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Leadership > Talent Management

Key to Successful Leadership: Make Your Employees Your MVPs

Putting employees first can be your competitive differentiator.On a frigid day in New York City, employees at a local Shake Shack were greeted with a smile and a hug. No, it wasn’t a politician making the obligatory rounds to garner votes. It was actually the CEO of Shake Shack’s parent company swinging by voluntarily to personally thank his employees for doing a great job despite Mother Nature’s attempts to the contrary.

So, was it worthwhile? Apparently Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Hospitality Group, thought so. “Giving them that quick hug which didn’t take that long — three minutes — is going to somehow be felt by someone at the company, I know it.”

This is just one example of Meyer’s overarching leadership philosophy of putting employees first. I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression, “Charity begins at home.” Well, Meyer lives it, emphasizing that the only way employees can be driven to succeed in front of customers is if they feel good about themselves first. That in turn will lead to positive business performance, he says.

The simple — and oftentimes free or inexpensive — act of making employees feel appreciated can be just the competitive differentiator your company needs, according to Meyers.

Looking for more ways to engage employees and build passionate teams? Take a look at these motivation factors that most people miss.

Let’s take another example of a high-profile CEO doing something crazy — crazy creative and sentimental, that is.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo since 2006, has written personal letters to the parents of every single one of her direct reports to tell them what a great job they were doing and how they should be so proud. What?! In case you were wondering, these are …ahem…C-suite candidates for one of the largest multinational powerhouses in the world.

The idea arose from a trip Nooyi took to India to visit her mother. While there, visitors would swing by the house to praise and congratulate Nooyi’s mom for raising her right and enabling her to succeed. (Side note: Heaping this type of praise on parents is not unconventional in India, a culture with a strong emphasis on family and crediting parents for the success of their children.) That got Nooyi thinking about how she could establish a more personal connection with her own direct reports.

“We’ve worried about buying employees, we’ve worried about bouncing them when things didn’t work, but we’ve never focused on engaging them with their hearts.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the keys to being a good leader. At the heart of any engagement effort should lie the fact that leaders truly care about each of their employees and that their employees know that. Remember: Even a handshake or note or simple gesture can go a long way to show you care.

Tell us in the comments below: How do your company’s leaders recognize or appreciate employees? Even if it’s a handshake or note or simple gesture, it can go a long way to increasing employee engagement and retention.

Deanna Hartley

About Deanna Hartley

Deanna Hartley is a senior copywriter and community manager on the creative services team at CareerBuilder, where she writes about issues that are top of mind for employers and recruiters – including talent acquisition, employee engagement and retention. An avid social media user, Deanna is the face behind @CBforEmployers on Twitter as well as CBforEmployers’ Facebook and Instagram pages, so it’s easy to stay connected with her. Prior to joining CareerBuilder, Deanna was a senior editor for the Human Capital Media Group, publishers of Talent Management, Chief Learning Officer, Diversity Executive and Workforce Management magazines. Deanna holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She loves caffeine, social media, pop culture and dogs – though not necessarily in that order.
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