Sitting in the historic St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan before the start of the memorial service for Frances Hesselbein, my thoughts turned to one of the last days I spent time with the remarkable woman who had led the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. back from decline decades earlier and transformed it into what Peter Drucker described as “the best-managed organization around.”
An opportunity exists for leaders and organizations to gain a performance and competitive advantage if they can win the war for talent. A recent conversation I had with Jon Clifton, CEO of The Gallup Organization, reinforced my long-held position that the x-factor in talent acquisition, employee engagement, and employee retention is connection. Fostering an environment in which workers feel connected to the organization, their supervisor, their colleagues, and the work they are doing will enable those organizations to pull further ahead of organizations that lack great jobs.
Campbell Soup Company was not in good shape when Doug Conant was named President and CEO in 2001. Sales were declining. The stock price was falling and it was underperforming the S&P 500. I’ve long held that it takes a commitment to pursuing both task excellence and relationship excellence in order to achieve sustainable superior performance. Pushing the task side alone won’t do it and will cause more harm. Brought in to effect a turnaround, Conant knew it would be essential for leaders across the organization to combine the two elements. He told leaders, “When you are both tough-minded [on issues] and tender-hearted [toward people], you can deliver ever-higher levels of performance.” People at Campbell’s would come to realize that he was serious about the relationship side of the equation.
Hubert Joly, a Frenchman and former partner at McKinsey & Co., blames the lack of connection in today’s organizations on the myopic views of economist Milton Friedman who advocated that the only thing that matters is maximizing shareholder value and on the popularity of a top-down, analytical and metrics-driven management philosophy that was exemplified by Robert McNamara in the 1970s. Joly believes in connecting with purpose and people, referring to it as “human magic” that results in “irrationally good performance.” He views it as being key to healing capitalism’s ills.
Today, IE Insights published my article, “Putin and the Dangers of Being a Lonely Leader.” In the article, I explain why social isolation from the pandemic and his autocratic leadership style may have contributed to three miscalculations Russian President Vladimir Putin has made and how he may be prone to making impulsive, irrational decisions in the future.
Do the people around you know that you are for them? Do they know whether you care about them, want them to be able to do their individual best, and will advocate for them? Having this assurance promotes a feeling of connection. It goes a long way in establishing trust and an environment of psychological safety. But if they don’t know with certainty that you are for them, they may feel you are indifferent to them (which is disconnecting) or assume, rightly or wrongly, that you are against them (which is very disconnecting).
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in a LinkedIn Live conversation with Walt Rakowich, former CEO of S&P 500 firm Prologis and author of the book Transfluence.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a new year truly ushered in a fresh start? The optimism we may have ordinarily had in past years as we turned the calendar to January and considered all of the new possibilities that lay ahead of us is a little harder to muster up this time. The Covid-19 pandemic, now in year three, and other stressors have taken a toll. Many people are exhausted and struggling. We’re seeing it in higher levels of frustration and uncivil behavior being directed at others as the Omicron variant sweeps across the globe and further disrupts plans. And while people may be able to put on a happy face at work, underneath the surface their emotional health is probably not great, according to recent research.