82: Leaders With Heart Live True Servant Leadership

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks, and author of The Magic Cup and It’s Not About the Coffee. Howard talks about his perspective on servant leadership, his Starbucks insights, his accountability as a leader, and his idea of a “board of directors” in the context of our different mindsets. He also shares his experience when he was not the best version of himself.

Key takeaways:

  • Read about your role models and don’t be afraid to emulate them.
  • You don’t always have to be original; rather, find out how others do it.
  • Focus on conscious competency so that you can learn and teach about it. You don’t have to be an expert.
  • You can practice servant leadership in your small team.
  • Be willing o bet your job everyday on the things you believe in.

This episode is one for the books. Listen and learn!
Howard Behar’s Full BIO

Howard Behar‘s career in business spans over 50 years, all in consumer oriented businesses covering several industries. After 21 years, he retired from Starbucks Coffee where he led both the domestic business, as President of North America, and was the founding President of Starbucks International. 

During his tenure, he participated in the growth of the company from 28 stores to over 15,000 stores spanning five continents. He served at the Starbucks Board of Directors for 12 years before retiring.

Howard now serves on several boards, including iD Tech, Education Elements and the advisory board of Anthos Capital. He has non-profit commitments to the University of Washington Foundation, UW Business School mentoring program and The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation as a trustee. 

Howard is committed to the development and education of our future leaders and has been a longtime advocate of the Servant Leadership Model. He has also authored two books on leadership titled It’s Not About the Coffee and The Magic Cup.

Always Learning

I am where I have always been—learning and trying to figure out things.

I learn whenever I get the opportunity to talk with people like you and I also gain knowledge from the students I’m mentoring.

But I am sure about one thing: servant leadership is my model. I have grown into it. I’m 75 and I started learning about servant leadership 50 years ago.

I am still on that journey, figuring out what servant leadership really means, how it works, and how to get other people to look at it, adopt it or to teach me more about it. 

At 75, as you continue to learn, you also start to come to a conclusion about what really matters to you and what you believe really works.

I am a true believer in servant leadership. - @howardbehar #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Servant Leadership

The biggest issue is when things get tough. That’s when we fall back to our natural ways, which are autocratic. - @howardbehar #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

My definition of servant leadership is this: Leaders are there to serve their people and their journey of accomplishing the organization’s goals.

The people aren’t there to serve the leader. It’s the opposite of what we might think. Particularly, in the politics of today, the thinking is, the people are there to serve their leader, but it’s not. The leaders are there to serve their people.

By doing that, we allow and help our people grow. We also help our people achieve the things they want in their lives. In doing so, they help us achieve what we want in our lives, too. It’s simple.

Servant leadership is really about growing people. It is about helping our people become all that they can be, so that when they leave your organization, they leave as much bigger people than when they first joined your organization. Not only that, they also go on to change other organizations. For me, it’s the “be-all, end-all.”

At my age, I have worked for a number of organizations and I have reported to an array of different people in my life. So, I will tell you, without a doubt, it works much better than any other system. It’s much better than an autocratic system, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a time for a leader to be autocratic particularly in times of danger. But, 95% of the time we don’t need that.

I have been in organizations that were autocratically led and they blew up. Why? The people didn’t put their trust to their leader because they didn’t feel like they were growing as human beings. They didn’t feel their leadership cared about them.

Back on Board

We make lots of mistakes. 

Starbucks made lots of mistakes along the way. I considered Starbucks a servant leader organization but that didn’t mean we’re always servant led. There were times when we made mistakes, and we had to get back on board again.

We had to figure out where we were headed, and our people held us accountable, which was what has to happen. That’s when you know that the servant leadership model is really working—when the people of the organization have the ability to hold their leadership accountable to servant-leadership; they have the ability to speak up and speak out, hold their leaders accountable, and their leaders listen and take action.

If you look at organizations or businesses around the world, you can tell the difference between the ones that are led by servant style leaders and the ones that are not. It shows up on a daily basis.

Servant leadership is really about growing people. - @howardbehar #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet When the people of the organization have the ability to hold their leadership accountable, that's when the servant leadership model is really working. - @howardbehar #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet Now, conscious capitalism is really taking hold. You see it everywhere. - @howardbehar #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Who is responsible for employee engagement?

This last week I was a keynote speaker at a human resources (HR) conference. I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman who made an argument for why HR is not responsible for employee engagement.

You might be wondering how this came up. Often, boards of directors and leadership teams look to and point a finger at HR when employee turnover is high. Many senior leaders expect that HR needs to “own” the employee experience and employee engagement. This kind of conversation always generates great emotions on all sides. After thinking about this conversation more deeply, it is critical that we start this conversation more broadly.

What am I referring to when I say, “employee engagement”? I am referring to the point in time when an employee feels so valued, so listened to, and so respected that they go over and above for their team, their manager and their organization.

Here are five schools of thought regarding who is responsible for employee engagement:

  • Human resources (HR)

The most prevalent opinion is that HR “owns” employee engagement. For those making this argument, they make it mostly for the obvious reason. They are “human” resources. In this argument, they are responsible for anything that goes wrong with any of the employees inside or outside the organization.

To the contrary, the gentleman to whom I spoke at the HR conference argued that employee engagement is not the responsibility of human resources (HR). In his opinion, HR should be focused on tactical things like payroll, benefits and workplace conflict. He further posited that HR doesn’t really have the tools or knowledge base to lead this effort.

While I believe that everyone inside the organization has a role to play in employee engagement, HR must play a leading, or at a minimum, partnering role by virtue of their intimate knowledge of the human capital ecosystem. They must be fully supported in this area. They deserve a seat at the table.

  • Executive leaders (including the board of directors)

Another popular opinion is that the executive leadership team, along with any boards of directors, are the key architects of employee engagement. This position points to the fact that the most senior decisionmakers in an organization navigate the organization in one direction, or another, and determine where to direct resources.

I do believe that the executive leaders in any organization are crucial in employee engagement efforts as they must approve budgets, remove barriers, act in congruence with stated visions and norms and demonstrate high levels of enthusiasm around all efforts. They must also ensure that HR and other stakeholders are empowered to do what is necessary to improve the experiences for employees.

  • Employees

In the work that I do, I often hear the argument that employees are responsible for their own engagement. People who make this argument point to self-reliance in that they believe that employees must create their own happiness, their own positive view of work, and their own opportunities.

There is some validity to this argument, but what is overlooked is the imbalance of power between employees and management. There are many examples of a lack of empowerment, micromanagement that stifles any creative thinking and even sabotage.

Having said that, employee engagement is impossible if employees don’t provide open and honest feedback, aren’t flexible through change initiatives, or they become apathetic and siloed. They are, indeed, the critical piece of the employee engagement puzzle, but cannot fully direct their own experiences.

  • All supervisors and business unit managers

Many believe that employee engagement is the responsibility of the “boss”. I have written extensively about this both in my book, The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty, and in past articles. I do believe that all levels of management drive the kinds of emotions that make employees want to stay or leave an organization. This directly connects to their level of discretionary effort. I will continue to surface additional ways that managers can produce these emotions and drive higher levels of engagement.

For now, we must not leave management out of the employee engagement discussion.

  • Everyone

There is a newer discussion that everyone owns employee engagement-from the janitor, to the supervisor to the CEO to the members of the board of directors. Some may argue that this is a cop out in that if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible. If no one is responsible, then nothing gets done.

This is a valid point. We need to make sure that there are measurements and accountabilities associated with any employee engagement efforts. If not, it will only be a conversation. We need to be specific about who is responsible for what and how them accountable for results.

My thoughts

While I do believe that managers have the biggest opportunity to create fertile ground for engagement success, employee engagement is not possible unless all stakeholders are bought into the need for it and their roles in it. I think we need to continue to look at all the models and ideas to decide which governance model is best. No matter what, this is not a “one and done” scenario, nor should the good or the bad be placed on the shoulders of one department or person. This a hefty load that must be carried by many.

Please lend your voice to this conversation. Leave a comment with your perspective. Do you feel strongly on one side of the other? Share it with others who can add value.

81: Leaders With Heart Embrace The Mess Of Humanness In The Workplace

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Phil Burgess, Chief People Officer of CSpace about his leadership philosophy, his stories about the messiness that happens in the workplace, his experience when he was not a shining example of leadership with heart and what he did to move out of it, and some amazing pearls of wisdom.

Key takeaways:

  • It’s up to leaders to embrace the mess that is all of us at work.
  • Leaders must model the change they are seeking.
  • Leaders are more effective when they invite feedback from direct reports and act upon those by making small tweaks.
  • Spending time with your people helps connect the dots about them and the areas that need attention in the business.
  • As a leader, we cannot always make everyone happy.
  • Be who you are as a leader and not a copy of someone else.
  • Let yourself off the hook. Have conviction in what you are doing.
  • Seek out safe spaces where the leader can be vulnerable.
  • Catch yourself doing things right.
  • Remember that everyone owns the culture.

This episode is bursting with amazing learnings. Don’t miss this!
Phil Burgess’ Full BIO

Phil highly believes that growing people is the most effective way to grow a business. That’s why he’s passionate about building high-performing, inclusive cultures and the role that leaders play in making this happen. 

He currently serves as the Chief People & Operations Officer at C Space, a customer agency on a mission to make business more human by building customers into the way brands work.  His focus is ensuring that C Space lives this mission internally, creating a great employee experience for its team of 350 staff across the USA, and enabling them to deliver great work to their clients. Early on, Phil was Joint Managing Director of C Space’s London office where his work on people contributed to C Space twice winning Agency of the Year and taking home the MRS Best Place to Work Award in 2018. 

He started his career in door-to-door sales, recruiting and building teams before moving into the world of research and consultancy. This year he was named as one of the UK’s Top 30 male ‘Agents of Change’ championing equality and inclusivity in business. He recently relocated from London to the States with his wife and two small children.

More Human

I’m learning as I go. I’m learning everyday, especially a lot about how important culture and leadership is in turning around a company. 

I feel lucky to be working for an agency where I really believe is the place I’m meant to be. I believe in its mission, which is helping businesses be more human. We bring brands and consumers together to co-create products and services.

I’m also convinced that my mission, internally, is to figure out how to make our business more human, how to make sure we’re constant inside and out, how to bring more human practice, and how to embrace the messiness of everything for the people that work here to make it a great place to be.

Have conviction in what you're doing. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Messiness

As leaders, we aren’t perfect. We are just people—imperfect.

In the company, we’ve been brainstorming a lot about our culture and the people within it: how to get our people to bring themselves to work, and how to embrace the fact that we all need to be a little bit more vulnerable and a little bit more supportive of one another. We’re all works in progress. Now, how do we embrace it as part of our value proposition as an employer?

We’re looking for people who are works in progress, who are self aware enough to know that they’ve got stuff they get wrong, and who are happy to talk about these things.

I see it a big part of my role as a leader to figure out how to shape a culture that makes people safe enough to talk about that, so they can get to be the best versions of themselves. It’s a big responsibility but it’s also something I believe in strongly.

It’s my role to think about ways to motivate these kinds of behaviors, so that people see me and the other members of our leadership team talking about what we’re also messing up. We don’t know all the answers, yet we still want to inspire confidence that we know where we’re going, though we might not exactly know how we are going to get there. It’s kind of a messy journey but if you embrace it, it can be fun.

What helped me is finding some safe spaces where I can vulnerable with other people going through the same thing. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Feedback

On a good day, I feel like I get it right, so I invite my team to give me feedback on how we’re doing, or if they understand the vision or the direction I am taking them in. On a bad day, I would criticize myself and worry about things: if I am appearing flustered or indecisive, or if I am passing my stress onto others by not having a clear plan. So, I always invite feedback from my direct team about how I am doing.

Some of them said to me the other day, “Phil, sometimes, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. But when you’re racing around the office, or running between meetings, the stress could pass on to us. We know you’re all over it but maybe just think about how you could slow down.”

I appreciated that and took it to heart. Over the last couple of months I have been really focusing on how to show up in different ways, and it’s helpful to have a team who can point out these little things, as well as the things that I think I am setting the pace, which other people might interpret slightly differently.

Hence, I focus a lot on providing spaces to people to point out where I’m getting stuff wrong. Then, I try to be as vocal as I can with my team about their feedback and suggestions. They also try to give me feedback on what I am getting right which adds to my self-confidence and self-esteem as a leader. Overall, it helps them see me as not just the guy that has got all the answers, but as someone who is working with them to move everyone forward.

We're all works in progress. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetI'm learning as I go. I'm learning every day. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetWe don’t know all the answers, yet we still want to inspire confidence that we know where we’re going, though we might not exactly know how we are going to get there. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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80: Leaders With Heart Understand They Are The Caretakers Of Their Employees’ Futures

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Rhoda Banks, Head of Talent for Rabo Agrifinance about her unique and caring leadership style, her learnings from the time when she was not the best version of herself, and some jewels and pearls of wisdom we can all learn from.

Key takeaways:

  • The ultimate reason for a leader is to help their people reach their fullest potential.
  • If you care about your people give them honest feedback.
  • Employees mimic what they see in their leaders.
  • It is the leaders responsibility to lead with heart.
  • Forgive others and allow them to make mistakes.
  • Remember your why for being a leader.
  • Remember your purpose for being a leader.

You will enjoy this one for sure.

Rhoda Banks’ Full BIO

Rhoda Banks is an energetic, passionate and strategic talent & organizational development leader collaborating with organizations in designing, and implementing all people-related initiatives focused on building a high-performance culture and achieving business results. 

She serves as a thought partner for business leaders, understanding the business needs and strategic goals designing and leveraging a thorough global talent management strategy and systems to attract, develop, grow and retain high-quality talent. She is also accountable for leading global performance management, leadership development, succession planning, organization development and change management. 

Rhoda also dedicates her time as a Corporate HR Business Partner, while also serving as an adviser to the CEO and executive leadership team for diversity and inclusion strategic planning.


Passionate and Intentional

I am intentionally trying to leave a legacy. The way I lead at work is the way I lead in life. Everything that I do from here and out is done with intention. I am purposely trying to manipulate positively what people would say about me once my time is ended here on earth.

I am also super passionate about leading and developing others, and helping them to reach their fullest potential. I have a reputation for that. 

I had personally taken people under my wing and given them opportunities. I had helped, molded, coached and developed them so that they can go on to the greater things. That’s why I am continuing to do that even at the organization that I am at now. I am passionate about people.

Don't be afraid to have tough conversations. - Rhoda Banks #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Mimic and Adopt

As parents, we want to minimize or avoid hurt and harm from coming to our kids as much as possible, so we’re constantly giving them advice. 

It’s very similar in a leadership role, not saying that we are their “moms,” but we are caretakers of their future and their career. 

People mimic and adopt behaviours that they experience from others. So, I want to lead with the best intentions and give good experiences so that hopefully, they would carry that forward. 

It’s not easy to find really good leaders, and people who lead with heart. There’s only a few of us out there. 

Our responsibility is to lead with heart and give others that experience. Hopefully, they will find it in themselves to mimic that instead of mimicking bad behaviour.

Encouraged and Driven

I was the little girl that wasn’t supposed to succeed. I grew up in a low-income housing project as the oldest of four girls. My mom was single and I have never met my father. He was killed when I was five. 

Whenever I look back to where I came from, many people whom I grew up with are still in the same place physically, emotionally and mentally. 

I became driven because I didn’t want that for myself and I wanted to make my mom proud. I’ve always had a deep genuine concern to help her.

I was encouraged by the people who saw the talents and the gifts that I had. I was motivated to not let them all down. When I had my own kids, I was encouraged to be an example for them and for others as well.

You have to give your people good honest feedback and it’s not always easy and positive. - Rhoda Banks #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThe ultimate reason for leaders is to help others to reach their fullest potential and to be the best version of themselves. - Rhoda Banks #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetFeedback is a gift. - Rhoda Banks #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThe way I lead at work is the way I lead in life. - Rhoda Banks #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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79: Leaders With Heart Love The People They Lead

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In this episode, Heather speaks directly to listeners about a deeply personal story that reminded her of the importance of loving the people on your team. She outlines the benefits of doing so and she inspires leaders from all walks to care deeply for the people who look up to them for leadership.

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t be afraid to lead with love.
  • Leaders who care deeply create deeply caring employees.
  • Sit with your people and meet them where they are.
  • Leadership is not a cookie-cutter experience. 
  • Meet people where they are.
  • Emotions create loyalty.

Listen and learn!

Deep Caring Love

Recently, a friend of mine posted something on LinkedIn and tagged me as the “amazing leader.” It was a really touching post, but it made me think of another article I have written before. I didn’t realize how long ago it was until I searched for it on LinkedIn. 

In 2014, I wrote an article about why it’s okay to love your employees. I know this is a really hard conversation to have and even a tough one to broach because most people really move away from this idea of love in the workplace. 

I don’t mean love like romantic love but a deep caring love. Actually, I had this kind of love while I was working at my last job position before I decided to go on my own for Customer Fanatix.

Leaders with heart are the ones who make us feel important, and take the time to be with us where we’re at, right there at that moment. - @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

A Walking Example

It’s okay to love your employees. - @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

One day, the manager who brought me in noticed something different. He could see that I was reaching a heightened level of frustration with some of the decisions because I felt completely ignored. He could have let me just swim in that pity for a little bit, but he didn’t. 

He came down without an appointment to my office. He sat down on a chair and said, “I know this is frustrating but we hired you for a reason. You’re here to do what you do best and we want you to do it well. I know that what’s happening is all frustrating, but please do stick with it because we want you to do what you do best.” Then he gave me a smile. I’ve got to tell you that at that moment, I loved that guy.

Today, he already left that position since a lot of the management decisions didn’t align with who he was as a leader, which I greatly respected, but boy did it hurt because he was such a wonderful manager. 

But just recently my heart was really broken for him as his son who was just in his 20’s passed away in his sleep. I really cared about him and I quickly requested the information to make sure I could get to his son’s funeral. When I showed up, I remembered when he cared for me and I wanted to do the same for him. I want to be there for him. When we locked eyes, he looked at me and his eyes said, “Thank you.” But I looked at him back and expressed, “No. Thank you.”

Leaders With Heart

We know those leaders with heart. They’re the ones who make us feel important, and take the time to be with us where we’re at. They don’t delay. They don’t act too political. They don’t put words up. They are humans. They are real. 

When he came down and cared for me, I knew I just want to be there for him, too. Of course those are two different scenarios, a really horrific thing his situation is. But it was him being there for me when I was down and feeling kind of “ugh” that made me want to go to the ends of the earth for him. During that time, I know he needed as many friends as possible to envelope him with love.

Don’t shy away from being that leader who loves your people. Your greatest reward will be your people looking at you with admiration. They will care for you and they will go over and above for you in every initiative you put in front of them. So be that leader with heart.

Most people really move away from the idea of deep caring love in the workplace. - @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetThrough your love for your people, you will reap much larger dividends than you would if you focus on moving up in the business or trying to add more accolades. - @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To TweetYour people will run that race with you, right beside you and maybe even in front to make sure that you’re winning. - @CustomerFanatix #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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