Positive and inclusive culture-setting, applying a ‘purpose-driven’ leadership approach, and showing more appreciation to employees (apparently 79% of staff quit jobs due to lack of appreciation) are the touted new ‘leadership hacks’ for 2023 and beyond.
These are brilliant; however, we often overlook what to many is seen as the absolute key to effective leadership – meaningful connection and trust between the leader and employee.
We find that in the digital age of ‘Go Go Go’ and the mounting task lists, senior management are usually occupied with the immediate, and often overlook the opportunity to build meaningful trust and inspiring relationships with their staff (proven to boost retention and productivity.)
However, we came across a recent episode of the HubSpot AugMentors Podcast (hosted by Julie Meyer and Jimmy Edgerton) which interviewed Ron Gutman (a tech inventor, Ted Talk speaker, and healthcare technology founder and CEO) which really hit this leadership nail on the head.
Prioritize Connection With Staff
It was refreshing to listen to the AugMentors podcast, as it centred on the value of leaders finding the time to sit down with their staff and open up on a personal level.
It promoted the notion of making the deliberate effort to make your leadership style more open, honest, and most-importantly, ‘vulnerable’.
In the video, we saw Ron Gutman explain about a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship he had as a student with a former Stanford University Provost, John Etchemendy.
John would routinely take the time to sit down with Ron on a one-to-one basis and share his life experiences with Ron, talking through his own personal transformation stories and discussing his life obstacles, inspirations, and journeys r.e. personal fitness, cycling, weight loss, and ultimately improved wellbeing and fulfilment.
It was through these ‘vulnerable conversations’, that Ron felt that his senior leader at Stanford University “really believed in me.”
These conversations, this personal connection of a leader (John) meeting regularly with a student (Ron) in an open and honest manner inspired Ron to start the ‘Live Long & Flourish Club’ when at Stanford University, which was a program for optimizing the use of technology for health on the Stanford Campus (which later led Ron to pursue a career in the healthcare industry).
On Sapient Leadership and Psychological Safety
More notably, Ron was inspired by John to become a Stanford University Academic later in life. Gutman talks in the podcast on how he is a Stanford University Adjunct Professor.
In 2020 he co-created along with Aneel Chima, the associate director of the Division of Health and Human Performance in Stanford a leadership methodology titled Sapient Leadership (see Harvard Business Review article about this here), which intuitively enough, promotes the importance of vulnerable, open leadership.
You can see the inspiration from his own experiences with a mentor, as now Ron is promoting leadership where effort is taken to build trust and personal connections to achieve ‘psychological safety’ between leaders and their teams.
Alongside the leadership story at Stanford, Ron Gutman talks through his own career in the podcast as a healthcare entrepreneur, the owner of an online consumer health company, and CEO of multiple healthcare technology companies (currently technology company Intrivo Diagnostics.)
Throughout the podcast, which we have embedded the YouTube link to the AugMentors episode above, the conversation between Ron, Julie, and Jimmy discusses the role of connection in leadership, whilst also covering key themes of: creating an atmosphere where teams feel valued and safe through connected relationships with their leaders, the power of smiling in building connections relationships with staff (this notion was linked to Ron Gutman’s 2011 Ted Talk – The Hidden Power of Smiling), and practicing mindfulness in mentoring conversations via ‘instant meditation’ before meetings, alongside some pretty novel tips on exercise routines.
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