Wednesday 18 September 2019

Real leadership is childlike, never childish

You can download this post as PDF here.

“Four year olds speak the truth.” This is one of many great reminders about how to be in the world from the wonderful television series on ABC TV Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds. You can watch the show here.

We need more childlike leaders.

What we’ve got is a lot of leaders, particularly political, religious and business figures whose behaviour is often childish. You know who these people are of course because you scratch your head, raise your eyebrows and/or just sit there with your mouth open like I do!

God forbid you may even have some of these clowns in your workplace.

The TV show demonstrates delightfully that four year olds don’t just speak the truth, they are also candid, curious and caring all at once.

We need leaders living these characteristics out loud, and desperately. There’s a planet to save and peace to be made for goodness sake.

Behaviour is so childish across the political spectrum that I’ve gone on a quest on Twitter to help bring in #grownuppolitics. This is a work in progress.

In business for over 30 years I’ve been helping leaders see and bring the best out in themselves and other people. Truth, candour, curiosity and caring are all essential to see and bring out the best in people.

And then there’s love.

One of my favourite authors Steven Farber has just released his book 'Love is just damn good business'.

His title is a fact in my experience that more and more people are embracing. You?

I find people need to feel valued, then fulfilled, before they can feel loved.

People feeling valued

In remarkable organisation’s there’s a strong, unbreakable bond between people feeling valued, living values, and delivering value. Remarkable is rare.

Most organisations have stated values. Very few are lived. Rarely is there a shared-view around the behaviours that demonstrate your values. Of course if you are the exception rather than the rule you have competitive advantage.

To help your people feel more valued, your first step is to agree with them about what your values are.

There must be alignment between personal and organisational values. Any disconnect means trouble. The good news is that there are many universal values. The second step is crucial, it’s about reaching a shared view with your people about what behaviours mean you live your values. Learn more about shared-view here.

With the above as a foundation you can accurately determine and agree on what value must be delivered to all the stakeholders of your organisation. Delivering value to others that they demand, desire and feel that they deserve is fundamental to helping people to feel valued.

Living values and delivering value pave the way for appreciating people which is also fundamental in helping them to feel valued.

The eminent psychologist and philosopher William James famously observed:

"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

There are many simple and common sense actions for expressing your appreciation to your employees. All of them contribute to them feeling more valued.

Here are just a few
Catch people doing things right and doing the right thing.
Give people genuine compliments.
Informally and formally celebrate with people what is going well for them.
Always say please and thank you and mean it.
Be courteous and kind.
Share stories about the successes of your people.
Be compassionate.

A further simple yet profound way to help people feel valued is to find out what is really important to them and then help them to achieve whatever it is.

The more people feel valued, the more they will deliver value to others, and the more they will live the behaviours of your values. You can see why I say that there ought to be a strong, unbreakable bond between values, value and valued.

People feeling fulfilled

I love the word fulfilled because of what it means “satisfied or happy because of fully developing one's abilities or character.”

There are some great synonyms for fulfilled as well like “realized, carry through, accomplish, execute, carry out.”

The number of employees you have who you could say the above about I guarantee that your business results are a direct reflection.

Often when I begin change initiatives with organisations I interview the leadership team and the people that report to them to get a sense of who is willing and able to change. I end up with a rule of thumb assessment of where people are at in the following four categories:

I then dig deeper checking the vital signs of employees feeling fulfilled or not.

I am particularly interested in employee turnover and why people are leaving and staying. I also want to know the amount of time leaders are spending trying to sought out so-called people problems. Low employee turnover is a sign employees feel fulfilled. The less time leaders are spending trying to solve people issues is also a sign.

I then dig deeper still. I want to know what the majority of people feel and think about the following three statements:

We understand the defining moments in people’s lives and help them to bring the lessons learned in these moments to their work.

We are aware of and have continual conversations with people about what really matters to them.

We help people identify what is special about them, their unique gifts/talents, and then make it simple for these gifts/talents to be enhanced.

If I find that less than 90% of the time people feel these statements are true, then I know that the organisation has got work to do.

Once I have done my investigative work as described above I design a program with my client to close performance gaps.

The outcomes of such programs are directly and indirectly connected to increasing the number of employees who are fully alive.

Fulfilled human beings are spiritually alive, emotionally healthy, mentally alert, physically active, and universally aware.

The above diagram is from book Remarkable Workplaces. You can download it along with my other books and resources, all from the one PDF file here. 

Imagine even just a small increase in the number of your employees feeling more alive!

People feeling loved

Most people live in fear.

Most people are frightened of being hurt. 

Most people fear they won’t be liked if they take a certain action. 

Most people fear losing. 

Most people fear the possible consequences of naming the elephant in the room - the obvious truth that is being ignored or going unaddressed.

I drew a laugh one time when someone in a meeting asked me for my thoughts. Without referring to anyone in particular I said “I can’t speak at the moment because the elephant in the room has got her foot on my throat.”

After the laughter died down and a long silence, the person we probably all least expected had the courage to finally name the elephant. Everyone felt better straight away.

I notice over and over that when fear is named it vanishes or at very least we feel able to confront it.

If you want to help people enhance their gifts/talents and to bring their best to their work then we must help them, support them, encourage them to face their fears.

The opposite of fear is love.

The Ancient Greeks had four words for love. You no doubt know two - eros (romantic love) and agape (love in a spiritual sense). The third is storge, meaning natural affection like parents feel for their children.
The fourth, philia, is the one I find the most insightful for our workplaces. 

Philia is often translated as affectionate regard or friendship. We need more philia in our workplaces.

I find it simple (not always easy) to have affectionate regard for people because I know everyone of us is a one-of-a-kind human being. Only the hardest of heart can’t not love a one-off.

When there is affectionate regard or friendship in our workplaces better performance follows. 

Usually in my experience very, very quickly.

In Q & A sessions that follow a lot of my presentations I often break the ice by asking people what they are passionate about. The most common answer is family. I then go on and ask the following four questions:

1. What makes great families great?
2. What do great parents do?
3. What do great life-partners do?
4. What do you notice about siblings who really get along?

Whatever the answers I then ask: What would happen in your organisation tomorrow if you began to apply the principles behind your answers?

I leave you to answer these questions and then apply the principles behind your answers in your workplace. 

Improved performance will follow your actions I promise.

“Love drives out fear” say many of the ancient texts in all sorts of ways.

“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” 
From the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’.

Helping people to feel valued, then fulfilled, and ultimately loved is grown-up work. The great paradox though is that being grown-up still requires us to tap into the key characteristics of our being a four year old, speaking the truth, and being candid, curious and caring.

Who will you become?

What will you do next?

Be remarkable.

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