It’s possible for leaders to force their teams into performance through cajoling or the use of shame. Some leaders use positional authority, the authority conferred by their title, to spur others into action. While this approach can work, it typically only works for a short period of time, achieving modest and measured results.

Any effort to achieve sustained results and long-term increases in productivity must value, at its core, positive relationships. 

As we wrote in our book, Would You Work for You?  The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, “Your successful career as a leader will be defined by the quality of  the relationships you build, and they will become the cornerstone of your career. Striving to be the most thoughtful, aware, and generous person within an organization is a good place to begin.”

The Power of a Great Place to Work

Dick’s Drive-In was founded in Seattle in 1954. The chain’s first location, in Wallingford, began the Seattle tradition of a limited, simple menu of quality burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Dick’s Drive-In has an excellent reputation among locals. 

Not only does Dick’s Drive-In serve iconic burgers, but they’re known for how well they treat their employees. Even entry-level team members make an excellent base wage and have access to health benefits, child care assistance, and money for tuition. The success of Dick’s Drive-In is not merely due to perks and payment but also due to the way company culture and positive relationships are reinforced. Team members know their leaders care about them and recognize their contributions. 

This dynamic results in an environment where team members are extremely loyal to the organization, often remaining in their jobs for many years. They also provide excellent customer service to the public. Ultimately, the local community is glad to support a business where relationships are valued and team members are happy. 

It’s Not About You

True leadership is about the team, not the leader. When stepping into a leadership role, this is the first thing you must understand. Effective leadership is about everyone except you. As we wrote in our book, “Creating an atmosphere of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ will be an  experience that you’ll be thanked for in the future.”

Customers Buy the Relationship

Les Schwab Tires is another organization that is well-renowned for the way it values its employees. A retail tire chain operating in the western United States, Les Schwab has made a habit of taking care of people. While changing tires might not seem like a glamorous line of work, Les Schwab has created a powerful culture where team members are invested in the safety and care of their customers. This happens, in part, because those team members feel supported and empowered by their leaders.

When customers come to Les Schwab to get their tires replaced or their brakes inspected, it’s actually the relationship that they’re buying into. They know that there’s something different about the culture. 

It’s All About the Team

Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Small things done well over a long period of time lead to great results. Continued commitment will set you on the road to success. Great relationships don’t happen by chance and, without making relationships the cornerstone of your leadership journey, you’ll struggle to achieve the kind of results seen by Dick’s Drive-In and Les Schwab Tires.

Sometimes leaders are interested only in the benefits of leadership. But when the team flourishes, the leader’s rewards are actually larger. The more you look after your team, the more engaged that team will be and the more excited your customers will be to support your organization.

Begin your journey to transformational leadership. Read Would You Work for You? The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within”