When something moves me deeply, I get goosebumps all over, and that’s exactly what happened when I heard Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, speak on the subject of truly human leadership at Nijenrode university. Chapman imagines a world where every person matters. In the workspace, most people do not feel like who they are or what they do matters. Studies have shown that 3 out of 4 people feel disengaged at work. 7 out of 8 people feel that their companies don’t care about them. Work is a leading source of stress (74%) and Monday morning heart attacks are an actual thing. We live in a world where stressed, unhappy people are coming home each day. How they feel every day does not only negatively impact their health and well-being, but it also influences the lives of the people they come home to each day. How they feel rubs off on the people they love.
Over the years, I have seen many inspiring corporate value statements and missions, all declaring that, in our company, ‘we put people first’. In reality, these values are rarely enacted upon. Chapman is an exception to the rule. In his over 100 companies, he has put into practice what most companies only talk about. He has created a culture of care, trust and compassion. He has created work environments, that validate the worth of every individual, in which people can realize their gifts, apply and develop their talents, and feel a genuine sense of fulfillment for their contributions.
Chapman believes people should not be merely a means to a company’s financial success. People’s lives matter and it’s people within a company that help build a company and enable it to thrive. As a leader, it is your job to do right by your team members, to enable them to thrive. Chapman has re-defined leadership as the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you. Leadership is an opportunity to shape the lives of people and to make a difference. Leadership is a privilege to care for your people like family. Or, as he says: “We build great people who do extraordinary things” and “We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people”.
Deeply caring about people pays off. People who receive care and attention, give back. A study on “compassionate love” conducted by management professors Sigal Brasade of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Olivia O’Neill of George Mason University, showed, that “people who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.” In others words, caring about people significantly boosts productivity and performance in the workspace, and it positively influences the health and happiness of real people and of those around them.
Caring, kindness and compassion should not be relegated to the domain of family life, it should be nurtured and embraced in the workplace too. As leaders, we should strive to create work environments where our team members feel safe, loved and comfortable being their authentic selves. And, as leaders, we should nurture who they are at best, not just in the interest of helping them thrive or the company thrive, but in the interest of creating a better world for everyone. We spend most of our lives at work. Businesses and organizations can become the most positive influence on our society’s well-being by providing caring, empowering, fulfilling work environments. People who leave work each day fulfilled are better spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, neighbors, citizens of the world. Your leadership matters. When you treat your team members as family, you are contributing to a better world.
If you want to find out more about Truly Human Leadership, I highly recommend Chapman’s book (with Raj Sisodia) Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family. You can also find more information here.