As a professional speaker, I’m always stressing the value of mindful, genuine communication in building effective business relationships. So, it’s no wonder I get excited when I hear of companies ready to step outside their comfort zone to put this into practice. That’s especially true when corporate leaders show they’re willing to break out of outdated roles (e.g. the upper-level executive who floats in a lofty sphere above the rest of the employees, with no time for the problems of, say, those customer service operators making $14.00 per hour on the front lines). For years, the traditional power hierarchy within corporate America has had a built-in arrogance that blocked authenticity and positive human connection.
Today’s leaders are smarter. Many are willing to be more down-to-earth, realizing that a connection with their teams is necessary in order to further their company’s goals:
- “Maximum Emotional Attention” – That’s what CEO of CareConnect Insurance Company, Inc., Alan J. Murray, wants his employees to provide to their company’s clients. To that end, he takes time each week to listen in on customer calls, encouraging the operators to really hear and be compassionate with the person on the other end of the line. Pointedly avoiding pre-scripted dialogue, this executive prefers his staff to “keep it real” with callers. I love it! Not only is this leader aware of the need for human connection to create trusting and respectful relationships, but he follows through by training his workers along those lines.
- Giving a Face to the Company – According to a February article in the Wall Street Journal, the CEO of Cargill, Inc., David MacClellan, personally interviews and has lunch with MBA program participants and other college students ready to start their careers. Although Cargill is ranked by Forbes as the largest private company in the U.S., their name recognition is low compared to many of the flashier tech firms. MacClellan takes a more direct and winning approach to attracting new talent through personal contact. Unlike a decade ago, young people are interested in a company’s values and ethics, and they want firsthand communication with top managers before agreeing to work there.
- Creating a Buzz – Reportedly, other big corporate players are getting the message that in-person contact is necessary to draw skilled and educated employees. At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, director of career services Damien Zikakis says that CEO’s are more frequently making campus visits to talk to students, aware of the importance of human interaction in helping their company stand out among a sea of bigger-name corporations. Some of the executives using this approach are Mark Fields from Ford Motor Company, Craig Menear from Home Depot, Inc., and Chris Polisinski, Chief Executive at Land O’ Lakes, Inc.
Whether your goal is to bring bright new employees onboard, or sell your business’s latest and greatest product to customers, the key to success for any business is human connection. And it looks like the world is finally catching on!