Holistic Leadership

Business Results Can Soar When People Are Treated As People

Posted on

02b22c8  By Jim Funk

Why do you do business with particular companies, stores or individuals? They certainly must have the product, quality and service you want; but what else beyond that? Being treated as a whole person is what makes the difference. It’s good for people—and good for business. Let’s look at two real-life examples.

  1. Treating Customers Right…is good for business

John Mundell knows a thing or two about taking care of customers. As President of Mundell & Associates, an Economy of Communion (EoC) business in the field of environmental consulting, he takes pride in exceeding clients’ expectations and bringing a sensitivity to all stakeholders in every project. In fact, the company website describes their innovative solutions as a combination of “scientific knowledge and a person-centered approach,” and highlights one of the Economy of Communion’s top values: Considering the Human Person in business.

I spoke with Mundell about their philosophy and he explained how it’s actually helped them build and retain a loyal client base. One example that he felt was particularly impactful was a time when they were able to solve a client’s engineering problem quickly and inexpensively, considering the situation, but their $3,000 fee was still more than the client wanted to pay. Even though Mundell thought it was a fair price, rather than insist on the full payment he said the client could pay what they thought the service was worth. They paid $1,000. But it wasn’t a loss for Mundell & Associates. The client wanted to continue the relationship and over the next three years brought them over $1 million worth of new business. The client let Mundell know he earned their loyalty when they felt they were treated fairly in that very first decision regarding the invoice and the client’s concern was put ahead of the company’s.

Mundell is convinced that when businesses consciously put people and relationships ahead of profits, value team interests over self-interests and intentionally serve the other person, clients want to work with that kind of company. For Mundell & Associates, besides being the right thing to do, they believe treating customers right has translated into millions of dollars in revenue that the company would not have otherwise received.

  1. Put Employees First…and they will in turn put customers first

People Arrow - JLFunk Blog4.jpgCameron Mitchell Restaurants is a privately held company that is not affiliated with the
Economy of Communion, but they have adopted many of the same principles and business practices as the EoC. Mitchell began with one small restaurant in Columbus, Ohio in 1993, which has now grown to 25 units and 12 different restaurant concepts with locations in 11 states. Their website explains that they use the term “associates” instead of employees in order to recognize and respect their importance. Putting people first is core to Cameron Mitchell’s way of doing business, which he believes is their differentiating strategy. Mitchell says they don’t just hire great people; they make sure to treat them great once they’re on board. That, in turn, inspires a genuine hospitality that guests, vendors and even members of the community sense and appreciate. Mitchell is convinced that the spark for their growth and success is the “people first” culture they have deeply embedded in their restaurants.

I asked Chuck Davis, the Vice President of Human Resources for Cameron Mitchell, what they do to create and sustain their “people first” culture and what difference it makes. He told me how they treat associates well from the time they are recruited, through their orientation and throughout their employment. Specifically, they have practices like closing their restaurants for seven major holidays, plus Super Bowl Sunday—unheard of in the restaurant business—so associates can enjoy those events with their families. They emphasize reward and recognition that associates appreciate. One small example is they hand out delicious milkshakes to reward associates regularly. To Mitchell’s associates, a milkshake is much better than a handshake! And as a “topping” they pay competitive wages and benefits that attract and retain their valuable associates. They also emphasize their development and give associates opportunities to learn, grow and build skills. They promote from within more than 75% of the time.

The result?

  • Mitchell’s employee engagement survey had 99.57% participation.
  • Employee satisfaction registers in the mid to high 90th percentiles.
  • Associates receive better tips than the industry average.
  • Turnover is lower than it usually is in the restaurant business.
  • And when it comes to business results, they have financial outcomes that exceed industry standards.

These results support the company’s belief that treating associates as whole persons translates to customer satisfaction, which in turn improves the bottom line.

Why is a Person-Centered Philosophy Good for Business?

From these examples we can see that customers want to do business with companies that treat them well, and employees want to work for an employer that respects and appreciates them. Further, this effect isn’t limited to only customers and employees. It’s true for the board room, company leadership, suppliers, partners, communities where they are located, and for anyone who interacts in some way with a company. Not only is it the right thing to do, but good reputations spread—which leads to customer and employee loyalty. It becomes a cycle that translates into higher volumes, increased revenues, lower costs and higher margins.

Person Centered Practices

How does an organization become person-centered? Like for Mundell and Mitchell, focusing on people must become embedded in the culture: leadership, policies and practices, and how everything plays out day-to-day in real situations. Here are some of the suggestions I make to my clients who want to build a person-centered culture.

  1. Empower employees (or better yet, “associates”) at all levels to be able to address customer concerns.
  2. Take quick “pulse” surveys (not long and arduous opinion surveys) to check in quickly and regularly with people about how they’re doing, what they need to be at their best, and how to get those needs met.
  3. Describe the desired culture, and then hire for fit to that culture, especially in leadership positions where being person-centered is modeled and held up as “how we do things.”
  4. Give employees opportunities to reward and recognize each other, ask what makes them feel appreciated, and encourage it at all levels.
  5. Check out important decisions with some key stakeholders before you proceed, and ask questions about how will they be impacted, what pitfalls have you not thought of, and how the decision could best be communicated.

In my next blog we will look at what makes a workplace human. You might be surprised at my ideas, especially coming from a person who has spent most of his career in Human Resources!


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

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5 Things Employees Need to be at Their Best

Posted on Updated on

02b22c8

By Jim Funk

Group of business people.

People love hearing the words, “You did a great job on that project!” Most people want to do a good job, and are willing to work hard to do their best. But in the world of work, the reality is that it doesn’t always happen. Why? Certain circumstances play a role in how engaged employees are in their jobs, and these factors impact performance.

I believe that enabling employees to do their best boils down to the ability to meet 5 important needs:

  1. To be treated as a whole person – body, mind and spirit. People want to be recognized for who they are, and not simply a set of skills or productivity numbers. They bring their whole selves to work, and need some degree of nurturing and expression in each of the dimensions of the human person: physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, and leisure.
  2. To be treated fairly. Policies and practices provide clarity regarding expectations, and they help ensure that people will be treated fairly. But as everyone knows, a policy manual doesn’t provide answers to every situation. Leaders must be able to make decisions that are just. Don’t get me wrong, everyone won’t always agree with every decision a leader makes, but all decisions should be supported by a rational explanation.
  3. To have safety, security and trust. The workplace must be one that feels safe and secure, with ready access to assistance if a safety or security issue arises. But more than physical safety and security, employees in this day and age seek job security. People need to feel the organization’s leaders can be trusted to keep their word, and communicate with honesty and transparency, especially as it relates to job security. When layoffs are expected or people are let go, they should be told the truth and assisted in making the transition.
  4. To have a thriving community at work. By definition we could say that any work group is a community of people. But a thriving community is one in which people are individually and collectively at their best because the work culture recognizes the importance of relationships and teamwork. Competition between teams can also be healthy, and fun!
  5. To have meaning in their work. While work is certainly a means to making a living, people need to feel that their work makes a difference in the world. Further, there is an inherent dignity in work because it allows the person to become more fully who he or she is. People need to feel that their talents and skills are being used, and want to be given the opportunity to grow and develop so that they can reach their full potential. 

When these 5 needs are met, people feel more fulfilled and more committed to doing their best work for the organization. It might seem obvious, but what does it really take to meet these needs? First of all, organizations whose values include statements like, “a great place to work,” or “people are our most valuable asset,” must be able to live up to those and not just give lip service. Leaders who understand these needs and intentionally work to meet them are what make the difference. I would call this “holistic leadership,” because the holistic leader treats people as people and not just a skillset or a “human resource.”

What Can Leaders Do?

When I consult with organizations, I recommended that leaders ask each of their employees to write down answers to three questions:

  1. What do you need in order to do your job well and be at your best?
  2. What will it take for you to ask for and get what you need?
  3. What types of rewards motivate you and make you feel appreciated?

I suggest that they keep this sheet of paper in all of their employees’ folders, so when they meet with them or want to reward them they can be more personal and specific in addressing their needs. It works!

Please share any comments, reactions or questions you have about these ideas. If you believe you are working or have worked in an organization with leaders like those I am describing, I invite you to write about it in a reply to this blog or contact me directly. I would like to talk with you. In my next blog post we will look at the business case for holistic leadership, and what difference it can make in terms of actual outcomes.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Connecting The 3 Ps: People, Productivity and Profits

Posted on Updated on

02b22c8

By Jim Funk

What is most important in your organization? People, productivity or profits? Many people look at the 3 Ps as independent or competing priorities; but what is often misunderstood is the dynamic connection between the three.

People Holding Chart - JLFunk Blog2Let’s say you believe that profits are most important. It’s true that an organization can’t exist for very long without a black bottom line and a good return for shareholders (or financial stewardship in not-for-profits and government sectors). Or, if you say that productivity is most important because without it profits will suffer, that is true as well. Productivity is certainly a key to success.  But productivity doesn’t guarantee profitability or financial stewardship, because there are too many other variables involved.  And high profits may only demonstrate short-term success that could change in the future.

On the other hand, giving people first place in the equation may be altruistic, but it’s also logical. People have the power to do what is required to be productive, generate a profit and manage resources effectively. That’s why people are the foundation of the three Ps. The innate human ability to think, judge and act is the only way to drive business outcomes and reach organizational goals. The variables within people are capability, capacity and motivation. Leaders must attend to all three of those variables, not only in selection, development and recognition, but in the engagement of people in the vision and what it will take to bring that vision to reality.

First and foremost, leaders must make the mission and vision clear and communicate it on a regular basis. Where are we headed and why? When leaders understand people and provide what is needed in order for them to do their best, creativity, engagement and excitement are unleashed both individually and collectively. That energy is what drives increased productivity and innovation. This spreads beyond employees and engages suppliers, partners, affiliates and others, because people want to give their best to an organization and its leaders that give their best to people. This is not simply a “quid-pro-quo;” it is a true energy that cannot be defined by a social or legal contract – and it’s powerful.

Further, customers want to do business with the organization that puts its employees first because they sense and experience what it means to be treated as a person. This in turn increases market share and company profitability. In the not-for-profit and government sectors it increases effectiveness, efficiency and good stewardship of available resources. This is not to say that a sound business plan, strong fiscal management and the market forces of supply and demand don’t play an important part in productivity and profitability – that’s a given. But keeping the person in the center of the business or organization is just as conscious a choice, and is what makes the real difference to both productivity and profits.

Please share any comments, reactions or questions you have about these ideas. If you believe you are working or have worked in an organization with leaders like those I am describing, I invite you to write about it in a reply to this blog or contact me directly. I would like to talk with you. In my next blog post we will look more closely at what people need to be at their best.


Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

The Power of the Person-Centered Business

Posted on Updated on

02b22c8This is the first of a series of blogs I am writing about what makes people, teams and organizations successful, based on my experiences with clients and my years of working in leadership, organizational development and human resources. I am eager to share what I have learned about successful leaders, and how they got to be the way they are.

My first premise is that people are the heart and soul of any organization. When the person is kept at the center, every single decision that is made considers how people are impacted and whether people, teams and the organization will flourish as a result. There are many mission statements and lists of core values that include a focus on people, customers and service. Isn’t that the same thing as having the person at the center? Well, mission statements and core values are only words. They might represent an intention, or how an organization wants to be viewed by others. But whether the person is truly at the center of the business depends primarily on one thing: the leader’s understanding of people, and what people need in order to be at their best. And when leaders invest in people and their development, ahead of productivity and profits, it actually leads to increased productivity, higher profits, and personal and organizational success.

People have an innate desire and need to develop their human potential, to flourish, and to become who they were made to be. Person-centered organizations not only focus on the customer, but they encourage leaders, employees, associates, partners and suppliers to reach their potential and find meaning in their work. When leaders recognize the gifts and potential in others, and encourage them to fully develop and unleash those gifts, people thrive. People engage.

In addition, the products and services of person-centered organizations serve the common good – because it is good for people. Profit is seen as a means to this end rather than an end in itself. When profit is at the center, people are disposed of when they do not contribute significantly enough to profits, or when they do not meet expectations that may actually be unrealistic. This is not to say that employees, suppliers and partners should not be held accountable for meeting or exceeding expectations. But what is key in the person-centered organization is that people know the expectations and can meet them because they are clearly articulated, well-communicated and achievable. People can connect what they do to the organization’s mission, vision and goals. They have the clarity, support, development opportunities, trust and the desire to pull their weight and contribute. It’s a win-win for people, teams and organizations.

Please share any comments, reactions or questions you have about these ideas. If you believe you are working or have worked in a person-centered organization, I invite you to write about it in a reply to this blog or contact me directly. I would like to talk with you. In my next blog post we will look more closely at the connection between the Three P’s: People – Productivity – Profits.


 

Jim Funk is a leadership and organizational consultant who works to help leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He believes that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and reaching desired outcomes. In addition to his portfolio of consulting assignments Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. He provides workshops for leaders and is a guest speaker for groups and organizations. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.