July 2014. Airport Dehradun, India. I have no clue how often I have travelled to one of the most exciting growth markets over the last 10 years; probably more than 100 times. Within the framework of my current business trip, I have been meeting more than 50 corporate, political, and spiritual leaders so as to interview them on leadership, management, and also the deeper meaning of life. For years I have been longing to find the answers to two burning questions:
While visiting a large company in New Delhi that manufactures electronic components for Phillips, I am astonished when employees and middle managers tell me that they have stayed with the company for more than 20 years.
- What are the key principles of successful and happy people?
- How can leaders unleash maximum energy inside their employees so as to not only gain a competitive edge but also successfully meet the key challenges in the 21st century?
At a university hospital in the northern part of the country, I encounter the same picture: Leading employees confirm that they still feel absolutely comfortable and see no reason to leave the organization, even after staying more than 15 years with the company.
And at one of the leading manufacturers for photovoltaic panels, I meet satisfied employees who literally adore their company and its culture. Such stories sweep me completely off my feet, since many companies in this dynamic market suffer heavily from job-hopping, while others apparently succeed in retaining their top talents for years in a job market offering thousands of great opportunities. When I ask for the reasons that some employees seem to be so attached to their bosses and companies, most of them answer:
“I feel at home.” “My boss fully appreciates me.” “My performance has always been recognized to the fullest.” One of the key words emerging again and again during all my conversations is “appreciation.” Most talk neither about incentive systems nor higher salaries when it comes to real recognition; they place particular emphasis on the soft issues that make them attached to their workplace.
It seems that appreciation makes people not just attached to their bosses, but also drives them to peak performance.
For Western companies, the lessons learned from the Indian case for retaining people seem to be interesting for various reasons.
Given these criteria and the fact that in Europe alone more than 70% of all employees do not feel appreciated at their workplace, resulting in emotional detachment to their organizations, it is interesting to learn how some Indian managers succeed in meeting exactly one of the most crucial needs:
- Job opportunities in a market with more than 1.2 billion people, an emerging middle class of more than 350 million consumers, and a whopping GDP growth of more than 5% per year are tremendous. Therefore, the risk of losing top talent is much higher than in the Western economy where job opportunities are scarcer.
- Given the command-and-control leadership style that is still ubiquitous in many sectors in India, one might suggest that it might be easier to “force” employees to be motivated.
- Despite the facts mentioned under 1) and 2), many Indian companies have been forced to be highly innovative when it comes to retaining employees over a longer period of time.
- Many employees who are loyal to their employers attest to their bosses’ high social competency and the courage of appreciating people honestly.
- Even in a fast-growing and dynamic economy and despite cultural idiosyncrasies, two criteria are essential when it comes to motivating employees: appreciation and authentic recognition. Salary and monetary incentives are insignificant provided that a minimum salary is guaranteed.
Honest, straight, and quick feedback. Employees appreciate quick and critical feedback, which helps them to develop their personalities. They seek deeper insights so as to perform better as human beings. Especially in a fast-growing market like India, many people are yearning to learn quickly and therefore are constantly seeking room for improvement. Therefore, many managers do not shy away from telling their employees in appreciative and respectful ways what they can do better. Many Indians are highly ambitious, which in turn seems to promote a strong and healthy feedback culture. It is not without reason that ambition and diligence account for some of the key success principles of Indian managers.
Authentic presence. Even in large Indian organizations, top managers seek personal contact with as many employees as possible on a daily basis so as to feel the pulse of their people. Even in the Western world, many confirm that the authentic presence of superiors drives motivation and overall performance, since people feel honestly appreciated.
Care and real interest in people. Many Indian managers have recognized that productivity and emotional bonding work only if they manage to build a bridge between their employees’ work and private lives. Therefore, many successful managers support their employees in solving private problems. They pay scholarships for their children, mitigate financial bottlenecks, or offer a caring hand when it comes to personal blows.
Leadership by heart. Leadership is all about building credibility and earning trust. Even in the government sector — characterized by many hierarchical layers — I have encountered many leaders who learned that the building of emotional bonds is crucial. They strive more and more to conduct informal meetings so as to openly share information, pursue an open-door policy, and break down the hierarchical layers.
High degree of self-confidence. Many highly effective leaders possess a high degree of self-confidence. They are not driven by ego trips, but a quest to take care of people. Most of them told me that continuous self-reflection is the sound foundation of their private and business successes. They constantly seek to improve themselves, reflect on their weaknesses and failures, and rarely blame others. One of their missions in life is to find inner peace so as to radiate this spirit to their followers.
All such insights from India are not new to me and many of you. However, once more, I realized that the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical implementation is still huge. The easiest things often seem very difficult to put into practice. Furthermore, we are all capable of finding the right answers to the most burning questions, but we have to dare to ask the right questions. In this case, the right question might be: What is the next step for showing authentic appreciation towards others so as to win their hearts?
Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.