“I see leadership as a deeply human endeavor,” says Alain Hunkins, speaker, leader, and author of the new book, Cracking the Leadership Code: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders. In today’s episode with Alain Hunkins, we discuss some of the easy-to-understand and implement concepts in his book and how great leadership is really at the core of customer experience.
Alain Hunkins expresses that he has always been fascinated by why people do what they do, and has spent over 20 years gathering data on leadership experiences—understanding what works and what doesn’t work at a very practical and tactical level. We’ll explore his three concepts of connection, communication, and collaboration, which work in tandem to cultivate a united view of the life of customers and employees. I think you’ll get great value out of this conversation.
We Have to Move Beyond Top-Down Style of LeadershipAlain shares that in order for us to change how we lead today, we need to look at how we led in the past. His philosophy is based on changing the fact that we’re still “living out the inherited leadership legacy that has been handed down to us back from the days of the Industrial Revolution; the whole command and control top-down style.” He goes on to state that we currently live in a different world where, when it comes to creating a customer experience, we’re asking the frontline people to think critically and respond in real-time. This behavior on behalf of employees requires more than just rules and regulations. It requires connection, communication, and collaboration.
According to Alain, we need employees to feel empowered and safe enough to do their job in a way that truly allows them to be nimble and agile. This is harder to execute when people are expected to act like machines.
Connect with People
“At its core, leadership is a relationship as a human between the person who leads and the person who chooses to follow,” says Alain. He expresses that it’s best to try and lead through commitment, not compliance. When you connect with people, you can start by doing so with empathy. “Empathy is the gateway to connection because we’re all human, and we want to know before anything else that we’re seen or heard, and we’re recognized,” Alain says. When you don’t develop the empathetic connection, people don’t feel safe being themselves at work, they don’t speak up, they don’t share their best ideas. They’re more likely to seek work elsewhere.
Furthermore, you can build your connection through credibility. Alain tells us, “Credibility is the foundation of predictive trust; it’s the glue of relationships. Once we have empathy, its credibility as you’re the person who shows up and does stuff.” As leaders, you have to do what you say you’re going to do; it’s the act of showing up. This also means having the ability to say no to things when you think you’re being overtaxed.
Communicate and Build Commonality
As Alain discusses the part of his book about communication, he likens it to having the ability to influence others. He believes that the point of communication is to create a platform of shared understanding where we see and hear things in the same way. He explains that you have to first understand the person’s point of view.
He encourages leaders, “Ask those open-ended questions to draw out their experience, and look for the commonality to build on. That’s a way of building rapport.” He emphasizes the importance of finding commonality because people are more willing and receptive to hear what you say if they feel you’ve listened to them.
“If we’re looking to influence others, it’s so important for us to step back and really give them some space and time to hear it, which you can see how that builds on the connection. So these things connection, communication, collaboration, they start to all overlap in a certain way,” says Alain.
Collaborate and Motivate Others to be Motivated
When it comes to collaboration, Alain asks us to move away from the old “command and control,” model of leadership, to an approach that motivates others to be motivated. He asks us the following: “How do we create an environment in which people can step forward and thrive and do their best work? We need to look at the human needs that need to be satisfied in order for people to show up and do their best. We know that when employees do their best work, they’re much more likely to satisfy their customers’ needs.”
Alain walks us through the various ways that employees can show up as their best selves, and he attributes it to having the ability to work in an energized environment, and by feeling psychologically safe, fiscally safe, and physically safe. According to Alain, when all of these aspects come together and leadership is unified, you’re more likely to make progress towards a meaningful goal.
As I’ve shared before, people generally want to work with purpose, and Alain supports this idea as well. Alain shares an anecdote in which he was working with a medical device company, and when he toured their factory, he spoke with a factory employee. When he asked her, “what do you do here?” her response was “I help save people’s lives.” In this action, he saw how she internalized her work and knew that she was serving a greater good. Alain’s work with the company showed him just how involved leadership was with employees; from quarterly town halls and more, they collaborated in ways that helped employees feel like they were contributing to something valuable. We have to listen to people, we have to give them a sense of ownership.
I suggest you listen to this full episode to hear more anecdotes regarding how Alain has seen connection, communication, collaboration come together in an organization in a way that benefits the employee experience, thus impacting the customer experience.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“What I know now is that building relationships with people that you’d like to work with is way more important than thinking you need to be some subject matter expert. It’s kind of in the, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ when you have to know something. I used to think that merit on its own would stand out. And realizing that we live in a world of people and people are human, and relationships are what count. So taking more time to cultivate and strengthen relationships earlier in my career, instead of thinking that the quality of my work product would stand out on its own would be something I wish I had known way back then.”
About Alain HunkinsA sought-after keynote speaker, facilitator and coach, Alain Hunkins is a leadership expert who connects the science of high performance with the performing art of leadership. Alain has a gift for translating complex concepts from psychology, neuroscience, and organizational behavior into simple, practical tools that can be applied on the job.
Over the course of his 20+ year career, Alain has worked with tens of thousands of leaders in over 25 countries, and served clients in all industries, including 42 Fortune 100 companies.
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