Do the shoemaker’s children always have to go barefoot?
Have you ever thought to ask a leader, “how much do you love your employees, and do you show them you care?”
In celebration of February 14th, the day dedicated to love here in the US and most of the world, it is a wonderful time to reflect and connect with the meaning of the day and what it could do if we begin to apply its meaning to the workplace.
For many organizations, the focus is on results, work processes, and customer satisfaction, but that leaves the employee out of the equation. Sure, we talk about engagement, but do we really love those that we work with and work for us, do we show them we really care about them? Years ago, J.W. Marriott clearly stated that employees are essential to the equation of successful business. “Take care of your associates and they’ll take care of your customers.” Care, a form of love, is critical to employee engagement, customer delight, and ultimately, superior results.
One of our 8 Factors of Engagement (8FE) is Care, and over the past year and a half we have been measuring it along with the other seven factors. Interestingly, it has consistently scored as one of the highest factors. When we looked at the average scores across factors in our database, Care has the highest average. Only 0.24 above the next factor, Purpose – the only two factors that score on average over a 4.0 on a 5-point scale (Recognition consistently scores as the lowest factor in our and other prominent engagement survey databases, and we will discuss that more in another article).
Broken down even further, we can see the three statements we use to measure Care and how they have scored:
- My supervisor cares about me
- People genuinely care about each other at work
- I care about the people I serve
It is wonderful to see that ‘I care about the people I serve’ scores the highest of all the 8FE statements, but just imagine what it would be if the other two statements would score over a 4.5 as well!
As a leader, part of what your leadership must demonstrate is how we care for one another and yourself. You must be able to love your staff for them to love the people they serve, and to do that show care (and love) for yourself. This is an issue we experience working with organizations and teams from time to time. I just sat down with an executive director who has a team of 15 leaders, and she can easily point out the third of them who are actively disengaged. They do not like their staff, they do not like their own job, it is simply a paycheck. To be able to help this team, the individual leaders must look to themselves first and ask what can I do to show care for myself so that it can be expressed to those who work for me. If you really want your customers to be served with a high level of engagement and the level of love and care, you as a leader, must show that care to your employees. But to do that for your employees, you must do that for yourself first. In short, care for self needs to come before we care for others, and in turn, the customer.
As a leader, as a supervisor, a manager, a business owner, what does it mean to love your employees and what’s the benefit of showing that love? Various articles discuss this and it is all nicely summed up in Richard Branson’s statement: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Branson speaks to an organization built on their own people for wonderful service that ensures long-term success.
Other experts have made Branson’s point in other ways. Shep Hyken, a customer service/experience expert and contributor at Forbes, puts the notion in the perspective of everyone having a customer. Whether an outside customer (someone who pays for goods/services) or an internal customer (a person who depends on you to do their job, such as a boss or employee), Hyken addresses that while most people think the outside customer is king, those outside customers cannot be completely satisfied unless people on the inside are doing their job. “What’s happening on the inside of an organization,” he says, “is felt on the outside of by your customers” (Hyken, 2014). A Harvard Business article says of their research that “the more love employees feel at work the more engaged they are…and report higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork” (Barsade, O’Neill, 2014). If we treat employees with love, if we treat them like they are our first customer – because they are buying our vision, our mission statement, our business model – they will relay that care and love back to our customers.
We know that the employee-first approach works, but how do we show this love? “Love is not a topic that arises often in management consulting,” an article about The Socio-Economic Approach to Management (SEAM) says. Considered a soft concept, love “is deemed irrelevant” (Conbere, Heorhiadi, Cristallini, 2012). But love is a significant factor in their successful results. We should love and appreciate our staff because it will propel the organization, but first and foremost because our employees deserve to be treated humanely with appreciation and care. It can be as small as making more time for conversations or supporting and encouraging additional training and education. Do what you can to put heart into the workplace.
There is an old proverb about a shoemaker who spent all his time making and selling shoes. He was so focused on keeping his customers happy that his wife and kids went shoeless. The moral being: we should not neglect those closest to us while we care for others. “Employees come first and if employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right, [and] the outside world uses the company’s products,” CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher echoes. With sole focus on the customer, on the product, on the financial return, employees can become disengaged, feel underappreciated and uncared for. Do not become subject to the Shoemaker’s Children Syndrome.
At the end of the day, it is about having the servitude mentality – what can I do to serve others? If we put our attention into servicing each other and serving the people in our organization, with love and care, we will have a greater impact on the people we serve. So, show love to your employees – demonstrate unconditional care. We, as individuals, we are all leaders. Everybody has leadership within them. And your focus as a leader is taking care of the employee, of your co-worker. Also remember to love yourself – that’s the bow around this idea of love and leadership. Because if you love yourself, and you love your employees, then you can properly care for the people you serve.
This is the first of a series of blogs on care. For more information and to find out how to understand and honor who you are to care better for your employees, contact Sicora Consulting.