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Leaders: Give Thanks for Your People

January 13th, 2010 Posted in Marketing, Offbeat News

Mike Prokopeak

Between the travel tie-ups and the rush to begin the holiday shopping season, it’s easy to forget the Thanksgiving holiday is intended as a time to give thanks. That message is important for leaders to remember at all times, but especially now when many in the workforce continue to reel from the aftereffects of the Great Recession.

“It is more important now,” said management consultant Ken Blanchard, author of business best-sellers such as The One Minute Manager and the recently revised and updated Leading at a Higher Level. “We’ve lost the trust of our public; we’ve lost the trust of our people.”

Blanchard, who holds the position of chief spiritual officer for The Ken Blanchard Companies, a provider of workplace learning, employee productivity and leadership training, said restoring trust within the workforce begins with developing a leadership point of view.

“What are their beliefs about leading and motivating people, where did they come from, what can people expect of them and what do they expect of people?” Blanchard said. “It’s such a powerful thing, especially when they start to share it with their people.”

This personal leadership mission statement defines a leader’s values and, when used properly, guides his or her future behavior. “Based on that, what are your beliefs about motivating and leading people, then what are you going to do on a daily basis to recalibrate that you’re going to be that kind of leader?” Blanchard said.

But perhaps the most significant part of developing a leadership point of view is the personal and organizational change it can create.

“Leadership is a transformational journey starting with yourself,” Blanchard said. “A lot of times there will be a problem with an organization, and you’ve got a leader who has really never had a chance to look at themselves. Their ego drives their behavior. They think life is all about them.”

Pushing those kinds of leaders to probe and develop a point of view makes them realize the importance of the people around them.

“In quiet moments of reflection, they get that they are here to serve rather than be served,” Blanchard said. “But if they’ve never sat and thought about it, then they get caught up by lousy role models and the pressures of Wall Street and they start to think that leadership is all about them and their concerns.”

Blanchard pointed to fast food company Chick-fil-A as an organization that understands the importance of leadership point of view. The Atlanta-based company even developed a leadership model, SERVE, that is taught to managers of the company’s 1,400 restaurants. SERVE stands for:

  • See and shape the future.
  • Engage and develop people.
  • Reinvent continually, personally and structurally.
  • Value both people and results.
  • Embody the values.

That focus on a leadership point of view and the resulting servant model of leadership is good for Chick-fil-A’s business, Blanchard said. He reports that the company has less than 2 percent turnover, significantly less than similar businesses with a large hourly workforce.

“They’re not even open on Sunday and they kill everybody in the fast food industry in six days,” he said.

Blanchard said Chick-fil-A’s servant leadership model delivers business results and human satisfaction because it brings together the strategic vision — where the company is headed — and its operations — making sure the organization works for its people.

“Having a clear leadership point of view and sharing it with your people shows them that you respect them, you want to be clear with them,” Blanchard said. “They can hold you accountable for that. If you face them and respect them and share with them, then you’re going to have a chance to rebuild trust.”

CLOs can help leaders develop a leadership point of view and implement the models and behaviors that go along with it. The biggest problem, Blanchard said, is that learning leaders too often look for the next great idea.

“We’ve spent too much time looking for the next new management concept, and we don’t follow up [on] what we just taught our people,” he said. “How many diets does it take to lose weight? Only one you stick to. They need to find something that really makes sense, that is consistent with the leadership point of view of their top managers, and drive that through the organization.”

Despite the challenges, now is the time to work on implementing a leadership model and training people to carry it out.

“This is a time not to turn your back on training, but to prepare the people who are still going to be with you in the future to be the best that they can and to have the skills that they need,” Blanchard said.

That result would indeed be something to give thanks for.

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