When Ty Bennett opened the keynote for Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 Executive Summit & Awards in Denver, he asked attendees a blunt question: Why in the world would anyone follow you as their leader?
“The answer cannot be because you’re the boss,” Bennett said. “People don’t follow bosses. People follow people.”
Bennett is the founder of Leadership Inc., a speaking and training company. He was previously an entrepreneur who built a direct sales business with his brother at age 21 that achieved $20 million in annual revenues.
According to Bennett, being a leader requires much more than a title, position and authority. He said it requires a concept called partner leadership.
With the unemployment rate at a low point in the U.S. and keeping good labor a key topic of interest in the landscaping industry, Bennett said it’s important to win commitment from employees.
“People are not committed to jobs,” he said. “People aren’t committed to companies. What drives commitment is people commit to people. The old adage was that people would commit to a person with a title, position and authority. But I don’t think that’s true in today’s world.”
Today, he said employees are looking for leaders who are genuine and invested in their employees – having relationships with employees is much more critical. That, he said, is part of being a partner leader.
Bennett offered these three tips on how business owners and managers could become partner leaders:
- Build genuine relationships with employees. According to Bennett, all business owners are in the people business. One key to becoming a partner leader is investing in employees, which means being genuine with them and getting to know them. He suggested giving back to employees as a simple way to invest in them – make them breakfast, take them to dinner, meet their families.
“Our ability to build relationships is the currency of business,” he said. “We need to become great at it. If you invest in your people, they’ll want to invest in you – we’re all wired that way. If someone punches you, you punch back; but if someone does something nice for you, you want to do something nice back.”
- Generate buy in from employees. People support what they help to create. Bennett is involved with the National Speakers Association. When the association tried to change its name and logo without any buy in from its members, he said there was a lot of backlash from members. So, he said the association backtracked to get buy in on a name and logo change from its members.
“Our goal is to get commitment from our people, so we have to involve them in creation, otherwise they won’t commit,” he said.
Although getting buy in takes extra time when trying to make changes, things will take longer and be more costly if employees don’t end up buying into the change made by managers and owners like it was for the National Speakers Association.
- Know that motivation is important, but it’s overrated. It’s good to motivate employees, but Bennett said partner leaders can’t forget that the flip side of motivation is removing obstacles and inhibitors that keep employees from achieving goals set for them. Partner leaders need to do both – motivate and help remove obstacles.
Bennett shared the story of how his young son came to him one morning and told him he didn’t know how to open the refrigerator while he had his hands full of toys. Bennett said he could have motivated his son to try harder to open the refrigerator, but the smarter option was to remove the obstacle and have his son drop the toys in his hands.
“Sometimes it’s better to remove the obstacles than motivate,” he said.