“I know many of you are trying to get to San Diego in time to make meetings, to see family, or to get back home. I am so sorry we can’t get you there on time. We’ll do everything we can to get you there as safely and as quickly as possible. We just can’t do that with this aircraft. I sincerely apologize.”
My husband and I were traveling to San Diego for a business trip when our connection in Dallas was delayed by a maintenance issue with the aircraft. We sat on the runway for about an hour, pulled back to the gate, unloaded, and had to change gates and planes. In all, about a three hour delay.
How many times have you had to sit on the plane with no information, waiting for someone to tell you what was going on and how long it would take? I’ve been there, too. Instead, our pilot felt our pain, had compassion for the aggravation, disappointment, and exhaustion the unexpected disruption had caused, and cared enough to both communicate and apologize.
An act of positive leadership that earned more “thank you’s” than angry outbursts.
In my recent podcast episode of GGG Unleashed: Better Leaders, Better Workplaces featuring Dr. Ryan Quinn, Associate Professor and Academic Director for the Project on Positive Leadership at the University of Louisville College of Business, we discussed how traditional approaches to leadership continue to exacerbate the issues with low employee engagement, high turnover, and burnout. Growing the practice of Positive Leadership at all levels of your organization is a key component to building a better workplace and a better customer experience.
What is Positive Leadership?
Positive Leadership is defined as exhibiting exceptional virtues that inspire others to follow. Simply put, positive leadership is essential in today’s complex and divided world. When practiced with excellence, virtues such as humility, empathy, love, care, compassion, wisdom, patience, courage, playfulness, and integrity, help you attract and retain your best talent. Employees feel valued, inspired.
Many of these virtues we recognize as ‘soft skills’, but there’s nothing soft about treating a person with dignity and respect.
Followership is earned. And, as Dr. Quinn explains, positive leadership is something we accomplish again and again. You can practice positive leadership.
The Impact of Positive Leadership in Workplaces
Comments from employees from the Best Places to Work are great examples of the impact positive leadership can have on your work environment. Here are some comments from Glassdoor’s top rated workplaces:
“The culture of the company is inclusive and encouraging, and the people I work with are intelligent, patient, talented, and supportive.”
“Leadership is transparent. This is the first time in my career I’ve looked forward to going to work every day.”
“Empathy is a core HubSpot value and the leadership team truly walks the walk.”
#33 Houston Methodist
“Such a positive, innovative, respectful work environment. Employees are appreciated and are compensated for excellent work.”
#49 Cisco Systems
“I love working for a company that is genuine and truly cares about the well-being of their workforce.”
#96 Toast Inc.
“A team that cares about you and your future. A culture of helping each other, instead of outdoing each other.”
#99 Schneider Electric
“Wonderful training with mentors, willing to offer their time for your development. Inclusion is not just a word.”
Inspiring a Culture of Positive Leadership
What do your employees say about your workplace? Rather than guess, find out. And use the insights to inspire a culture of positive leadership in your organization. Here’s how:
Step 1. Baseline the experience:
What are your employees saying? What’s it really like to work here? You may have an existing engagement survey or need to implement one. Is it giving you the insights you need? There are a number of partners who can help you implement an objective and meaningful feedback tool that you can implement annually.
Step 2. Create ongoing listening opportunities:
What ongoing opportunities are you offering where employees can be heard? Invite one-on-one conversations or small group CEO roundtables where employees can share their overall experiences at work. Use active and reflective listening to create a safe space for sharing. Don’t defend or explain. Receive the gifts. Patti Cuthill, Vice President of People & Culture with Verve Cloud and President of San Diego SHRM says, “one of the first modules in our leadership development program is on how to listen.”
Step 3. Integrate the insights into culture & leader development:
What are you doing with the feedback? Are you really listening? Don’t ask for feedback if you’re not going to use it. That will create employee disengagement. Consider how the data is being analyzed for insights, communicated back within the organization, and acted on with positive intention. Here are some questions to consider:
- What virtues and experiences define our organization’s culture? What virtues are showing up in behaviors? Are our values represented? Where could the experience improve?
- Is our leadership development focused at this level of self-awareness and growth, or only focused on tactical skills like steps to delegate or time management?
You Can’t Afford to Wait
In today’s evolving and transitory environment, employers can’t afford to continue with a ‘business as usual’ attitude. To foster a positive workplace culture, virtues must be actively promoted and cultivated across all levels of the organization
To get more insights into this topic, listen to Part 1 of my discussion with Dr. Quinn on the Better Leaders, Better Workplaces podcast.