Leadership is one of those buzzwords tossed around in business that might mean different things depending on the size and focus of your company. However, from tiny new startups to time-tested institutions, new research shows that the most successful companies with the happiest team members and stakeholders are those that engage in “purposeful leadership.”
According to a 2017 report by CIPD, purposeful businesses are the most successful, with the happiest employees. They are values-driven, hold themselves accountable to their employees as well as society, and clearly communicate these values at every level of the business culture. Here are some strategies for becoming a purposeful leader:
USE THE PERSONAL TOUCH
One leader’s vision is not enough to make a cohesive culture around a set of values alone. Organizational psychologist Bijal Choksi, who owns her own consulting agency, Happier at Work, points out, “If your employees don’t [follow] through in every day behaviors, there’s a disconnect,” she says. There needs to be buy in.
“In order for the purpose to be embedded within an organization, the vision needs to be translated into ethical values and behaviors, and adopted by all employees,” the CIPD report authors write.
Employees are more likely to feel committed to the vision and values of a company, Choksi says, when they feel the company is personally invested in them. She cites a Gallup poll about work satisfaction. “Those that answered yes to the statement ‘My boss or someone at work seems to care about me’ were more productive, happier and much more significantly likely to stay with the company long term.”
INVEST IN TRAINING
The perfect time to instill your company’s values in employees is right after hiring. The companies most likely to retain happy employees are those “that do true onboarding into the company culture,” Choksi says.
Indeed, one of the oldest and most successful American companies, Hilton, have seen great success in employee retention and satisfaction by creating a company culture that is steeped in their values of hospitality, integrity, leadership, teamwork, ownership, a sense of urgency, or “now.” “We hang [the values] on the walls on our property. We broadcast them in every way we can. We recruit against them, and our training anchors back into them,” says Matthew Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer at the global headquarters in McClean, Virginia.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
However, when establishing values in a company, particularly new companies, or ones going through radical revision, Schuyler recommends keeping things simple. “All too often in big companies and in small entrepreneurial settings, the leaders or founders try to articulate in grisly detail all of their passion points.” He cautions against having so many values that no employee could “live them each day.” When it gets too complex, “Break it down.”
Choksi agrees. “You have to translate those values into behaviors so people have clear expectations of how to behave on an every day basis.” Then, not only can leaders more effectively help employees stick to the vision and values, they can offer corrections. Though none of this matters if leaders and managers aren’t also embodying these values.
EMPOWER THE PEOPLE
Hilton does more than just lay down a set of values, Schuyler says, but rather empowers its employees “to bring their own interpretation of the values” so that they feel like contributors who are invested in the outcome of the company, not just following a prescribed set of behaviors that leave little room for individuality. “The best stories of our team members living our values are the ones that we couldn’t have predicted,” Schuyler says.
Choksi recommends to clients to keep values fresh by integrating them into ongoing activities, whether that’s starting off every meeting by discussing a value, or picking one for the quarter to rein as the theme.
Equally important is for leaders to make sure that their employees “feel they are contributing to that vision,” Choksi says. “It’s a responsibility of a manager to sit down with [an employee] and say ‘Here’s the value of what you’re doing, and here’s how it contributes to the vision.”
Purposeful leaders lay a strong framework of values, while remaining flexible to the needs of employees.