What Employees Want From Their Leaders

I’ve been reading a series of legal thrillers recently and the main character talks a lot about the law of unintended outcomes.  This blog post is a direct result of that phenomenon.

I am currently working on a leadership session and wanted to gather some opinions about what employees look for in their leader.  I posed the question to former IAAPA Show Ambassadors who represent a great demographic cross-section of the young staff members many of us work with.  When I saw their answers, I thought this information was bigger than the one session I was working on, and needed to be shared with as many people as possible.  Thus, an unintended outcome of asking my original question.

So, here are the answers they gave. I am including them as they wrote them, with no editing.  Watch for common themes and feel free to self evaluate regarding where you fall on the “what-my-employees-want” scale (each persons response is separated by a space):

  • Feedback: Positive or Needs Improvement. It’s always good to know how you doing, and to get assistance with development.
  • Empathy: Sometimes leaders need to understand what it’s like on the front line, especially if they haven’t done it in awhile.
  • Communication: It’s the worst when a leader does not communicate with the front line important information about the daily operations.
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Solicit input from staff when developing new policies or procedures
  • Share the big picture and long-term goals
  • Doesn’t micromanage.
  • Firm yet understanding.
  • Knowledgeable and willing to teach you and help you grow.
  • Work hard/play hard attitude.
  • Approachability
  • Humility
  • Passionate
  • Dedicated
  • Honest
  • Passionate
  • Always willing to give you constructive criticism. Sometimes I think leaders hold back on their responsibility to communicate as both professional and personal relationships build. Whenever I find myself hesitating to give feedback to a team member I always think about how much I appreciate when people give me both positive and constructive feedback.
  • Also, someone who invests time in understanding the thought process that goes into how you do your job and how you make decisions. Especially in cross-functional teams where your leader might come from a different background then you.
  • Someone who shows that they are committed to their team members success, and is willing to work with their team to help them achieve their goals.
  • Someone who leads by example (someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but can walk the walk.)
  • Someone who can effectively communicate the teams goals, small and big picture.
  • Someone you can relate to and have fun with!
  • Dreamer –I look to someone with vision, a purpose for their labor, who is constantly seeking methods for either sustainment or improvement and innovation. To me, a great leader not only has a vision for their individual responsibilities but also how his or her efforts contribute to a greater purpose. Ultimately, the person is a “big picture thinker”
  • Inspirational –Those that lead well are those who instill motivation in others. Altruism paired with purpose and passion produce someone with fervor enough to inspire others. I find that work becomes more meaningful when I can attribute passion to it -whether it be intrinsic or inspired by another. Leaders with this quality have an excellent way of helping an organization grow because they constantly build their teams’ esteem and motivation with the passion they carry themselves.
  • Admirability –A true leader, in my eyes, is an authentic leader, a person respected and highly esteemed by others because of his or her ability to honest, caring, and dependable. Respect is built with time by the outcome of experiences. Leaders who demonstrate a high level of truthfulness, conviction in their teams and a sincere concern for others’ well-being, as well as a reputation for keeping promises is endeared by many but, chiefly, is respected by all.

What are the common themes did you notice?  How did you do on your self evaluation?  Are we missing anything that YOU look for in a leader?

I want to thank Bobby Monnerat, Ivey West, Todd Swetnam, Greg Matthew, Dave Mugnaini, Sarai Henning, Brandon Bruce, Alex Reszitnyk, and Krystal Lambert for not only chiming in to answer my question, but also for unintendedly contributing to this blog post and the betterment of leaders everywhere!  You rock!

Thanks for reading!


Now that you know what your employees want, are you and your leadership teams equipped to provide it?  I’m here to help your leaders lead!

A Tale of Two Interactions

A few days ago, my wife and I were out and about looking for a small TV to put in our home office. We went to two places, and had two very different interactions.

Store #1: We saw the model we wanted on display, but could not find a way to obtain it. An employee happened to walk by but didn’t acknowledge us. We asked if he worked there and he grunted in the affirmative. When asked about the TV, he mumbled that they have been out of that model for at least a month, and wouldn’t be getting any more in.

We asked about buying the floor model. “Can’t do it.” was essentially the response. When we asked about other models that might have similar features, there was more grunting, and then no. No other TVs they had matched our criteria.

We asked again about the floor model, and were told this time, “The manager will never take that down.”

We left without a TV, which is why we got to have the second experience.

Store #2: We walked in and were immediately greeted by an employee. He cheerfully asked (with a genuine smile on his face) “what can I help you find?”  We told him what we were looking for, and he worked through the available options. They didn’t have exactly what we were looking for, but he offered to check in the back, check other stores, and he immediately went online when we said we had seen something on their website. In the end, we didn’t buy the TV there because they didn’t have exactly what we were looking for. As we left, he said, “I’m sorry we didn’t have what you were looking for. Have a great evening.”

Even though there was no sale made, we can probably all agree that the service was better at store #2 than store #1.

Based on all of this, I want to talk about one specific difference in the employees we interacted with.

Their age.

One employee was in his late 50’s or early 60’s. The other was in his mid-late 20’s. The question is: Which store had which employee?

If you said that the young mumbler/grumbler was in store #1, you’d be wrong.  But you are probably not alone.  While I think there is enough evidence out there for these stereotypes to start changing, it’s still the perception of many that young workers are lazy and older workers have a strong work ethic. As a leader, we can’t bank on these stereotypes.

If nothing else, these examples show that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover any more than you can judge a generation by what you read in a book.

Thanks for reading!


Need to evaluate and improve your customer experience?  Mystery shopping (and in-depth report analysis) saves the day!


Learning IS Work!

A good friend of mine started a new job today.  I sent him a text a few minutes ago stating that I hoped his first day was going well.  I even told him I didn’t expect a reply because he should working!

A few minutes later, this text comes in:

Vince text copy

So I sent this response:

Vince text copy2

I don’t think my friend is alone in thinking that learning, or being trained, isn’t “work”.  Part of this comes down to the value, or perceived value that is placed on the training process by those who feel it gets in the way (and there are a lot of those people out there).

How many of you have heard something like this, “Okay, you gotta go to this training thing, but hurry back because we have work to do.”

Boom – the value (in that person’s mind) of learning something new has just been solidified.  It ain’t that important.  And when it doesn’t seem that important, less and less effort is exerted to make it meaningful or to seek out opportunities to learn something new.

But learning is work.  Not only in the sense that it is part of the process of being a better leader and a better person, but also in terms of the definition of the word:

Work – exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something

Learning (not just sitting and letting information pass by us) takes effort.  Sometimes we have to challenge our established ways of thinking to alter a process (even for the better).  Gaining a new skill or bit of information also helps us produce a result or accomplish something – probably something that you had never been able to accomplish before, likely because you didn’t know enough.

Looking at learning as work also helps us tie the efforts together, making them even stronger as a team.  Tearing them apart and separating them weakens them both.

Thanks for reading!


Are you worried about how your front line leaders will treat your employees and guests?  Let’s chat about getting them the right development!

The Kids Are Alright

How many “generational” experts have you heard talking about how different the generations are? While it’s true that each generation has their own idiosyncrasies, couldn’t you say the same about genders, races, and socioeconomic classes?

But what we have learned (or should have learned) about these other groups? By thinking of them specifically by their stereotypical characteristics, we often get a skewed view of that group, and forget to treat them as individuals.

The same thing has happened with all this talk of different generations, and it kind of bugs me. Why spend all this time talking about how we are different? Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus in what we have in common so we can get along better?

This “differences are bad” mentality was punctuated by a comment overheard by fellow passengers on a recent Southwest flight.

If you aren’t familiar with Southwest’s boarding procedure, they don’t assign seats. Instead, they give you a boarding position, and you stand in line (and then board) according to the position assigned. For this flight, I was B15.

Passengers B14 and B19 were already discussing this procedure when I arrived. B14 said, “I thought this system was stupid when it first came out, but it actually works.”

B19 replied, “Yeah, I know some people don’t like it, but I don’t mind.”

“It was probably thought up by some intern“, B14 joked.

Why is this a bad thing? Does he think only well seasoned, experienced executives can make good decisions?  He seems to be indicating that he thinks interns, by default, come up with stupid ideas, further perpetuating the divide between generations.  Well done, B14.

Interns and young employees have some great and innovative ideas, and we need to get out of our own way and listen to what they have to say if we are going to lead our teams and companies into the future. The problem is that often their ideas sound so “out-of-the-box” that someone with too much experience maintaining the status quo could never even fathom it working, so it’s called stupid.

Of course this goes both ways, young people also still need to listen to more experienced employees to learn from what has happened in the past to avoid previous failures or build on successes.

No matter your gender, race, generation or NFL franchise loyalties, one of the things we all have in common is ego. More than any of these other differences, it is our ego that can lead to an unwillingness to admit that someone else might have a good idea.  This is REALLY what gets in the way when it comes to listening to each other and building cooperation.

So check your ego, embrace the fact that other people have good ideas and intentions, and the “differences” these experts keep talking about will become virtually irrelevant.

What is your experience?

Thanks for reading!


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