Those on the path to good leadership should raise the bar high -- very high. I say this because walking the higher road of integrity with eyes watching your every move in the 8-5 fish bowl can be a very lonely place.
But here's the hard truth of leadership: When leaders display the rarefied strength of valuing their employees, legacies are made, careers advance, and companies ultimately flourish.
If you've gotten this far, you're probably in the privileged role of influencing others. If so, I'm going to give you a simple model for valuing people, where tribes are appreciated, recognized and looked after.
The business case
But first, lets make the business case for it, where valuing and caring for your people relate to profits. Seriously? Yes.
For those familiar with the link between service and profit, in what we call in business lingo the "service-profit chain," here's how it works backwards: profit comes from customer loyalty; customer loyalty comes from customer satisfaction; customer satisfaction comes from better service; better service comes from employee productivity; employee productivity comes from employee satisfaction; and finally, employee satisfaction comes from those good leaders that treat employees well (the starting point in the chain).
Valuing people is a soft skill, and it takes both mind and heart to do it effectively. Just by virtue of using the word "heart," it eliminates the aspiring majority. But doing so is what will seamlessly drive human behavior down the path of higher productivity, better service, and ultimately, profit.
If you're in the assigned role of motivating and inspiring your tribe to perform at extraordinary levels, I'm going to supply you with some ammo. Here is the primary way that leaders value their people. Ready?
First, leaders that place people ahead of profit (which leads to more profit, imagine that!) will work hard to promote trust. That means that they create an environment where risks are taken, where employees feel safe and motivated to exercise their creativity, communicate ideas openly, and provide input to major decisions without reprimand. Because there's trust there.
But trust is a two-way street. So leaders trust and believe in the people that they lead as well. And when you value people by trusting them, you treat others with dignity and respect.
Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, said she wanted to make sure respect and dignity were key performance indicators when she took over as CEO. And she raised her own trust bar by being responsive to the needs of her people. This is how she valued her employees and restaurant franchisees.
Research on trust not kind
But trust in this social economy remains a baffling stigma. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published the findings on their Work and Well-Being Survey.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don't trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.
While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them.
But the great news is that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. In the survey results, employees were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work, and just plain happy about what they do.
Ninety-one percent were likely to say they are motivated to do their best (versus 37 percent who do not feel valued) and 85 percent were likely to recommend their employer to others (versus 15 percent of those who do not feel valued).
It's clear that a culture that feels valued, that promotes openness, honesty, transparency and trust are key to high-performance.
Bringing it home
Here's the most counter-intuitive part. More studies are coming out saying that if you trust and believe in your people first, and in return they reciprocate by believing in you as a leader, they will give their best work. In other words, although conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, in healthy organizations, leaders who put high emphasis on meeting employees' needs are willing to give trust to them first, and they give it as a gift even before it's earned. Now that's valuing people.