For-profit enterprises are in a better position to create positive change in the world than nonprofits are — with or without a corporate social responsibility program. Regardless of what industry you’re in, how many people your company employs, or how many people you manage, your actions and leadership style touch people’s lives.
With people spending about a third of their days at work, you are a major contributor toward how happy and proud your team members are. As an employer, you answer the question “How was your day today?” as they walk through the door. You are responsible for their professional development and for the chapters of their legacies that are written under your management.
Here are a few ideas to think about and inspire you to challenge traditional, impersonal management styles:
1. Play a Role in Your Employees’ Lives
Empathy is the most important virtue for managers to wrap their minds around. Really put yourself in your teammates’ shoes and walk through their lives. Step into their house. Sit at their dinner table. Talk to their kids. Write them a note that they can proudly hang on their refrigerator. Brag about them to their parents. Stay awake with them and worry at night.
Nobody will stand up at your retirement party or funeral and tell stories about the profit margins you drove. They will talk about the role that you played in their lives. Let this be your score card.
2. Remember That Every One of Your Employees Is a CEO at Home
They make major capital decisions, balance budgets, develop family culture, lead and inspire their children, review leases, write wills, and do it all without your help, direction or oversight. They are smarter and more capable than anyone gives them credit for. The lower a person is on the pay scale, the more creative and able he is with capital.
What happens to all of those capabilities when employees step into your office? What has your hierarchy done for their potential? The people your employees are at home don’t have to disappear for your company to work: in fact, just the opposite is true. What if every person, at every level, was fully engaged in building your company from within? Don’t hire fancy consultants to solve problems that your team already has answers for. Do respect that the best solutions are found by the people closest to the problem. You don’t always know better. Ask before you tell.
3. Write Their Hero Story
Driving a school bus is probably the most important job in the world. What could be more important than safely delivering 72 children home every day? That’s a bus driver’s hero story — but every employee has one. Managers need to develop a hero story for their team members. Tell that story for them, and celebrate their contribution publicly. Make them proud of their work, and performance will follow — happily, naturally and easily.
My company is in the conference center business. For employees at most venues, this might be an uninspiring job, a means to an end, or a simple paycheck. However, our people change the world each day, and they know it.
For example, one of our clients uses our meeting space every year to determine which cancer treatments graduate from clinical trials to be put into practice at hospitals around the world. The decisions that leaders make within our facilities affect the lives of countless people. The meetings we host today make the headlines of The Wall Street Journal tomorrow. Our team’s performance influences the world’s most important meetings, just like an umpire’s call can change the outcome of a World Series game. Everybody’s work matters. You just need to connect the dots, write the story, and tell it.
4. Develop and Build People 1% Better Each Day
Great leaders know that they don’t build their own business. Instead, they develop and inspire the people who build it for them. No one person or group of people can build anything great alone. It takes an army, and the aggregate growth of the soldiers in your army is the rising tide that determines your company’s growth potential and capacity.
Leaders need to plot the trajectory of every single one of their employees. Set a simple goal of improving just 1% every day. It’s a simple, modest-sounding goal that’s massively transformative over time. One percent better every day yields a result that’s 1,260 times greater than 1% less when multiplied by 365 days in a year.
Workers increasingly pursue workplaces where they feel included and understood, and those who don’t contribute to the $11 billion in revenue lost due to employee turnover annually. Creating a strong company culture is a requirement, but it has to start with the purpose any given employee feels every single day.
Investing in people is expensive, so budget for it. Having uninspired people, high turnover or a disengaged workforce will cost you everything.