindfulness and creating inspiring, mindful workplaces.”
Michael Carroll – Author of The Mindful Leader
“Matt Tenny and Tim Gard haven written the first, really practical, neuroscience-based guide for enhancing leadership performance through mindfulness. You can start rewiring your brain now!”
Wibo Koole – Director Centrum voor Mindfulness, Amsterdam, and bestselling author of Mindful Leadership: Effective Tools That Help You Focus and Succeed
On a recent flight to a speaking engagement, I had a wonderful conversation with a senior leader of a midsize company. As usually happens, we got on the topic of how serving and caring for team members results in a better bottom line over the long term. This leader, who we’ll call Jeff, was as passionate about the idea of servant leadership as I am.
I asked Jeff about some of the specific actions he has taken over the years to better serve his team members. Although he shared several great practices, the one that really struck me was a step he takes in the hiring process as it applies to people who would have to change locations.
He mentioned that after he and his team have narrowed the pool of potential hires to their top choice, the final interview is scheduled. If the candidate has a family, the company pays to fly the family in to town and put that family up for a few days to allow them to explore the new town.
The last phase of the final interview is a dinner with the candidate and his or her spouse. Jeff’s focus during this interview is to get the spouse to open up about how he or she feels about the move, the new position, and the new location. He mentioned one specific interview in which the wife of the candidate made it very clear that the new location would put a significant strain on the family.
Although the candidate was a great fit in every other way, Jeff decided not to offer him the position. He knew that the strain on the candidate’s family and on his marriage would eventually lead to a lot of unhappiness for him and his family, as well as to suboptimal performance at work, and might result in the new hire having to leave after a few years, which would be more costly for the company over the long term.
A question I often receive during interviews or after keynote speeches is, “How would you summarize what a servant leader does differently than other leaders, in one sentence?” I believe Jeff provided a perfect example of this with how he handled the situation above.
A servant leader places equal or greater emphasis on identifying and helping to meet the legitimate needs of team members as he or she does on bottom results.
Although the legitimate needs people have will differ a bit from person to person, below are a few examples of very legitimate needs that every high-performing team member has:
- The need to be happy
- The need to feel safe
- The need to feel that they belong
- The need to continuously grow both personally and professionally
By ensuring that these legitimate needs are met for team members, a servant leader also ensures that she or he sustains a high-performance culture that attracts and retains highly talented, highly engaged people who consistently deliver bottom-line results.
What are some of the ways you work to meet the above needs for your team members?
Did you like what you read?
You’re driving in to work, and get stuck in horrible traffic. You’re going to be late.
You pull into the office parking lot 10 minutes after your scheduled start time. But your anxiety starts to wane a bit when you notice that there’s actually an open parking spot right near the front door.
You smile as you drive quickly toward the spot. It’s a miracle that a spot so close could be open at this time.
Your smile disappears, though, when you notice the sign in front of the parking spot. The words read, “Reserved for the CEO.”
Has something like that ever happened to you or someone you know?
Although the phenomenon of parking spots being reserved for executives seems to be pretty rare these days, we should look very closely at anything we do as leaders that could give the appearance that we are somehow elevated above team members on any type of pedestal.
The pedestals for leaders can come in many varieties. They can be very subtle, like simply failing to show a willingness to do what we ask team members to do.
The pedestals can also be much more obvious, like perks, or even pay.
There seems to be an inverse correlation between elevating oneself above team members and leadership effectiveness.
For instance, in an interesting article on CBSNews.com it was noted that the median annual compensation for CEOs of the public companies in the Customer Service Hall of Fame was a little over $3 million, while the median annual compensation for CEOs of companies in the Customer Service Hall of Shame was a whopping $14.9 million. This data suggests that there may be a correlation between selfish senior leaders and poor customer service.*
Of course, there is likely a correlation between being selfish as a leader and poor performance in most, if not all, areas of leadership. A leader who puts himself before his team members is going to have an incredibly difficult time creating and sustaining a highly-engaged, high-performance team.
This is why it is so critical that we look for and remove as many of the little ways we put ourselves on pedestals as leaders as possible. These are signs of selfishness. They are signs of inevitable failure.
A leader who can relate to team members, makes the effort to share in their struggles, and shows a willingness to do anything she asks her team members to do is likely going to be much more effective by every metric. She knows that if anyone should be placed on a pedestal, it should be the team members who go above and beyond to do great things.
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