Transformational Leadership

Leadership Tip #1 – Know Your Why

Susan Bagyura asked:

As a leadership coach, I am a firm believer that a person has to be able to lead themselves before they can successfully lead another individual, a team or an organization. Where is the best place to start?

The first thing a great leader should do is to determine what their purpose is. This is their ‘why’. I don’t mean the fancy purpose or mission statements that you see hanging on walls that no one understands or pays any attention to. I mean the purpose, the guiding reason that leader has for the business.

Why are they there? It has to be something beyond profits. I believe the best leaders are the ones that are focused on bringing out the best in their people – transforming lives. When someone has that as their purpose, the profits just naturally follow. From that standpoint, they can determine what their vision is for business based on the guiding purpose.

So it follows that once the leader knows their purpose, to then be open, truthful and transparent in communicating that purpose and vision. It is actually quite surprising, but many times in companies that have more than a couple of hundred employees, the people don’t even know the name of the CEO. They feel no connection to the leader and certainly no connection to the purpose and vision for the business. This also translates to how valued they feel. When a person does not feel valued for their contribution, they will not be committed to its success.

This has a very serious impact on the business. The company’s greatest assets are their employees and their customers. Some may put it the other way around, but they are both very important in my eyes.

Let’s take a closer look. If the employees are not happy and don’t feel valued, anyone that they come into contact with will know it. If a customer hears an employee speaking badly about their employer, it has a negative impact. I have personally seen it where disgruntled employees are perfectly happy to tell any customer just how bad they think things are within the business. This certainly does not inspire confidence in the customer.

Customers like to hear happy employees. There is a subconscious thing that happens then. If employees are happy, then it must follow that the company treats them well. If a company treats their employees well, then they certainly are going to treat the lifeline or in other words, their customers well.

I think that the leadership of the company should know the ‘why’ of its employees and the ‘why’ of its customers. Now I recognize as a company grows in size that there will be people other than the leader that will be responsible for this, but the principle remains the same. When we know the why for our employees and customers, this will also inspire people to be and do more.

When it comes to knowing the customers ‘why’, this is what makes a tremendous difference in the relationship between vendor and customer. When a company knows the why of their customers then they are focused on helping them achieve their goals and markets products and services that will move them in the direction of their goals. The development of products will be based on the needs of the clients. When companies are operating in this mode, they are no longer competing for business. They are very much operating on the creative plane.

So it all really gets down to this one fact: The company is a reflection of its leadership. It is easy to figure out what it happening at the top based on what you see happening on other levels of an organization. Sometimes people will want to point the finger and say the problem is here or there, meaning in different departments, but actually everything filters down from the top. So if we want to see different results in any and every area of the business, it must start with the leader first.

Then additionally, I think that a leader needs to maintain this balance. One thing that I suggest my clients do is spend at least an half hour each day just writing about ways that they can improve their service. Now they may not implement everything – probably only 10 to 20 percent of what they come up with, but this exercise gets them thinking from another standpoint. The people who receive the most are the ones who give the most. This is true for individuals, but also for businesses. If the focus is on how can we give the absolute best service, then the profits will follow. If a company is only focused on profits, they missing the big picture and will always be scurrying for business instead of having clients chasing them.

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