This post is my apology to a former and great employee of mine whom I now realize I led very poorly – all the while she worked feverishly to complete an important project for me.
What makes me feel especially guilty about all this is that this employee, Kimberly, at one point really loved working for me. She routinely called me “MWB,” an acronym for “my wonderful boss,” and did a terrific job. Not only was the quality of her work generally exceptional, she was ambitious, proactive and got a lot of fantastic things accomplished before ever telling me she had taken them on.
So why would I treat her badly – thereby frustrating her and dampening her spirit more and more in every subsequent interaction?
Dr. Mimi Guarneri
When I interviewed Dr. Mimi Guarneri for Lead From The Heart, I asked if there were physiological reasons for why people who felt more cared for in the workplace were more productive. She responded without hesitation.
“There are only two human emotions, love and fear,” she told me. “Ultimately, you want your default mechanism to be love. But we have to really work on having love as our default mechanism. It’s very easy for us to give love to a puppy, our grandbaby and our kids. But it’s very hard in the workplace.”
“What leaders need to know is that there are many incentives for choosing love over fear,” she said. “A natural reason is that fear is a negative emotion which frequently releases stress hormones – adrenaline, aldosterone and cortisol – all which make us sick.”
As a real life example of how fear can wield lethal power, Dr. Guarneri related the story of one of her patients, a very wealthy man whose cancer had been in remission.
“When the financial crisis hit, he was, of course, affected and went through a very, very stressful period of time – a period mostly marked by fear. And his cancer came back.” Looking for some ideas as to what may have resuscitated his illness, Dr. Guarneri asked her patient “what’s different in your life today?”
In his entertaining and insightful book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell reinforces an idea I presented in Lead From The Heart: How people are made to feel has an enormous effect on their future behavior – especially when a leader makes an inevitable mistake.
To illustrate the point, Gladwell tells us that the risk of a doctor ever being sued has very little to do with how many errors they make. Actually, there’s an overwhelming number of people who’ve been by shoddy medical care yet never have filed a malpractice claim. harmed
So what’s the common denominator of people who do choose to sue?
Each week in these posts, I present examples of how leading from the heart has the effect of inspiring extraordinary engagement and productivity.
It’s my fundamental belief, of course, that leadership fails when it’s over-influenced by the mind and the heart is not consulted.
This week, I’d like to offer some perspective.
Just as leadership effectiveness is upended when the mind runs the entire show, it’s equally flawed if the heart is given top billing. What’s really needed is a balance between the two.
Since I very often share stories of what goes awry when the brain dominates leadership decisions, I’d like to share a past experience when I let my heart do all my thinking – and suffered a truly regrettable outcome.
The situation was tragic. Stacy, a long-time and very successful bank branch manager, was at work one Saturday when her husband called with a frantic plea to come home. Their only child, a five-year-old boy named Jason, had suddenly turned blue and stopped breathing.
In my most recent professional role, I was in charge of nationwide sales leadership for nearly 1,000 stock brokers – aka investment product sales representatives.
Prior to this position, I spent a large part of my career managing in Washington Mutual’s retail bank and with people whose natures were generally quite cooperative and accommodating.
When I moved into the investment division, I discovered fully-commissioned brokers behaved very differently than branch employees. Because they perceived themselves to be self-employed, they seemed predisposed toward being less trusting of management and always wanting more. Higher commissions. Better products. More freedom with their time.
Because I hadn’t spent my formative career years in the investments business, many of the managers in the division were quick to tell me that I couldn’t lead these people the same way I did when I worked with salaried bank employees. “You have to treat them very differently,” they said.
This guidance left me with the clear impression that the investment manager’s job was similar to a lion tamer’s. “The brokers will perform tricks for you when you throw them some raw meat – but you always need to protect yourself by holding up a chair or snapping a whip”.