• Needling Worldwide

A wise leader knows the employees are their greatest asset, and treats them as such

In the business world, it’s so easy and tempting, almost the default really, for professionals with employees to see the tasks at hand and just focus on getting the job done. Of course, this is necessary; but also vital is treating their employees with respect and seeking to nurture them both as people and professionals... leading with the heart.

In, Scott Mautz writes how “almost 60 percent of employees say that the single biggest thing they want from their boss is for him/her to be inspiring.” He also emphasizes how it’s important to “invest in their personal growth and development and help foster their sense of competence and self-esteem.”

CEO Gary Burnison of Korn Ferry consulting firm draws a stark contrast of pre-pandemic business protocols vs. teleworking as the new paradigm, hence Zoom calls taking over as the primary business norm: “If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s … Now we need to be more radically human—vulnerable, authentic, empathetic, aware. Or, in a word, graceful.”

This conveys real wisdom of how even in professional environments, we all need to take ourselves less seriously and allow for the obvious recognition that the chaos of everyday life will blend with work without disrupting it. In other words, make allowance for a Zoom meeting that features a package carrier at the door, kids asking about homework, cats photobombing as well as dogs barking. And this is just the morning call.

Burnison also emphasizes how leaders must not just hear but actively listen:

Sure, listening takes time—that most precious of commodities. But the payoff can be immeasurable. When people are listened to, they’re motivated. And when they’re motivated, they feel validated. And when they feel validated, they outperform.
The difference between hearing and listening is comprehending. After all, knowledge is what you know, wisdom is acknowledging what you don’t know. Listen, learn, and then lead.

The job market’s sheer numbers prove how people are the greatest resource:

According to recent reports, there were nearly 11 million unfilled jobs in the United States and ongoing supply-chain bottlenecks, many of the shortages that firms are facing are a reflection of outdated management practices and misaligned value propositions.

Recent surveys also indicate how “Nearly 70 percent of employers say they’re having difficulty filling roles... But experts say it isn’t necessarily due to a lack of people willing to work. It’s partly a skills mismatch.”

Yet as it now stands, only 40 percent of the firms offer development programs. Leaders will need to upskill the existing workforce and find creative solutions to fill gaps, whether through digitization or tapping into new labor pools, such as older employees. At the same time, employers will likely have to bump up pay, offer flexible scheduling, and figure out how to tap into intrinsic motivators.

A wise leader pays attention to these factors especially given how, with 4.5 million Americans quitting their jobs last November alone, it’s clear the Great Resignation remains ever-present. Elise Hyman, Senior VP over Korn Ferry HR, expounds on motivations behind this: “It’s never just about money... It’s about the broader ecosystem, including the company’s purpose, the culture, and the relationship with managers.” This reveals a clear indication that the stale status quo doesn’t cut it as far as enticing workers to stay.

Jonathan Malesic, author of The End Of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us And How To Build Better Lives, told NPR’s All Things Considered:

Wages and benefits are, obviously, a huge part of the rewards that we get from our work. But those aren't the only rewards. A reward is not just monetary, but it's social. It's emotional. It can even be spiritual. And, you know, simply being appreciated by your co-workers, your bosses but also your customers, patients, clients, your listeners is another reward that we can derive from work. So I think that job satisfaction, in terms of rewards, needs to encompass all of those different elements.

Consequently, Burnison cautions leaders:

It’s not about you. Once we improve ourselves, our job is then to improve others. After all, we aren’t solo performers—poets in a garret, writing by candlelight. We work with and through others. Quite simply, our success is measured in what others achieve. One thing I’ve learned in my 15 years of being a CEO is that strategy is 90 percent execution—and 90 percent of execution is people. But the biggest risk we face as leaders is going up the mountain and suddenly, halfway up, when we look behind there’s nobody there. Ultimately, leadership is about inspiring others to believe. But if we don’t believe it ourselves, why should anybody else? Our aspiration should truly be the inspiration of others.
The Covid era has revealed an enduring truth: it’s people—colleagues and teams, managers and leaders— who discover and disrupt, innovate and create. The New Year is our time of change. Indeed, the change we want to see in others starts with us.

As Needling Worldwide’s President and CEO, this is my utmost priority as a leader:

As many of you know, my leadership style is a “nurturing leader.” I recognize that by nurturing the skills of my employees along with recognizing them as a whole person with day-to-day issues, challenges, and successes is the best approach to build loyalty, trust, retention and ultimately respect. I would hope that if I passed today, many of my current and past employees wouldn’t spend a lot of time on my accolades but rather on my character and the impact and influence I made on them as professionals and people. I believe in the uplifting of people and kindness; understanding and grace is the key. It truly is why I am successful today and have such a high retention rate.

Leading with compassion: it’s smart, the right thing to do; and it works.

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