What Are They Looking For?

As we’ve worked through each of these individual profitability killers, my goal has been to provide you with some basic, practical steps you can take in applying specific behaviors that help you communicate with and lead your team members more effectively, making a measurable difference in your organization’s bottom line. And I honestly believe, based on the results I’ve seen personally, that putting even a few of these steps into place can result in significant productivity increases AND huge gains in overall profitability! That said, much of the perspective I’ve used to address each profitability killer has been based on it just being the logical (and right) thing to do. There’s one point of view I’ve intentionally avoided until now though; that perspective of so many people who are begging for great leadership in society today…

I’ve heard John Maxwell comment on some of what he sees as he develops leaders around the world, saying that he’s far too often left feeling “leadership sad.” So many families, churches, civic organizations, and basically any other type of group I could possibly name fall short of providing the kind of effective leadership that each of us truly deserve! As we think back to each of the individual profitability killers we’ve worked through together, I’ll challenge you with yet another question: have you ever stopped to consider, “What are they looking for?” What do the individuals you’ve accepted responsibility for leading need most from you?

I often talk about how much I still enjoy so many of the hair bands from the 80s. Quite honestly, there are only a handful of bands I’ve really listened to since. One of those, which may well be one of my top ten favorite bands of all time at this point, is called Alter Bridge. Interestingly enough, they’ve been hugely successful in Europe but have received just a fraction of the same attention in the States in spite of being incredible musicians and their singer having one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. (In case you’ve never heard of them, three of the members were in Creed then got a good singer and started playing to their full potential…) In 2016 they released a song called Show Me a Leader that included these lyrics:

Disillusioned and tired of waiting

For the one

Who's intentions are pure unpersuaded

We can trust

Cause a promise is never enough

We need to know this is not the end

How will we ever get by?

It's getting harder to fight

Out here on our own

Show me a leader that won't compromise

Show me a leader so hope never dies

Show me a leader that knows what is right

Show me a leader so hope can survive

We need a hero this time

Or we will never survive

This clearly isn’t the entire song; I’d encourage you to check it out on your own. And while the opening verse (not referenced here) seems to have a bit more of a political slant - and is as fitting today as it was then - it didn’t grab me like the rest of the song did when I first heard it. Truth be told, the portion I’ve shared with you here captures the essence of what I’ve heard from so many great people across every industry! Without someone in leadership with pure intentions, any one of us can lose a level of hope. Without that leader who won’t compromise their values, it’s most certainly a harder fight. And if they’re struggling to just get by, I’m not sure how much profitability we can expect to survive…

So I’ll ask you again, do you know what they’re looking for from you as their leader? Have you heard their requests, however subtle they may be? As we wind down this look at how much profitability is killed by poor leadership, we’ll look at the impact bad managers have on their employees and we’ll look at what we can do to provide our teams with the support they need. First though, we need to identify what every team needs from their leader!

What Support Can You Provide?

If we really are tuned into what our team members are looking for from us as their leaders, we need to be intentional about providing them with the support they’ll need to accomplish their goals. Some of those goals tie right back to daily, weekly, or monthly productivity but those goals could just as easily be measured by where they want their careers to go. In either case, the support we provide them (or lack thereof) is often the difference between success and failure!

An article from Forbes.com called 10 Ways Managers Can Support Employee Career Growth shared this emphasizing the importance a leader plays in their team members’ success, and how their individual success can impact the entire company:

Suppose managers neglect to have important conversations with their employees about their career goals. In that case, they could risk having their most talented workers feel like they aren’t appreciated, hurting morale and productivity. Showing employees that they have the support of both the company and the manager in their career advancement can lead to better retention and company growth overall.

In a Harvard Business Review article called Making Sure Your Employees Succeed, the author quoted Linda Hill, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, as saying that “A manager’s job is to provide ‘supportive autonomy’ that’s appropriate to the person’s level of capability.” The article went on to emphasize that “the key is to be hands-on while giving your people the room they need to succeed on their own.”

In an article from the Society for Human Resource Management called 6 Ways Managers Can Help Employees Achieve Their Performance Goals, the author points to the importance of ongoing communication with employees rather than just the traditional review process once or twice each year, quoting DJ Casto as saying that “People typically shut down once they hear what their rating is, especially if they didn’t get the highest rating.”

Each of those articles had direct ties to formal performance evaluations and long term career development, both of which are critical in how we support our team members. And as we discussed when we looked at how poor promotions and unclear expectations, each kills profitability. For our purposes here, I want you to consider it from a deeper perspective… I want you to consider how much it means to each individual we lead when they know we’ve got their back in every aspect of their role; how we’re there for them when they make a mistake, how we notice when something’s bothering them, and how we’re willing to help them grow in whatever direction they want their career to take.

If we can provide this kind of support, we’ll be well on our way to proving that our intentions are pure and unpersuaded, and that will earn a level of trust that can’t be found through annual reviews alone. But as Myles Kennedy said, “a promise is never enough!”

I realize all this seems like a lot… And it is! Something I’ve heard far too many business owners, executives, and managers comment on is how needy their people can be, often referring to them as high maintenance when they need more guidance or direction than was provided in the proverbial memo… (Like the one in Office Space about the TPS reports…) Before we risk taking that same approach, I believe it will serve us well to think about what kind of support we’ve each received from a great leader at some point in our own career!

We ALL Need Great Leaders!

After a couple of references to a song as recent as 2016, I feel like I need to mix in something from the hair band era to maintain my street cred so let’s think in terms of Shelter Me by one of the most talented bands ever included in that genre, Cinderella. After listing several vices people resort to, including rock & roll being his own, Tom Kiefer sang about how “we all need a little shelter and it’ll be alright!”

In all seriousness, I believe that fits right in with our leadership responsibility! If we’re willing to care enough about our team members to recognize what they’re looking for and give them the support they deserve, we can never brush them off as being needy! Heck, we might even end up being that shelter that makes it alright… If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, I’m sure we can all point to any number of times where a great leader made a lasting impact on us when many in supervisor or manager roles would have considered us as needy…

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I’ve been blessed to have worked with several outstanding leaders over the last few decades and each of them have played a significant role in my professional and personal development. One stands out more with this particular profitability killer than the others though. It wasn’t that he was any better, it was more about the timing and what he provided.

In 2014, after close to two decades with the same company - which was exactly half my life at that point - I made a very tough decision to change careers. I had worked extremely hard in that organization and had achieved a fair amount of success, both locally and with the teams I served across North America. That said, I no longer felt like I had support from the folks I reported to. Think back to “show me a leader whose intentions are pure and unpersuaded, and won’t compromise…” It had indeed gotten much harder to fight and my hope, at least in that organization, was struggling to survive. Quite honestly, it hurt to even be in that spot where I felt like moving on was the only real option. While I certainly had some great opportunities during my time there, the decision was still really tough because I had so many strong relationships there and I had given so much to earn them.

From the first interview I had with the small company I ended up joining, I felt a great connection with the guy who I would report directly to. He was several years younger than me and a son of the owner but he was as genuine and as humble as anyone I’d ever met. He had significantly more experience in that specific industry, and had some very unique experience outside that industry, but he didn’t have nearly as much overall safety or human resources experience as I did. None of that, however, had anything to do with what made him such an effective leader! He was extremely confident in his own role but very quick to shine a light on everyone around him for their individual contributions. And that was such a breath of fresh air after being involved with several others in leadership roles (but absolutely not effective leaders) who were far more interested in their own accolades than they were in ensuring anyone around them had the support they needed…

As you can imagine, there’s far more to that story but the details aren’t the point. What I want you to consider here is how much value you’ve gotten from the great leaders you’ve worked with to this point in your career AND I want you to think about how many of the folks reporting to you have gotten that kind of support from you…

With the impact a great leader can make being fresh on your mind, we’ll change gears to consider how bad managers affect employees and how bad leadership kills profitability, so stay tuned!