How Transformational Leadership Impacts Your Bottom Line

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As a transformational coach in the corporate world, I absolutely love working with companies that are interested in connecting more deeply with their customers. Today’s publishers and media companies are competing for reader’s attention, loyalty, and spend – especially now that so many companies are offering content as part of their value propositions.

Publishers are also looking to connect with their customers in new ways. They’re creatively packaging print and digital products, as well as offering experiences and services that serve audience members’ needs and make their lives more convenient. Gone are the days of simply publishing a magazine. You need to create a profound sense of belonging with your customers to ensure people will purchase your products and services over those of your competitors. This means you need to inspire your customers and package content that resonates so strongly with them that they keep coming back and wanting more.

As humans, we are meant to be connected, and we feel good when we are surrounded by people and things that support us and lift us up. This includes connecting with the companies that provide the services and products we choose to spend our hard-earned money on. So, how can leaders create a culture where the connection to the customer is so strong that their company will outsell its competitors?

Here’s the secret… it starts with the heart and by spending time connecting with your employees.

The Ripple Effect

Recently, I chose to stop spending my money with a company because I didn’t like the way they treated me. They provided a good product, and one that definitely served my need. I was happy and felt like I was valued until I had a situation that required their employees to make a choice — lead with their heads or lead with their hearts. They choose to lead with their heads. For me, the connection was lost. I didn’t feel like the company cared about me or my best interest at heart. I was just another faceless customer. Now my money gets spent with a different company, and possibly the money of my friends and family and anyone else I influence.

Every one of us is connected to each other. We are all one big ocean and our actions create ripples like waves. When you look at companies as communities, you begin to see the power that our relationships have with each other — internally as well as externally.

Leaders need to choose to lead from their hearts. In order to do that, you must start with yourself and your own heart. You must be vulnerable enough to look at your own behaviors and relationship with yourself. You are the first link in the chain.

Creating vulnerability-based trust with employees starts with leadership. If you are not willing to be vulnerable, no one else will be either. Leaders need to inspire employees to question the ideas they are bringing to the table, as well as inspire employees to be creative and think outside of the box. You can’t do that if your employees are worried about what you or the team will think, or if they are worried about a problem they might be experiencing at home. They can’t possibly be focused on what customers may want or need if they are too worried about their own survival.

Leaders need to give employees permission to bring their authentic, vulnerable selves to work. And in order to do that, employees need to know that leaders care about them on a human level. After all, we spend 34% of our day at work. We can’t expect people to act one way at work and then be a different person at home. There should be no separation.
Leaders must also be very clear about the purpose, value, and goals of the company. Do you know what your company’s purpose is? Does everyone in the company know what that purpose is? Once everyone is on the same page, you can then help people understand how they fit into the community.

Be clear about what your expectations of employees are and what the behaviors that surround those expectations look like. Let’s use company values as an example. If your company values are integrity, innovation, and growth, you should define the behaviors that surround those values. What does it look like for you, the leader, to live by those values? How do these values affect the way you and your employees interact with customers? Help everyone embrace the purpose that is bigger than themselves…the service of the customer. And make sure employees’ needs are taken care of so they can focus their efforts on serving others.

My spidey senses tell me that the company I was having challenges with as a customer has a culture that doesn’t empower employees to take the risks that may need to be taken in order for customers to feel connected and loved. There I said it. The “L” word. I know, many of us don’t want to hear the word “love” associated with the corporate world. It makes us uncomfortable and brings emotions into an environment that has long been associated words like “strategy,” “vision,” “margins,” “profit,” and “efficiencies.” But I, for one, would much rather give my money to a company that treats its employees with love, empathy, and encouragement. If they treat their employees that way, I know for sure they will treat me, their customer, that way. The flip side is neglect, discord, and fear. And where there is dissonance there is also disillusionment, roadblocks, lack of productivity and engagement – and really choppy surf.

Embrace Transformational Leadership

I recently finished reading The Bellwether Effect by Dr. Lance Secretan. In his book, Dr. Secretan talks about the researchers at Leeds University that conducted an experiment where 5% of forerunners influenced the behavior of the other 95% of the participants. I look at leaders as the forerunners that everyone in the company will emulate. The beliefs that corporate leaders hold, share, and disseminate become what the employees adopt.

How do you become a good forerunner? What kind of behaviors do you need to possess to be an inspiring, authentic leader? It’s called transformational leadership. The word “transform” means to change in form, appearance, or structure. This means that when you transform, you undergo a metamorphosis resulting in something that has longevity and sustainability. Transformational leadership allows you to have a positive ripple effect on others.

There are three main components that need to be understood in order for transformational leadership to be effective. This is known as the triad of transformation:

  • First, you must go from controlling to co-creating. When you give up control and command and start co-creating with the people around you, you open up a whole world of possibilities. You can do this by adopting language that lets people know you are walking right alongside them. Language like, “I’m sorry,” “I don’t know,” “I’m not the expert here,” “What are your thoughts?”, or “You seem passionate about this; tell me more.” This is the language of co-creation.
  • Second, you must go from resisting to allowing. This means that you need to take a self inventory and let go of preconceived beliefs and stories. Come from a place of curiosity and examine your thoughts and feelings. Ask “why is this making me so uncomfortable?”, “is this the truth or a story I’m making up?” or “how do I want to respond to this situation?”. Allow yourself to be a human first.
  • Finally, you must go from reacting to responding. We spend so much of our time on auto-pilot reacting to the world around us. Uncovering ourselves and gaining a deeper understanding of our personalities, our superpowers, our survival intentions, and what we carry around in our life “backpack” allows us to build awareness and be intentional about how we respond as leaders.

People really are one big ocean; the goal is to have everyone in a company paddle out and ride the wave instead of thrashing about near the shore. You need to harness your collective power to catch the big, giant, magnificent pipeline. There is room for everyone and it starts with you.