Good leaders know they must be kind to employees. There is no way around it in 2021, as the pandemic redefines what is most important to workers. Today, we’re in the thick of what economists are calling the Great Resignation, where more than 40% of workers want to switch employers. The reasons vary, but employers’ hesitancy to embrace hybrid working is a factor.
Going forward, companies that are thoughtful and innovative will attract fresh talent. That’s why it’s time to practice radical kindness in business, whether you have 10 employees or 10,000.
In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada talks to Glenn and Mindy Stearns (Burbano) about leading with kindness. Mindy is a media personality and philanthropist who loves to help others. Glenn works in real estate and wants to change the aggressive, profit-driven side of his industry. He recently founded Kind Lending, a company where “fun is mandatory” and “friendly professionals” assist homebuyers.
Are you ready to add some kindness to your business? The Stearns have three suggestions to keep your employees happy and healthy.
1. Put your people before profit.
A kind leader embraces the humanity of each team member, no matter what. They understand that work isn’t everything, and people have vibrant lives after 5 p.m. Employees tend to their families in their spare time, hang out with friends and pursue passions.
If you want to create a warm office culture, embrace the whole person and not just their business value. It’s a total mindset shift, but it’s worth the effort when you want to lead with kindness and put people first.
“In our industry, the wave of Wall Street came in, and it was all about the profit-and-loss [mentality],” Glenn says. “When we came back at it again, we thought, Why don’t we put people before profits? Why don’t we go back at it [this way]? Because I don’t need to be a public company. I don’t need to have the backing of private equity or any other group, so we get to do it our way. And why not do it where you lead with your heart?”
Glenn follows the servant leadership model, which prioritizes working for people and not just with them. Employees can feel the difference.
2. Help your people grow, even if it means making a huge sacrifice.
What does kindness look like when you’re a running business? According to Glenn and Mindy, the answer is not what most people think. Paying for break room snacks and happy hour drinks is admirable, but you only scratch the surface with those perks. In business, true benevolence requires so much more. For instance, you can change an employee’s life by placing their needs ahead of your own. That’s a rare gift, especially when the CEO has other priorities.
“When you come and work for us, we appreciate you, we love you and we care about you,” Glenn says. “If you leave, we still appreciate you, care about you and love you. There isn’t a difference. What I’ve seen happen—the trend lately—is when you leave, commissions are cut and your list is now the house’s. When you leave [us], all the commissions and all the loans you have are still yours. Your list is yours. If you brought a team, they’re yours.”
That’s the ultimate expression of kindness. When employees leave in a better position than they arrived in, you’ve done your job.
You can always start small when adopting better business practices. Here’s what Glenn and Mindy do to show employees they care:
- They don’t take themselves too seriously, which means employees don’t feel the need to do so either.
- They prioritize having fun in the office, even when business goals demand their attention.
- They build long-term relationships with employees to maintain a pool of talent.
3. Be humble.
Owning a business comes with enviable perks. You get to call the shots for everything, whether that’s setting fair wages or letting employees work from home full time. The freedom is unparalleled, but don’t forget that being a CEO requires balance. Your employees need a strong leader who is equally empathetic and treats people well.
“One of [Glenn’s] cornerstones of success is that he doesn’t really have an ego about the people he surrounds himself with,” Mindy says. “He says, ‘I want to find the smartest people who know more than me.’”
Your business grows when you hire talented people, celebrate their wins, and encourage them to keep succeeding. It sounds like a rosy cliche, but it’s true. Glenn and Mindy witnessed this dynamic up close after hearing about an employee’s previous job. In one month, the employee said they made lots of money in origination fees—an additional cost associated with mortgage lending. Instead of embracing their success, the CEO made a rash, egotistical decision.
“They got an email from HR saying, ‘You no longer work here; no salesperson can make more money than the CEO,’” Mindy says.
That’s a painful loss. The company pushed a top salesperson out the door plus thousands of dollars in potential revenue.
Mindy and Glenn have a different approach. They don’t care if employees out-earn them. They won’t bat an eye when someone reaches a level they haven’t seen before. In fact, they welcome it. It’s a powerful lesson in kindness that every entrepreneur should embrace.