How do leaders in your organization see their jobs? Not long ago a culture client told me, “I used to see my job as managing processes and results. Now I see my job as managing people’s energy!

Great things can happen with this mindset. One of our culture clients enjoyed a significant turnaround in their manufacturing plant, driven entirely by senior leaders shifting their focus to being “in service” to their staff. The Banta Catalog Group measured a 20% increase in employee engagement, a 17% reduction in employee turnover, and a 36% increase in profitability – in less than 18 months.

The Costs of Managing Only Results

Years ago a client described a retirement celebration he attended. Clyde worked for a large retail chain and served as a regional HR director. One afternoon Clyde was invited to a retirement party at a distribution center. He arrived just in time to witness the retiree, a gentleman named Jose, blowing out candles on a big sheet cake. There were 30 or so of Jose’s colleagues and a few region staff there to join in the party.

Jose’s colleagues called out, “Speech! Speech!” as the cake was being cut. Everyone encouraged Jose to say a few words. Ball cap in hand, Jose simply said, “For over 30 years I’ve worked at this distribution center.” He held up his hands. “During all those years you paid me to use these hands to do my work every day. But, you know what?” He pointed both index fingers to his head and said, “For the same money, you could have had my brain, too.”

Clyde related that there was a moment of stunned silence – after which Jose’s colleagues cheered, applauded, and scarfed down cake. Clyde, however, didn’t forget Jose’s comment so quickly. Jose’s experience indicated that, during his career:

  • Jose’s boss (or bosses) did not ask him to THINK about the work he was doing
  • Jose could have been much more engaged in his work
  • Jose could have been a problem solver vs. a “cog in a wheel”
  • Jose might not be the only employee who feels this way

Clyde decided right then to refine leadership development efforts to ensure that company leaders understood that their primary role was to inspire employees – not just manage “stuff.”

What are YOU Managing?

Consider these ideas to increase your inspirational leadership of team members:

  • Set clear goals and coach appropriately. If you have talented staff, set the goal and let them run. If you have staff who are new to a task or goal, coach them (or arrange for expert coaching to occur) so they get up to speed quickly.
  • Let team members apply their knowledge and skills to their daily tasks. If a team member gets the job done but it’s not how you would to it, that’s OK.
  • Praise progress AND accomplishment. People do a LOT of things right. Validate effort and their completion of tasks, goals, and projects.
  • LISTEN. Learn what team members want to learn about. Learn what ideas they have to improve efficiency. Learn how they’d do work differently. Support their efforts to make the work their own.

How does your boss inspire you? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Learn about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo ©

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
How do you like to learn? Read books | Listen to podcasts | Watch videos

Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarAJ Borowsky says

    This is fantastic! Only managing results is more like pushing – pushing your ideas on others, pushing people to do what you want. Managing people’s energy is much more collaborative, more respectful and, as you show, leads to better results.

    • Chris EdmondsChris Edmonds says

      Thanks so much for the insights, AJ – you’re right on. Pushing isn’t as conducive to long-term connection & commitment by employees. It’s about “magnetic attraction” – pulling them to do the right thing when no one is around!



  2. AvatarAl Smith says

    This is excellent. Thanks Chris. When we try and keep it “human” and actually CARE about the employees, it makes a huge difference. Listening is so important and you can not emphasize “praise & encouragement” enough. Respect. I could go on and on about this. Thanks again.

    “Influence & Inspire Positive Change”

    Take CARE.


    • Chris EdmondsChris Edmonds says

      Thank you, Al – so glad your experience aligns with mine. We’re hopefully helping influencers understand that to inspire great things from employees they must manage the human heart FIRST.



  3. AvatarMark Deterding says


    Another great blog! I would also add that the most significant impact on the future at Banta Catalog Group was not necessarily the performance results, which were certainly amazing and made them one of the top performing catalog printers in the nation, but was the profound impact it had on leaders. Those leaders who went through that transformational shift that you mention, are now making a profound impact on every person that they interact with as they share the power of servant leadership! It has had an amazing cascading effect that none of us will ever fully know and understand.

    Thanks so much for your guidance and leadership in that effort, that continues to produce results in people’s lives beyond what you know!


    • Chris EdmondsChris Edmonds says

      Thanks for your thoughts, Mark – it is terrific to see the Banta Catalog Group’s culture initiative have such far reaching impact (nearly 10 years after it began there)!

      Thank you for being a role model for servant leadership and creating high performance, values-aligned cultures.

      Best to you & Kim –



  4. Avatarstacey says

    Great post! Awesome and yet heart breaking story. I have definitely heard employees say with dismay that they’re not paid to think. It’s a travesty but I believe we are changing it. Slowly but surely we are learning to shrink the power distance and collaborate.

    • Chris EdmondsChris Edmonds says

      So true, Stacey – leaders have a tendency under pressure to control and over-manage, despite the abilities of talented staff they’ve hired. Work can be an inspiring, positive environment – we’re all working towards that end!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *