Will They Contribute to Your Gift?

No one wanted to contribute to her holiday gift.”

The assistant manager told me that during the holidays, it is customary for all employees of her retail store to chip in to buy the store manager as well as the assistant managers a gift for the holidays. The problem was that the workers were mostly part-time, hourlies. As we all know, based on those circumstances, this would put a strain on their wallets.

However, this same manager told me that when it came time for a collection for her gift, everyone was willing to give what they could. The workers later told her,”For you, we will willingly give because you are always there for us.” Not so much for the big shot at the top of the pyramid – the store manager.

Why they contributed

Corporations today are infested with managers that are out of control. For someone not wanting to contribute $5 towards a gift for you, that is the ultimate sign you have lost. While the other mangers contributed enough to make up for a gift for the store manager, not one of the other workers came forward to put money in the pot. NOT ONE!

Yet they did contribute to the gift for the assistant manager I spoke with. She told me that some of these young workers confided in her that they contributed “because we love MS.”

One of the elements of leadership is about connecting with your people. The simple act of letting everyone on the org chart feel respected and cared for is the essential part of good leadership.

In asking what did she did to earn the loyalty of the staff, the assistant manager told me, “I care for my people. While each of them carry a lot of issues, I try and understand and use the process of attunement. That means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

She related stories to me of how she feels like the “mother hen,” counseling, advising and serving as a sounding board to each of them. She recounted the story of how she took a chance on one worker who, based on her application, was unlikely to be a stellar employee. Not a strong work history, very shy, but the assistant manager felt something and decided this was going to be her project.

Taking a chance

Months later this employee was her No. 1 employee. She literally wrote a letter to this manager thanking her for the job and how much she enjoyed it, but more importantly thanking her manager for taking that chance

I am a sucker for these type stories because it shows how each of us as leaders can make a difference in our people’s lives. When I hear managers tell me that they are overwhelmed my thoughts always connect to this part of the equation: If your employees were empowered to do their jobs, it would give you more time. If you made the connection, you would have all the time you needed.

When I offer that observation, what I typically hear back is why that will not work. As I tell the people in my company, here is the problem, come back to me with ideas. I am always amazed by their thought process and their creative approaches. That is when the discussion begins as we fine tune their ideas. This is how you grow people and give them the confidence that is needed.

The magic of empowerment

Empowerment is the key to leading people. If you hired them for the job, let them do it and get out of their way. If you took a chance on a hire, give then latitude to move forward. A high-powered team is the ultimate in organizations today. Problem is we have to many micro-mangers whose presence is so strong they exasperate their people who then just go through the motions.

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Imagine for a second if we could turn our people into high performers with exemplary talent and unleash them on the organization. And do not tell me that they are not capable because you hired them. And if you did not, what are you going to do to fix it?

The most important role today of a leader is to morph into a coach. I played football in high school and what I remember most is not the game but the coach who instilled in each of us kids the importance of striving for perfection and giving it your all. I had the honor of spending some quality time with him before he passed away. I told him, “Thank you.” While the game was important, the leadership lessons were the powder that propelled me to success.

So as we hire people and either take a chance or we feel it is a solid hit, we must move away from the manger label and coach them to hire performance.

The real VIPs

Some years back, the LA Philharmonic was looking for an orchestra leader. There was no shortage of candidates with stellar resumes. However, they took a chance on a young orchestra leader and put their faith in him. His name is Gustavo Dudamel.

His first concert, he told the board, would be unique. He asked their permission to let him do it his way, making his debut with a concert free to the community. He invited all the car parkers, ushers, stage crew to be his guests. In other words, he invited all the people that worked for the LA Phil. Many had never actually been to a concert. However, he wanted them all as his guest. His first concert, as he noted, was to the VIPs of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In all, 18,000 people attended that first concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

While the board had trepidation about this approach, they could never have fathomed the engagement, and dedication that would manifest itself from that point forward. They absolutely fell in love with this new director and his approach to people

Leadership is about connecting, and nothing else.

So, in the final analysis, if your workers were asked to contribute to a gift for you, who would contribute?

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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