When the words ‘leadership’ and ‘heart’ are used together, a lot of business people roll their eyes and move to the next article, preferably something with the words like ‘increase’ and ‘productivity’ prominently featured. Too many of them (okay, us) think they are about to get another lecture on “putting people before profits” and “engaging the hearts of employees” and all manner of similar sentiments that have no bearing on ‘real’ business.
OK, relax. That’s not what this article is about. (Although you might want to examine your aversion to those notions someday.)
I am not talking about ‘heart’ in the valentine, cute red symbol of love and soft / mushy / emotional / Oprah way. I’m talking about the heart. The real-life muscle which works non-stop in an extremely practical way and without which the organism would die.
So if the heart isn’t, as the Egyptians, Greeks and the Hallmark Board of Directors would have us believe, the seat of emotion, love and passion, what is it? At its most basic, the heart is a four-chambered muscle that uses intake and output to ensure oxygen reaches every inch of the body to keep it alive and healthy. That’s the real role of a manager, indeed a leader of any stripe.
Think about the manager’s job. We take in information through good communication. Our organization, our customers and our employees are constantly telling us what’s going on. We take it in, collect it, then we add oxygen - our own wisdom, context, and understanding. We send that ‘oxygenated’ blood out to our customers, employees and the organization at large where action is taken, or data is understood and turned into valuable work.
Yes, we can collect information and pass it on without adding value and the body will be fine for a while. Over time, the body (your team or company) suffers. You can only pass more value on to some parts of the organization than others. Most of us do a really good job of passing a ton of information downstream, but are we letting our own managers and leadership know what’s happening out in the field?
There are two parts to the way the heart transmits blood (or leaders gather and send valuable communication). First is the system of veins, arteries, capillaries and blood vessels that actually carry the blood and oxygen to and from the heart. That is the combination of technological tools, work processes and working relationships that allow a good, honest flow of information, both intake and output.
The second part is the “pump”, the muscle itself. Gathering information (or blood) does no good if it is not oxygenated and sent back out to the rest of the body. That pump is our willingness to add value to that information and the effort it takes to proactively communicate with our stakeholders.
Our job as leaders is to take in information by active listening, process it, add value and proactively communicate with everybody associated with our work.
We are the heart of our organizations. Information at some point flows to, and through us. If it is gathered thoroughly, processed well, and sent out effectively, the organization will remain healthy. If there are blockages, or insufficient oxygen added by the heart, the result can be failing health and even death.
Whether you are the “touchy-feely” type, or a hard-nosed, practical manager, you are the heart of your company and team. It can’t survive without you. There’s nothing soft and mushy about that.