As leaders, one of our priorities should be to learn what's important in the personal and professional lives of the people on our teams. We can learn these things through informal conversation, or we can learn them via a more systematic process like having regularly-scheduled, "How can I serve you?" meetings.
Once we learn what's important to team members, another priority should be to help team members do the things that are most important to them.
I recently had a chat with Kristen Hadeed, the CEO of innovative commercial cleaning company called Student Maid. The company only hires college students with a GPA of 3.5 or better, which inspires confidence in clients.
Student Maid's most disruptive innovation is their incredible workplace culture. The leaders at Student Maid invest a lot of resources in developing team members both personally and professionally, and building authentic relationships with team members.
The culture that Student Maid has built is probably its greatest competitive advantage.
Most cleaning companies experience incredibly high turnover, only able to retain employees for an average of a few months. Student Maid retains employees for an average of two-and-one-half years and, in most cases, the employees leave only because they have to, when they graduate. They cannot be a team member at Student Maid if they're not students.
One of the most important elements of the culture at Student Maid, is the level of care the leaders demonstrate for team members. The leaders at Student Maid realize that a team member's personal life is just as important as her life at work. If a team member isn't happy at home, or in his relationships, or is struggling in school, he is certainly going to bring at least a portion of the problem to work, and that is going to affect his performance.
During my discussion with Kristen Hadeed, she mentioned the newest initiative at Student Maid, which is a wonderful, systematic way of helping team members in their personal lives. Inspired by Matthew Kelly's book, The Dream Manager, a new position was recently created at Student Maid, called the DreamLeader.
Kristen told me, "The DreamLeader has one-on-one conversations with team members to make sure that everything is okay in their personal lives. If something isn't, and they want to talk about it, we are here for them. Our DreamLeader happens to have a Ph.D. in counseling and has worked in higher education for more than 10 years, which is a perfect fit for our company because we only hire students."
The DreamLeader also helps the team members map out their "dreams." For the team members at Student Maid, the short-term dreams might not sound so big, but they can be very important to the students who work with Student Maid.
As Kristen said, "Maybe it's to land a dream internship or to make a budget and save money. To the rest of the world it might be a 'small dream,' but to that student in that moment it is a huge dream and we want to help them accomplish it. Usually our students haven't had someone spend time with them and help them like this."
It is certainly no small-investment to create a full-time position for a person who helps team members achieve their dreams. But the leaders at Student Maid determined that this a good investment for the business, the community, and for living a life with meaning.
"The idea," Kristen told me, "is that if they can associate their work with a place that makes them successful outside of work, it's better for everyone---the team members and the company."
How could you apply something like this in your organization?
If you don't have the budget to hire a full-time "DreamLeader," could that be a collateral duty for leaders?
Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur, an international keynote speaker, and the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom.
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