5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Are you looking for that leadership silver bullet that will propel you past the competition? You can take public speaking courses and enroll in an MBA program or you can attempt the single easiest feat for which an individual can strive, trustworthiness.

Leadership is built on one core concept—trust. Without it, you can forgo every other attribute espoused by management experts. Confidence without trust is an egomaniac. Charisma without trust is a charlatan. And vision without trust is a hypocrite. This was supported by a meta-analysis study from leading trust researcher and Georgetown University professor Daniel McAllister.

Published in the Academy of Management Journal, McAllister concluded that leaders viewed as trustworthy generate a culture where team members:

  • display greater innovation, agility, and responsiveness to changing conditions;
  • take risks because they believe they will not be taken advantage of;
  • do not expend needless time, effort, and resources on self preservation; and
  • go above and beyond to exhibit higher performing customer service, brand loyalty, and problem solving.

This leads to a competitive advantage through significantly higher commitment, satisfaction, retention, and performance. Similarly, research from the Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong correlation between trust and the behaviors associated with highly productive employees—discretionary effort, willingness to endorse the organization, performance, and a desire to be a “good organizational citizen.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”—Stephen Covey

Before you get insulted that I’m explaining something as elementary as the benefits of trust, have you heard of the Edelman Trust Barometer? The ETB has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In its 17th year, this is the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four institutions in all 28 countries surveyed.

For leaders, one of the more disturbing findings of the ETB is the shocking lack of confidence in leadership—63% of participants said corporate CEOs are either not at all or somewhat credible. That means only 37% maintained the credibility of CEOs, a 12-point drop from last year, and this is consistent around the world. CEOs are more trusted than government leaders (29%), but that’s setting a pretty low bar. Plus, with this “trust void,” only 52% said they trust business to do what is right.

So if trust is important and society is not feeling it, what can we do? Good news: you can (re)build trust. Here are five techniques to consider:

  1. Recognition, Recognition, Recognition. To increases trust between leaders and employees, nothing does it faster than acknowledging their achievements. It indicates you are paying attention and reinforces positive behaviors.
  2. Show Compassion. Did I say recognition is the fasted way to build trust? It won’t mean anything if you don’t already have a foundation of respect. Just try influencing someone who doesn’t respect you; see how engaged they are in your ideas. Treat your team like real-life people—listen to their ideas, care about their feelings, and empathize with their concerns.
  3. Keep to Your Word. You can’t build trust without following through on promises. Your team needs to believe that what you say is sincere, so follow through on commitments.
  4. Don’t Hide Your Humanity. Being human means showing your imperfections. Your ability to discuss your mistakes and share what you have learned from it makes you more relatable. No one is concerned with transparency for the good stuff; they need you to fess up to faults, so show your vulnerable side.
  5. Smile. If you don’t want to do something substantive to build your trust and would prefer a gimmick, consider a recent study published in Psychological Science where convicted murders with trustworthy faces received more lenient sentences then their peers with untrustworthy faces. The key, it seems, is that a gentle smile increases how trustworthy others perceive you. Keep in mind, that it needs to be gentle—too big can be seen as duplicitous or insincere, while too small may be seen as sarcastic or leering.

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behaviors on our children certainly not by threat, guilt, or punishment. But I do believe they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together. Such relationships are, I believe, build on trust, example, talk, and caring.”—Fred Rogers

We live in untrustworthy times, but that does not mean we have to lead in an untrustworthy manner. Generate a culture where honesty, transparency, and truth are the basis of your organization. This must start at the top of the organizational hierarchy with you. The team will trust you once you establish that you trust the team. It may take time, but as Seth Godin says, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

Job Hunting? Look For Employers That Care About Your Future

Written by Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin Pulse

Are you pursuing new job opportunities — hoping to take the next step in your career? How do you determine if a potential employer is a wise choice? What criteria really count?

If wellness programs aren’t on your “must have” list, you may want to reconsider. The evidence is mounting. Companies committed to workforce wellness — particularly those committed to total quality of life at work and at home — are likely to be your best bet.

Unfortunately, not all companies make that kind of commitment. It’s no doubt one reason why employee engagement is so poor. Of course, engagement is influenced by multiple factors, but in general today’s workforce isn’t feeling the love. In fact, Gallup research revealed last year that 70% of U.S. employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged — and it’s costing companies over $300 billion a year.

The Workforce Wellness Difference

If you’re looking for a new gig, it makes sense to bypass organizations whose employees just aren’t dialed in to the work they’re doing, or the company’s mission, or its culture. But how do you find a great place to work?

There are some amazing companies out there that demonstrate their commitment to employees by investing directly in their health and happiness. We see them every day.

Leaders at these companies recognize that employees who are engaged in life inside and outside of their work environment are likely to be more productive and loyal over time. These types of companies support their workforce with comprehensive wellness options, like healthy food choices in the cafeteria, free group exercise classes in corporate gym facilities, paid time off to volunteer in the community, and even cold, hard cash incentives to reward healthy behavior.

Why Total Wellness Matters

By improving your health in multiple ways — physical, mental, social and financial — you’ll improve your total quality of life and maximize your potential in your job. Smart companies know this, and smart job seekers do, too. According to our own research, 87% of employees believe robust workplace wellness programs are paramount when choosing a place to work.

In recent years, with technology advances like the Internet, smartphones, teleconferencing and a variety of devices that help us work productively no matter where we’re located, the lines are blurring between work and home life. Employers recognize this, and increasingly are helping employees improve their total quality of life — not only by offering stellar benefits and workplace wellness programs, but also by extending those benefits to family and friends. This way, employees can rely on their natural support network to influence and reinforce their healthy habits.

Including family members is a no-brainer for employers, since spouses and dependents help boost wellness program participation. It should be a no-brainer for you, too. When exercising and dieting with a friend or family member, you have a 57% greater chance of losing weight than by going it alone, according to the Framingham Heart Study. Plus, getting healthy is more fun when you don’t fly solo. With innovative wellness programs that include your family and friends, you can challenge one another to simple, healthy competitions. For example, you can win bragging rights by tracking who climbs the most stairs at work, or who eats the most fruits and vegetables each week.

Employee Health Is More Than Fun and Games

But all of that fun also has serious impact. If your employer offers wellness programs you enjoy, and you take advantage of those programs, you’re more likely to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyle changes for the long-term. What’s more, the link between companies that provide robust workplace wellness programs and sustained employee engagement is strong. Our research shows that, at these organizations, 80% of employees feel their employer cares about their well-being.

So, in the long run, what can you expect? The payback of choosing a company that cares includes: fewer sick days, fewer workplace safety incidents, and an increased sense that your contributions at work have a greater overall impact, according to multiple sources. You’ll also feel a stronger connection with your employer, as you’re encouraged to stay active and healthy, and you see a similar commitment to those you love.

Bottom line: Healthier, happier employees are more engaged employees. And engaged employees perform more effectively at work. This can opening avenues to upward mobility and promotions that you might never have realized otherwise.

Factor these elements into your job search today, and I am confident that, in the future, you’ll find greater benefits both at work and in every other facet of life.

Chris-Boyce_color_web2(About the Author: Chris Boyce is CEO of Virgin Pulse. He is an accomplished technology entrepreneur who brings more than 15 years of consumer loyalty, enterprise and consumer software experience to Virgin Pulse. Leveraging Virgin’s philosophy that business should be a force for good, Chris’ leadership has been instrumental in guiding Virgin Pulse’s development of market-leading, technology-based products and services that help employers improve workforce health, boost employee engagement, and enhance corporate culture. Chris has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: Chris Boyce discussed employee engagement with the TalentCulture community this week at #TChat Events. See full highlights and resource links in the Recap: “Employee Engagement: Say It Like You Mean It.“)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Community: A Brand’s Most Powerful Friend

Perhaps nothing drives a brand forward more than its community.

An estimated 55% of consumers are willing to recommend companies that deliver great experiences, and 85% are willing to pay a premium for great services. But who are the “people” making those recommendations and purchasing decisions?

They’re members of your community, right?

I’m certain that if I asked every CMO and marketing leader I know to describe their brand community, I would get a different answer from each. “Community” is a subjective concept, with wide varying definitions.

Community-Influencing-Buyer-BehaviorThere are also wide variations in how brands are seen, heard and felt by their respective communities. How deeply does a community feel connected to a brand?

For instance, think about Apple and its community. Apple gets attention because its brand recognition is extraordinary. But have you considered the powerful impact that Apple’s community has had on the success of the brand?

To demonstrate my point, think of the last conversation you’ve had with an “Apple fan” about the company, its products or its competitors. What did that conversation sound like?

If your experience is anything like mine, the conversation was probably wonderful, as long as you agreed about how wonderful Apple and its products are. However, if you dared to question the quality of Apple’s products, ideas or ability to innovate, you no doubt soon realized that you had crossed into enemy territory.

Those kind of conversations are a lot like telling your child that Santa isn’t real — only worse. But it speaks highly of the Apple community.

What is the catalyst for Apple’s insanely powerful connection with its community?

By-in-large, Apple doesn’t behave like a “nouveau” social company, so they’re not building their brand army through Facebook and Twitter. But it has brought together a passionate, global community by creating a sense of “belonging” that customers feel deeply when they use Apple products.

The iconic Apple slogan, “Think Different” epitomizes its cult-like following. On any given day at Starbucks around the world, people who want to be seen as broad-minded, creative thinkers are often found hovering over a Macbook — almost as if the presence of an Apple product is synonymous with their identity.

For Apple, this works. Through a customer experience focused on the idea that being different and innovative is “cool,” Apple has built one of the tightest brand communities on and off the web. But of course, Apple is a huge, established company, with a massive budget for community development. It leads me to wonder — how can other brands, smaller brands, newer brands tap into the power of community?

Not Just Community — A Close Community

Think about the neighborhood where you grew up. What was it like? Was it urban or rural? Were there many houses or just a few? Did you know your neighbors, or were they merely passing strangers?

Regardless of their shape, size and geography, most neighborhoods provide some sense of community. However, all neighborhoods aren’t the same. In my hometown, there was a “Community Center” — a place where folks from the neighborhood would congregate, connect and discuss issues affecting the area.

In that kind of environment, as citizens drew closer, the more they worked together to get things done — for example installing a stop sign where kids played in the street, and passing a referendum to build a new school. Over the years, as traditional urban settings gave way to modern models, subdivisions often created a community “on purpose,” with a Neighborhood Watch, a Board of Directors, and sometimes even a pool and recreation center.

This intentional approach to community brings stakeholders closer, by making neighborhood issues and events more visible, and helping community participants see the impact of their involvement.

Building a Brand Community Like a Neighborhood

When you boil it down to its simplest form, a community is the sum total of your brand stakeholders. I say stakeholder (rather than customer) because many people can participate in a brand community, beyond those who purchase a company’s products and services.

First, there are obvious extensions, such as employees and friends. Also, there are less obvious community players, such as those who are interested in learning more about your products and services, but may not have an immediate need to buy.

Let’s use automobiles as an example.

In 1995, when I was 14, my favorite car in the whole world was the new Pontiac Grand Prix. It had just been redesigned as a “wide track” model, and as a 14 year old, I thought it was one bad machine. However, at 14, I wasn’t legally or financially able to buy a car.

Four years later, I had scraped together all the loose change from under the sofa cushions, and I was ready to buy a car. Guess what I bought? The Grand Prix! That’s because I had emotionally tied myself to the brand, the car, and the community. When I was ready to purchase, it wasn’t even a question who would earn my business.

While my story is just one example, this type of brand loyalty exists with everything from the food we eat to the blue jeans we wear, and beyond. When people become a part of something, their purchasing sentiment changes. And guess what? So does the way they evangelize for your product. You think someone that likes your product is a good ambassador. Just think of someone who recently bought your product and likes it! That is another great frontier for brand building.

Which takes us back to building a close-knit community. It requires a setting for cultivation and nurturing. Much like a neighborhood — only different — to suit the needs of the brand and its community.

Community in the Connected World

If you think about the neighborhood example, you’ll likely think that a good community is small, tight knit, and somewhat directionally aligned.

But in the new world — the connected world where we manage communities on our blog, Facebook, Twitter and what seems like a million other places — the idea of community can become overwhelming. That’s because the “massiveness” of the online sphere is hard for many marketers to imagine in meaningful terms.

This can lead marketers to make some key community-building mistakes:

1) They aim too large: Mere numbers (pageviews, visits, likes, followers) aren’t relationships;
2) They don’t engage: Communicating with a “faceless” digital community can seem like a daunting task;
3) They miss out: Online communities are a powerful way to build influential brand advocates, but sometimes inaction takes over when brands don’t know where to start.When-Communities-Fail-

While these mistakes are typical, they can be avoided with a few common-sense tactics:

1) Aim for relevance: Rather than shooting for a large community, start by aiming for those that are most likely to buy your product/service now or in the near future. Also, with online networks (especially social networks), research where your target audience invests its time, and go there first!

2) Engage more than you promote: Share your stories, ideas and information, but make sure you allow the community to become part of the conversation. Ask more questions. Build more testimonials and case studies. Invite participation.

3) Start: Even if your “start” is small, don’t miss the opportunity to build a community by putting your head in the sand.Making-Communities-Succeed

Remember: Building A Community Can Take Time

Apple has an amazing community of insanely loyal brand advocates. It also nearly crashed and burned on multiple occasions, and was saved by innovation that focused on consumption of music on a tiny MP3 player. For other companies, community takes time and work to build.

This starts at the core — building products and services that your customers can love. It also may include places for customers to congregate and talk about how they put your products to use.

On the flip side, community building also requires brands to acknowledge shortcomings and respond transparently when things go poorly. Think about what Target and Snap Chat will need to invest in rebuilding brand confidence after recent security breaches. Neither of these incidents was intentional, but trust was lost, and recovery will take time and monumental effort.

However, there is a certain beauty in community. When you build it, nurture it and engage with it, your community will tend to stand by your brand in good times and in bad. While never perfect — like your family, your neighborhood or your city — your brand community is one of the most powerful tools in the connected world.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore or underestimate the power of your community!

(Editor’s Note: Republished from Millennial CEO, with permission, this is an excerpt from “The New Rules of Customer Engagement,” a new ebook by Dan Newman, available Spring 2014. )

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Texas A&M

Best Employers: What Makes Them Work? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for full highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? Read the recap: “Workplace Greatness: No Guarantees.“)

We’ve all heard the bad news about the state of today’s workplace. Years of economic recession, business upheaval and intense global competition have taken a toll on organizational culture and employee engagement. Media channels are brimming with stories of employers that miss the mark.

So, where’s the good news?

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For

Learn more about the 2014 list

Maybe that’s why Fortune Magazine‘s “100 Best Places to Work For” list is so popular. Each year, it shines a light on what really works. We’re reminded that organizational excellence is all around us, and we have a chance to learn from those examples.

Fortunately this week, the TalentCulture community gets a front-row seat in that learning process, as China Gorman joins us at #TChat events!

As many of you know, China is CEO of Great Place to Work Institute — the firm that produces the “Best Companies to Work For” list. The 2014 edition was announced last Thursday, so we’ll be looking at the very latest results. And based on what I’ve seen, this year’s list deserves closer attention.

Sneak Peek: Shifting Priorities

To set the tone for this week’s events, China joined me for a brief “sneak peek” Hangout, where she explained that the 2014 study reveals two new top management priorities:

Last week, she shared other takeaways in a TalentCulture blog post: How Great Companies Attract Top Talent.

What are your thoughts about employers on this year’s “best” list? Do you see evidence that organizational culture is gaining ground as a source of competitive advantage? What role should “best practices” play in improving talent strategies? Join us this week to share your ideas and opinions with the #TChat crowd!

#TChat Events: Lessons From Great Workplaces

#TChat Radio — Wed, Jan 22 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT


Tune-in to the #TChat Radio Show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with China Gorman about what it takes to create and sustain an extraordinary workplace culture. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Jan 22 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and China will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will moderate a live discussion with the entire TalentCulture community.

Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: How does a company become a “great place to work”?
Q2: What characteristics do fast-growing and great workplaces share?
Q3: How does an employer brand interact with the recruiting process??
Q4: Why is a great workplace more about business strategy than HR?
Q5: How can HR convince leadership that workplace technology is a smart investment?

We look forward to hearing your ideas and opinions, as talent-minded professionals who care about the human side of business.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Fun Times! Work, Games and Culture #TChat Recap

“When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more. If you feel ownership over your job, you will work harder.”
Gamification Pioneer, Yu-Kai Chou

There’s no denying that work is serious business. When companies fail, everyone loses.

However, that doesn’t mean work can’t be enjoyable. And with employee engagement at an all-time low, adding game dynamics to an organizational culture could be a winning move.

That was the premise for this week’s #TChat Events, featuring two innovators in workplace engagement:

•  Dan Benoni, Co-Founder & Product Director at Officevibe, a social employee engagement platform
•  Mario Coculuzzi, Eastern Canada Regional Director at Microsoft.

(Editor’s Note: See the #TChat Twitter highlights slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

How Does Gamification Make A Difference?

When determining how to improve employee engagement, one solution obviously doesn’t fit all environments. Each organization has distinctive cultural attributes that should be a natural basis for change. The challenge starts with understanding the particular motivators that are meaningful and appropriate for your employees. The smartest approaches apply three simple strategies, as one of our community members noted:

Choose Wisely

Once you’re confident about relevant drivers, consider the type of gaming techniques that can shape those dynamics. There are multiple options — but all are designed to enhance human factors, so work “flows” more naturally. At its best, gamification makes work feel more comfortable, enjoyable, fun. It helps individuals and teams attain business goals faster and more effectively — while helping everyone feel more challenged and rewarded as they contribute to overall organizational success. According to another participant:

Games Don’t Cure-All

#TChat-ters agreed that, if the fundamentals are missing, no amount of gamification or other “engagement” devices can compensate. For example, employees deserve the same level of respect, regardless of their title or position. They also need clear, consistent communication — not only about what they’re expected do (objectives), but also about why their work matters to the organization (purpose). These basics can have a powerful impact:

Continuous Commitment Counts

Another important point: Engagement doesn’t stop when a hiring contract is signed. Instead, employees should feel like they’re being recruited on an ongoing basis. How?

“Engaging” organizations encourage employees to develop and challenge themselves and others. Mistakes are leveraged as learning opportunities. And gaming dynamics are woven into the workplace fabric as a way to support and reinforce these cultural strengths.

Leaders can help gamification efforts succeed, by treating employees as a team and yet knowing what makes each individual tick. Moreover, leaders must embrace game concepts, themselves. The more vulnerable and open leaders are willing to be — the more they share stories about their own failures and learning experiences — the more likely employees will engage.

Engagement is the fruit of ongoing relationships and healthy workplace cultures. Gamification merely turns up the volume — but can do so in a big way.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Should Work Be Fun? Really?


Watch the Hangout now

SAT 10/19:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed this week’s topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout video with one of our guests, Dan Benoni. Read the Preview: “Should Work Be Fun? Really?”

SUN 10/20: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested how leaders can overcome generational differences. Read: “5 Fresh Trends to Fuse Fun and Work.”

MON 10/21:

Related Post: Industrial Psychologist and LinkedIn Influencer, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, explored the role of Positive Psychology in driving workforce performance. Read: “Where’s Your Inner HERO? Positivity at Work…”

TUE 10/22:

Related Webinar Announcement: We invited the entire world of work community to join Meghan M. Biro and Virgin Pulse President David Coppins at a very special webinar on November 7. Join us at “Empowering Employees in 3D.”

WED 10/23:


Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with guests Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi about how gamification can help transform today’s world of work. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and guests joined the entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream as moderator Cyndy Trivella led us through a fun, freewheeling conversation about 5 related questions. For highlights, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Fun In The Workplace

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi for helping us explore the role of game dynamics in cultivating workplace culture. Your insights and enthusiasm captured our community’s attention and imagination!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about fun at work? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we dive into another emerging trend — how mobile tools are transforming the recruiting process — with guests Jessica Miller-Merrell and Rayanne Thorn. So save the date (October 30) for a double #TChat treat!

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

(Image Credit: Stock.xchng)

Workplace Leadership Engagement: Challenge, Meaning, and Lots of Love

I grew up loving the Raiders.  Before the 2010 NFL season started, I had a Silver and Black rock and roll attack!

But for the first four weeks of this season, I had nothing but Silver and Black heart attacks. They were at the bottom of the AFC West.

Argh. Although when I take another look at the homemade video montage of the 2010 draft picks, I get all fired up inside all over again. Plus the fact that during the last four weeks they’re winning, winning, winning and movin’ on up (4-4)!

These big boys are still excited to work play. Ready to give 110% to just get chance to work play on the team they were hired to play for any given Sunday (or sometimes Monday, Thursday and/or Saturday).

The Raiders and their lore are personified by none other than John Madden — Mr. Football himself.

John was an inspiration who loved, lived and breathed his game everyday. His coaching staff loved the game. His players loved the game.

Love, Love, Love — there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.

Under Madden’s guidance, Oakland never experienced a losing season.

Can you imagine if your players employees worked that hard for your organization? There’s no way a team gets jazzed and exceeds expectations because they show up only to pick up a paycheck.

There’s a lot more to it than that — whether you’re playing in the NFL, selling clothes at Kohl’s, developing products for Apple, or reinventing the way we watch movies like Netflix.

The motivational sentiment of giving 110% is nice, but no one can really give more than what they’ve got. It’s much more realistic to get your staff to give 100% by challenging them to give their all, to be better at what they do and why they do it, and to love what they do while working hard doing it.

Leadership and HR expert Dave Ulrich touts that when workers find meaning in their jobs, they’re more productive and contribute more to the organization as a whole.

So in a very small space, here’s what we’ve got for why employees give 100%:

  • Inspirational Leadership
  • Challenge
  • Meaning
  • And Lots of Love

What better architect and facilitator for all of these but HR, right? In fact, if human resources and the organizations for which they worked focused more on empowering their leaders and employees rather than enabling them (as in non-productive co-dependency), then maybe we’d advance the workplace a lot farther than we have to date.

We should all know no other way to work play.

Be better and brighter.

The Fight Club Guide to Leadership Humility

I bet when someone asks you to name great leaders you think of Churchill, Sun Tzu, Jack Welch, Lincoln or others. Well listen up people because you’re missing someone. His name is…Tyler Durdin. Yes, Tyler Durdin. He is the main character in the movie Fight Club (Rated R) played by Brad Pitt.

In Fight Club, everyone loves Tyler Durdin. The girls want to be with him and men want to be like him. He’s smart, confident, passionate, holds true to his convictions and has an innovative way to change the world: Help people beat each other up so they can experience freedom from the entrapments of life. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that leaders engage in violence. However, metaphorically, there is a lot we can learn from Mr. Durdin.

In the movie, what started out as a fight in a parking lot turned into regular fights on Saturday nights which turned into fight clubs being cloned all over the country. Tyler’s fight clubs grew. But what’s interesting is that he never recruited anyone to join. In fact, he did the opposite. He told people not to talk about Fight Club. (The first rule of Fight Club.)

Imagine for a moment, being a leader of an organization that doesn’t have to recruit anyone because people are standing in line in the cold and rain to be a part of your vision.

So how did Tyler do it?

Humility – An Essential Leadership Trait

Tyler says this: “You’re not your job. You’re not the amount of money you make. You’re not the car you drive. Nor the contents of your wallet. Not your f-ing khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Does that sound a bit radical? Good. Leaders need to be less radical about their positions and more radical about their humanity.

I saw a great example of leadership humility two weeks ago. Enter Graham Weston. In case you don’t know who he is, Weston invested in Rackspace during its early stages, became the CEO and is now the Chairman of the Board. He is also the CEO of Weston Properties and owns 700,000 square feet of industrial and office properties in Texas. Successful? Oh yes.

Graham was one of the speakers at TEDx San Antonio; it was there that I met him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve met people with less power and position who made others feel like the dead ant in the mud under their feet.  So truthfully, I was prepared for the worst. Yet here was Graham, interacting with everyone. More than a few attendees shared their surprise at how approachable and sincere he was. At one point, he said hello to one of his Rackspace employees. This employee was not a VP or even in management. He was a techie.

Graham not only knew who he was, he knew this employee had been working the 3rd shift. He spent several minutes talking with the employee on a personal and professional level.  They were equals. This employee knew it. I could see it. And I was moved.

Does humble leadership work? Take a look at Rackspace’s growth and profitability. Need another example? Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ come to my mind. They were both incredibly humble, servant-focused men. One delivered his nation and the other delivered the world.

If you want to radically change your organization, take French politician Charles de Montesquieu’s advice: “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

Or as Tyler Durdin says, remember that “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else.”