We Need More “Heart and Soul” in the Age of “Mind and Strength”

Wise organizations distinguish themselves from competitors by developing their heart and soul. Organizations that have heart and soul enrich their owners, customers and communities in both economic and non-economic ways.

What do I mean by heart and soul?  Let me explain.

While out running errands one day when we were relatively new to town, my wife stopped in at one of several jewelry stores on the main shopping street.  The cases were filled with beautiful pieces, new and heirloom.  The salespeople, however, were more than aloof.  They ignored her.  No eye contact.  No smile.  No “hello, my name is X, may I help you?”  This lack of connection made her feel as if they thought she was unworthy of their attention.  Not surprisingly, she has never gone back. These salespeople lacked the qualities I describe as heart and soul.

The absence of heart and soul in the workplace is not unusual.  This is the age of mind and strength. So often we focus on the tasks of our work and neglect the relational aspects.  As human beings we have emotions, hopes and dreams, a conscience, and deeply felt human needs.  Research from a variety of fields has shown that when we recognize these realities and treat others in ways consistent with them, we thrive. When we don’t, it is damaging to our mental and physical health and to the health of those around us.

If I owned that jewelry store I would encourage everyone on the staff to be intentional about developing heart, soul, mind and strength.  Mind and strength are important because we compete based on the excellence of our work.  Heart and soul are important because developing relationship excellence is necessary to sustain task excellence.  When relationships fail among colleagues, communication breaks down and rivalries develop that reduce cooperation and team spirit.  Many customers can sense this.  When relationships with customers are not established or nurtured, such as in my wife’s case, an opportunity to develop customer loyalty is missed.

In my store I would encourage my colleagues to take the time to treat everyone as human beings rather than human doings.  This applies to those we work alongside, our suppliers, and our customers.  A good place to start is getting to know the first and last names, stories and interests of these people, and to find something you have in common with everyone you meet.

In my store I would hire employees like my teenage daughter, an aspiring actress who works part-time at a clothing boutique in our town.  Just the other day while driving by her store, I spotted her standing outside smiling, greeting passersby and handing out flyers about the sale going on inside.  People smiled back at her. Her enthusiasm is contagious (an effect that sociologists call “emotional contagion”).  My daughter has the courage to be the first to reach out to connect with people in her orbit, knowing full well that some will refuse or ignore her.

Human nature is such that there will always be people who purchase jewelry as a badge of success.  More and more today, however, people are defining success in non-material ways.  Many are seeking significance by deepening their relationships with family and friends. To promote these connections, I would help customers commemorate significant events or people in their lives with the purchase of jewelry that has a personalized symbol or message. Furthermore, should they desire it, I would offer the service of a writer to help them compose a special note to go along with the gift of jewelry for that important event. To get the word out about these services, I would write advertisements that communicate heart-warming stories about how our jewelry store helped individuals in this way.

As a means of connecting the store with the broader community, I would welcome local non-profit organizations to use my space in the evenings for events such as fundraisers. This is a great way to connect with people in your community and raise awareness of your presence.

To nurture the courage to connect is to nurture a big heart and a beautiful soul.  You will see that connection enriches the lives of your staff, your customers and the people in your community, creating not only economic wealth, but a wealth of even greater value.

Michael Lee Stallard helps leaders at organizations such as General Electric, Google, Johnson & Johnson, NASA and Yale-New Haven Hospital boost productivity, innovation and overall performance. He is the primary author of the book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity or Productivity.

This article appeared in In Design magazine.

IMG_0887P.S. In the article I mention our daughter.  A few weeks ago we received a letter from a woman in our town with a note  thanking our daughter for coming to her rescue late one night after she had fallen and broken her hip while walking the family dog.  As it turns out, our daughter and two friends spotted the woman, went to check on her and discovered she was hurt.  The woman asked the kids to get her husband, which two of them did.  The husband and our daughter helped the woman into their car and off they went to the hospital.  In the note the woman wrote that one of her memories was seeing an angelic face helping her get into her car.  She also wrote that she would be making a donation in our daughter and her friends’ names to our local high school scholarship fund.  How great is that! Another fine example of heart and soul. (Thanks for indulging a father who’s proud of both of our daughters’ hearts and souls).

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