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Never forget your heart and soul – a lesson for leaders everywhere

By lesley uren, PA people and talent expert

Even if you don’t know how to play the piano, most of us are happy to bash out ‘Heart and Soul’ on the keyboard without any encouragement. The first three beats are easily recognisable. Ding, ding, ding…. And for some reason, once learned, the notes stay with us forever.

2016 has been an interesting year to say the least. Political events in the UK and the US have jolted commentators to speculate that the ‘forgotten many’ have fought back – perhaps signalling a global movement. The silent majority plan to be silent no longer about the things that matter to them, ie jobs, national identity and independence.

Regardless of whether you are delighted or appalled by the outcome of recent events, the message for other national governments appears to be this: listen more, don’t ignore the silent majority and never forget your heart and soul.

Organisations could do a lot worse than use these events as a trigger to stop and think about their own priorities. After all, organisations are like mini countries with their own hierarchies, politics, dogma and culture.

After decades of focus on leadership skills, towers of books on how to create great organisations and a whole host of tests and assessments designed to find out what makes great business leaders, we are still no closer to having leaders who can truly listen, leaders who pay attention to the silent “engine” of the business who deliver what’s asked of them without complaint every day, and leaders who know about the importance of heart and soul.

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Gallup Daily reports that 70% of US employees are not engaged at work. And this figure hasn’t fallen lower than 61% since 2014.  And you know one of the most critical things leaders can do to improve this result? “Care about me as a person” (Gallup). Despite all the investment in our education as leaders, we still forget to bring heart and soul to work. We forget just how important it is (even though I bet we can still play the tune!)

I guess you could be cynical and say that on the plus side, leaders of organisations can only be voted out by the shareholders, and while results are fine, the shareholders are unlikely to act. But it’s best to remember that employees can vote with their feet. And while this used to mean simply going to another organisation, we now see entrepreneurship activity rocketing – up 25%-36% in many countries. The predicted rate of self-employment is set to rise in the UK so that one in four people will no longer be employees in the next decade. So unless organisations listen and bring back the heart and soul to the workplace, we are at risk of being ‘Trumped’.

So all together now: ding, ding, ding…

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