Calling All Leaders to Lead With Love: Clarity

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By Christy Clay

The word love is gaining in popularity in the workplace, from the board room to the water cooler, as well as the business media. I have heard love referred to as the newest corporate buzzword, most recently in an article entitled The Love Boat by Oregon Business magazine. When I hear this - love as a buzzword - I smile and picture a workplace where people are high fiving, helping one another solve issues and making plans for a happy hour ping pong tournament. It is difficult to argue with the concept of love, but what does love really look like in the workplace? As a management consultant who tackles the topics of culture and performance at all levels of an organization, I will unpack what I believe to be one of the most effective ways to demonstrate love in the workplace.

Clarity. It sounds so simple, yet is not easy. People want to make a difference, they want to be part of a shared purpose. Do you have a vision and values that drive your business? If not, set meaningful values and get crystal clear on your vision, mission, purpose - whatever you choose to call it - and specifically how you will get there. Lead your people with compassionate clarity and engage them in your mission.

Recently on an EntreLeadership podcast entitled Common Leadership Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, Executive Vice President at Dave Ramsey - Ramsey Solutions, Jack Galloway, spoke directly to compassionate clarity. He stated that "if I could only choose one mistake that I see most often that most negatively impacts the growth of a team, it is clarity. And we have learned here as leaders - it is kind to be clear and to be clear is to be kind." He goes on to say, "If I have to choose between airing on the side of kindness to a person when I'm giving them bad news versus being clear about the news, I have learned over the past 15 years that most people prefer clarity". Employees crave clarity. They use it to directly inform what they will focus on and how they can perform better.

Engage them in your mission by taking another loving step forward and -- simplify this vision. Make it resonate. A client of mine in the financial services industry whose mission was very traditional, which included "prompt, courteous service" and "achieving superior, long-term overall value" was simplified into "we're here for you when life happens". It is so much more meaningful for employees to get behind the idea of "we're here for you when life happens", like buying a house, a car and financing higher education than to think about prompt service and achieving value. Clarity that is simplified engages and excites people.

Once you have simplified your vision -- communicate it, again and again, because your employees are the people who will have the most impact on helping you to realize this vision. If you share your vision once a year, it will get fuzzy for most people after about 60 days. They really want to do the right thing, so be a great leader and continue to inspire them. Do your best to avoid mixed messages and course correct if you do.

Simple, but not easy. Leaders themselves aren't always clear on where they are going and how they will get there. And when they are, they can often be remiss in continuing to share the details with others because things are so clear in their mind that they assume everyone else is clear too. As leaders, the truth is that we are often the ones creating confusion in the workplace. It is done so unintentionally, but employees still find it frustrating and demotivating.

Be a loving leader and lead with clarity. Southwest Airlines is a great example of this. They focus on low fares, on-time flights and having fun. This focus drives everything in their business model and I have witnessed this on many flights firsthand. In the company's book Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, is a story about a woman who sent Southwest a complaint letter in which she bemoaned the lack of assigned seating, the lack of a first-class section and no meals. When Herb Keller, the then-CEO, learned of this he sent her the following note: "Dear Mrs. Crabapple, we will miss you. Love, Herb."

Inspire people. Paint the picture repeatedly. Ensure your employees know what is expected of them - individually and specifically. Be kind. Empower them to make decisions and let them do so. Trust them. Be compassionate when questions arise. Be clear on expectations - yours and theirs. Assume positive intent. Treat those that you work with kindness, respect and compassion. Hey, that sounds an awful lot like love, doesn't it?

So before you go out and buy ping pong tables to show your employees that you care, check yourself. Have you given your employees a clear blueprint for success? Have you over-communicated it? Have you created an environment that inspires and empowers them? Do this first and before you know it, you will be using the word love to describe your culture.

For simple tools to help you communicate your values and vision, go to www.eosworldwide.com.

Christy Clay is a business strategist and change leader for Enlightened Growth Technologies, specializing in conscious, creative cultures and peak performance.