In today’s uncertain economy, fear continues to affect employees every day, causing them to act in selfish ways and to lose sight of desired company and team outcomes. In an effort to get employees out of the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) mindset, a leader should start by asking, “Whom do we treat like gold?”

If the answer is, “Our clients,” that’s correct. However, there’s more. Why not treat employees and all people like gold? Amazingly, we most often choose to treat people who are not part of our every day lives with greater respect and consideration than those who are sitting right next to us and on whom we count to get the work done for the clients we want to treat like gold. Why is this?

I was a consultant for a company that brought three divisions together to form one new division. As might be expected, jousting for position by team members, displays of territorial divisiveness, fears of job-preservation, contempt, and many other not-so-great human attributes were the main concerns of this new group.

The leader knew she needed to bring the group together quickly to hit revenue and profitability goals.

Observing the team during a regular staff meeting one day, I sensed that trust was absent from the conversation. No one shared information fully and there was an underlying tone of disrespect in their interactions.

Near the end of the first quarter, it was obvious the team was in jeopardy of failing to meet its goals. Somewhere along the way, team members had lost perspective regarding their collective purpose and individuals had become quick to sabotage. Clearly, each individual was focused on WIIFM.

When communication from the top is not clear, when strategy and outcomes are not well defined, people resort to protecting their jobs rather than pursuing team goals. This includes everyone on the team, even the leader.

So why treat clients like gold yet not your employees? How you behave, act, and treat people will be emulated, mirrored and parroted by your people. Treat them like gold and in turn they will treat each other like gold, creating good team habits that will spill over into taking care of clients. And, thus, treating those clients like gold.

How can a leader treat employees like gold?

  1. Actively seek and listen to their ideas.
  2. Be considerate of clients and employees when they speak.
  3. Help problem solve.
  4. Be proactive in communication, preparing for meetings, etc.
  5. Always put your best foot forward.
  6. Always go above and beyond.
  7. Think of the needs of the client/employee first.
  8. Focus on the best outcome for the client/employee before self-interests.

One simple thing a leader can do to make a difference and support achieving your strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires is to treat members of your teams with the same respect and care you want them to show clients. It’s pretty simple, really.

The choice is yours!

Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary who guides organizations through cultural shifts. He promotes environments that inspire collaboration, transparency in the pursuit of strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires. Reach Stuart via email: