Five Secrets Successful Leaders Use Every Day (

5 Secrets Successful Leaders Use Every Day
By William A. Schiemann, Ph.D.

Are there tricks to getting your employees fully committed? Not tricks perhaps, but top company performance requires three things – aligned, capable and engaged people. When one of those elements is missing, performance is compromised. When all three are strong, companies reap higher profits, great customer satisfaction, and higher employee retention.

Here are five secrets successful leaders use every day:

1. Think more holistically about people
What makes them tick? What drives their heads and hearts? Recent research tells us that our historical approach to managing people is limiting. People’s heads and hearts are not confined to the workplace. They are shaped by everything going on in their lives — elections, financials, health, family issues and other relationships. And this all occurs in the context of people trying to become fulfilled in their lives — being all they can be. Organizations that approach people with that perspective will be far more able to capture their heads and hearts.

2. Are you assessing fit?
Watch out for hiring people whose resumes read well but may not be a good fit with your culture. Most hiring processes focus too much on skills, experiences, and capabilities when the secret sauce is in their potential to be aligned and engaged in the culture. Are potential hires aligned with the mission, vision and values? Are they people who have had engaging experiences before? What caused them to be revved, and would your culture provide that?

3. Train your leaders in how to mass customize their workers
Stan Davis, the author of Future Perfect, introduced the term mass customization several decades ago to heighten the thinking of marketers to tap into the uniqueness of each customer on a large scale as technology enabled differential treatment of customers at a reasonable cost. If you want to optimize the investments you have made in people, the same applies. How will you capitalize on their uniqueness, rather than their sameness?

Our recent research shows that there are huge variations in every generational group — baby boomers, Xers and Millennials — who are risk averse or risk prone, introverts or extroverts, idea generators or executors, and who share different values. HR and business leaders have for too long equated fairness with sameness, when in fact, sameness often misses what is fair or motivating to different individuals. Savvy leaders understand this and treat their people differently

4. Reset aspirations annually
While the perennial performance review is under fire these days because most often it doesn’t deliver great results, one thing that does work is conversations with each employee about what is driving their head and heart. Most people want to grow in some way — how will the leader help them to do that? What will be a stretch objective and provide new learning? As Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 Corporation has said, “It is our job as leaders to help people be successful — how do we help each person get an ‘A’?”

5. Pulse regularly
The old annual employee survey needs to be rethought. Rather than simply measuring employee engagement, it is wiser to look more holistically at head, heart, and hands. Are they all in sync? And to understand this, you also have to understand the work and non-work drivers of these critical factors. Are educational aspirations influencing engagement or perhaps in conflict with what the company wants them to learn? Are family issues — relationships, medical, financial — hindering the full attention of your people? Are there things the company can do to help their people think through and address those issues? And, be careful about self-interested assessment. Most savvy leaders are using outside, objective resources to pulse and assess. People need to feel they can respond openly and honestly. After the information is collected is the time to engage them in dialogue when you know where the hotspots are.

Getting into the heads and hearts of your employees requires the willingness and skill to engage people in more meaningful ways about both their work and non-work experiences. And it requires helping them to continue to grow through new skills or experiences that will enable them to become more fulfilled in their lives and in turn more committed at work.