Not every leader has the foresight or faith of Norm Miller, which is perhaps why Gallup’s research indicates that only 14% of workers feel inspired to grow after receiving performance reviews. Yet Miller’s not exactly radical; he just takes a fresh approach to managing a workforce.
As Interstate Batteries’ board chairman and former CEO, Miller leads from a humble, centered place. Not only does he shower his employees with resources and investment, but he carries his religious beliefs wherever he goes. It’s a beautiful blend of fiscal and people stewardship that’s resulted in a $2 billion company fueled by his creativity, risk tolerance, and spirituality.
While Miller’s supervisory style might seem unrealistic for some executives, it proves the point that old, tired ways of leading teams need to be challenged. How else can we overcome Gallup statistics that reveal only about 20% of team members are motivated by management to achieve their best? Workplace disengagement and voluntary turnover costs businesses around $1 trillion annually. On the flip side, instilling passion in workers by helping them set and reach goals makes them 3.6 times more apt to be engaged.
I’ve always held firm to the belief that living your mission and modeling the behaviors you expect your employees to follow makes you a stronger business owner. Consequently, I see performance management as a philanthropic effort that creates a thriving community. Yes, we need to make profits; nevertheless, we should always measure success holistically by how effectively we share our gifts and treat others with kindness.
Miller has made a personal impact on my own leadership strategy. He wasn’t the only one. My older brother and I worked on plenty of entrepreneurial ventures over the years. I tended to be the prideful one, whereas he was authentic and transparent, living a genuine life. As I grew, he inspired me not to compartmentalize; accordingly, I’ve become a “what you see is what you get” executive.
If you’ve felt like an imposter or your leadership style isn’t producing fruit, I urge you to head in a new direction. Implementing several key strategies will help you connect on a deeper level with staff, allowing you all to do more tomorrow than you can today.
1. Lead intentionally from your soul
It’s no secret that younger workers want to be part of mission-driven corporations. I spent some of my formative years working for a mission organization where everyone raised their own salary. When you have an organization of 400 people basically operating like volunteers, you start to realize that the only way to promote buy-in is to create an unbelievably welcoming, trusting environment.
When I started Nature Nate’s, I carried over what I learned working for that employer. Instead of thinking about how much money could be made, I thought about how much good we could all do if we worked in tandem. I’m still outspoken about our mission, which I believe breathes even more life into our business and community. Everyone knows why they’re here, enabling them to work in the same direction from the heart.
2. Get comfortable with failure
You fail. I fail. It’s OK. The trick is to recognize the fail, make amends for it if necessary, and move on. Leaders often worry about seeming perfect, which generates a wall between them and their people. Allow workers to see you rectify small or major missteps by apologizing, establishing different processes, or simply taking another direction.
If your mantra is “Let’s make mistakes together,” everyone becomes more open to learning and taking measured, calculated risks. As long as what they do happens with the team’s objectives in mind, they’re failing out of a positive place. Sure, they should be held accountable; so should you. But accountability shouldn’t get in the way of inventiveness or progress because even monumental failure can have widespread value.
3. Become a steward of your workers
Most CEOs know they’re supposed to steward their corporation’s financial resources. Far fewer think about stewarding their human resources. Leadership offers an incredible opportunity to affect individuals and families for generations. If you take on the role as chief mentor, protector, and guide of your employees, you can help them far beyond their paycheck.
Taking this stance requires looking at management from a 360-degree perspective, but it’s the right thing to do. Employees spend so much time in their workplaces. They should be equipped and challenged to feel refreshed and energized — emotions they’ll ultimately carry home to inspire all the members of their households.
4. Welcome all conversations
I’d like to think I’m an approachable leader. I want people to feel comfortable coming to me with any ideas or problems, no matter whether they pertain to the job. When I say I have an open-door policy, I mean it: Anyone inside the company can walk into my office to chat when the need arises.
Often, what I hear during impromptu conversations isn’t professional. Nevertheless, it impacts the whole ambiance of the workplace. Sure, you have to make decisions as the boss. At the same time, you can be open-minded and warm.
Ready to test and improve your leadership abilities? You’ll never know how far you can take your team until you try a novel approach. And now is always a good time to start.