Career

Leadership Recognizes the Connection Between People and Profits


leadership wall sign saying I am powerful

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently released a State of the Workplace Study that had some interesting findings. It reported that only 25% of HR professionals felt their organization was effective in finding and recruiting talent. And only 26% said that the organization was successful in developing people managers. What’s particularly challenging is that we all know there’s a relationship between management and recruiting. 

While I was reading the SHRM Study, I also had on my desk “Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust” by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. You might remember that I interviewed Dr. Blanchard a few years ago about leadership and management. Reading both the SHRM Study and “Simple Truths” at the same time made me realize that I should take the connection one step further. There’s a connection between management, leadership, and recruiting. 

So, I reached out to Dr. Blanchard and asked if he would share his thoughts with us again. This time, I wanted to specifically focus on some of the challenges that organizations are facing right now in terms of management and recruiting. Thankfully, he said yes. 

Dr. Blanchard, welcome back to HR Bartender! And congrats to you and Randy on your new book. For those who might be unfamiliar with servant leadership, how would you describe the concept?

[Blanchard] When people hear the phrase servant leadership, they are often confused. They think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. Yet you can if you understand that there are two parts to servant leadership: 

  • A visionary/direction, or strategic, role—the leadership aspect of servant leadership.
  • An implementation, or operational, role—the servant aspect of servant leadership.

All good leadership starts with a visionary role. The traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective for this, the leadership aspect of servant leadership. While leaders should involve experienced people in shaping direction, the ultimate responsibility remains with the leaders themselves and cannot be delegated to others. 

Dr. Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley with their book cover Simple Truths Leadership

Once people are clear on where they are going, the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for the task of implementation—the servant aspect of servant leadership. Here, servant leaders philosophically turn the traditional hierarchical pyramid upside down. When that happens, the customer contact people and the customers are at the top of the organization, and the ‘top’ management is at the bottom. Servant leaders now work for their people to develop them and help them win—accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization. Servant leadership is about developing great relationships, getting great results, and delighting your customers. 

Speaking of customers, in your book, Simple Truth #11 says, “Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people so they will take good care of your customers.” How can servant leadership help people understand the connection between people and profit?

[Blanchard] Servant leaders know financial success is a byproduct of how their people and their customers are treated. If you serve and take care of your people as your most important customer, they will go out of their way to serve and take care of your second most important customer—the folks who buy your products and services. These people will become raving fans and tell their friends about the service they received, which serves the bottom line and the needs of the owners or shareholders. Organizations can’t survive without the loyalty and commitment of their customers. 

One of the other things that I found interesting about Simple Truth #11 was the mention of creating a “motivating” environment. How does “motivating” differ from “engaging”? Which is preferred today and why?

[Blanchard] When you catch people doing things right and praise them, and when you give them a kind redirection instead of a reprimand when they go off track, they will feel engaged and then be motivated to continue doing their best. Engagement is a feeling of belonging, a desire to do your best work. Motivation is the willpower to act. I think both are necessary. You can’t really have one without the other.

One of the challenges that business leaders are facing right now is a staffing shortage. How can embracing servant leadership help organizations with their staffing challenges?

Simple Truths Leadership book cover 3D

[Blanchard] These days it’s a buyer’s market when it comes to employment—there are more jobs available than there are people to do the work. If an employer with a servant leadership culture has an opportunity to talk with a prospective employee about the benefits of that culture—empowerment, support, direction, side-by-side leadership, trust—that person will have reason to lean toward that opportunity. If all other things are equal, a servant leadership culture will win over a hardline, top-down hierarchical culture every time.

I do wonder if one of the reasons that organizations might be struggling is because they have managers who are burned out and overwhelmed. What would you suggest to help those managers?

[Blanchard] People who supervise others at any level need training in what signs to look for when they suspect someone is burned out. HR departments should ensure people in the organization are aware of employee assistance programs (EAPs) that provide free counseling and other help for employees under stress. Resources are out there—it’s up to leaders in organizations to let people know what resources are available to them.  

Last question, if managers only have time to focus on one thing in the upcoming year, what should it be? Why?

[Blanchard] Focus on your people. Pay attention to their needs. Listen to them and read between the lines. This is a difficult time for everyone, and you want to be sure you are the best employer they can imagine so they won’t want to join ‘The Great Resignation’. Treat your people right and they’ll treat your customers right and everyone will win.

My thanks to Dr. Blanchard for joining us again. If you want to learn more about servant leadership, check out his new book “Simple Truths of Leadership”. The book has 52 truths, one for every week of the year. I think it could be a practical, easy to use reminder for managers. 

I believe Dr. Blanchard was right when he talks about the organizations that will attract and hire the best talent. It will be the ones with the best managers and leaders. Organizations have to give managers the support and resources they need to be successful.

Image capture by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Fort Lauderdale, FL

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