Now the “courtship” is getting serious!

[private]getting-seriousI’ve been ruminating lately on the power of courting our employees and other business associates (including your customers) and treating them as “girlfriends” on these pages.  (If you are female please make the appropriate gender changes below!)

Irv Federman is a partner at US Venture Partners, a venture capital firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams of building world-class companies. Irv has done his share of evaluating businesses and business leaders. He speaks from experience when he says, “It may seem inappropriate to use words such as love and affection in relation to business. Conventional wisdom has it that management is not a popularity contest. I contend, however, that all other things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we will like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.” 

I wholeheartedly endorse Irv’s philosophy. Maybe this is why I get so bothered when I hear owners make comments like, “I don’t care if my people like me. I just want them to respect me.” This sounds suspiciously like a defense mechanism against being hurt when we have to make tough decisions with our people. We convince ourselves that if we don’t care about feelings, it will be easier to make tough calls or hold people accountable or discharge people when they need to be discharged. But it doesn’t. Plus, I  haven’t heard many employees comment, “I think my boss is a jerk, but I sure am inspired to go the extra mile and put in long hours for him!”

We act like we can’t have both liking and respecting, being nice and smart, friendly and tough, loving and demanding. But folks, these emotions are not polar opposites! This is real life! These emotions are what make us human. What’s more, these very emotions are what can make our people feel more engaged in their work, and feel a greater sense of loyalty to the company. And this transfers right to the bottom line! According to an extensive study conducted by The Gallup Organization, companies that work to engage their people show significantly better performance results than companies that don’t.

When it comes to managing our companies and we have what appears to be too many “urgent” items on our plate, it’s way too easy to revert to a “what have you done for me lately” mindset in dealing with our people. We tend to forget the long hours our people put in throughout the year when they ask to leave a few minutes early one day. We overlook the great suggestions they’ve brought us-and that we’ve implemented-when they struggle to grasp a concept we want them to.

So, when we’re serious about winning the hearts and minds of the people who work for us or who report to us, a great place to start is by treating them like we would a girlfriend. Show a genuine interest in them as human beings. Understand that the time they spend at work is only one part of their lives. As owners of our businesses, work might occupy every waking moment of our lives (if you question this, ask your spouse). But it’s only one part of our employees’ lives.

Treating our people like girlfriends means listening to their concerns. But it goes beyond that. It also includes acting on their concerns. And perhaps most importantly, it involves looking in the mirror and asking ourselves if we’re doing everything we can to enhance our “courting relationship”.

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates[/private]

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