The foremost building block of team spirit is making everyone feel valued as human beings. When a team leader sets that kind of tone for his company, his people naturally strive harder to give their best. It makes for a more energetic, optimistic and purposeful atmosphere – exactly the type of environment that brings the best results.
Most of us aren’t choosy about who we sell our chometz to. In fact, we actually prefer that the buyer remain anonymous, so that he is not tempted to knock on our doors during the holiday, insisting on his contractual right to raid our cupboards.
Two years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Omaha Nebraska made national news when he went public with his synagogue’s chometz sale to none other than the legendary investor, and fellow Omaha native, Warren Buffett.
Buffett, who parlayed an initial $10,000 stake some 60 years ago into a stock market fortune that’s now worth $50 billion, is anything but anonymous. Considering the fortune he has made, he certainly has no need to barge in on anyone to lay claim to a box of cookies, or even that bottle of single malt whiskey that Rabbi Gross reportedly threw into the deal as a sweetener. In fact, Buffet generously donated the chometz he paid Rabbi Gross $2 for to a local food bank.
When I read this story, I had only one question (not four). Buffett is a multi-billionaire. His investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, trades for more than $186,000 a share and is valued at over $300 billion. Why would he trifle himself with a $2 deal? He joked afterward that had he analyzed the deal better, he would have tried to bargain down Rabbi Gross to $1, but when you’re sitting on a $300 billion stash, there’s more to the story than saving a buck.
I found what I believe to be the answer to my question in a piece Michael Lee Stallard wrote about the time he was privileged to meet Buffett in person. Stallard is president of E Pluribus Partners, a business coach, and author of: Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity.
While most of the articles written about Buffett focus on his investment acumen, Stallard keyed in on his personality. He found Buffett to be “a model of civility and respect for others.” Buffett patiently waited around to speak with everyone who wanted to meet him. He kept his attention and focus on them, never projecting the slightest hint of self-importance.
His easy way with people has made Berkshire Hathaway one of the best companies to work for in America. A survey taken by Glassdoor.com, an online recruiter that monitors corporate brand awareness and reputation, found that 86% of Buffett’s employees approve of their boss.
What is the secret to Buffett’s success as a manager? Stallard ticks off a few of Buffett’s trade secrets:
Communicate pride and confidence in your people
Buffett constantly communicates that Berkshire companies are well-managed and have great people. It’s not unusual to hear him tell employees to: “Just keep on doing what you’re doing. We’re never going to tell a .300 hitter to change his batting stance.” Who wouldn’t be flattered to be praised by Buffett?
Be trusting and forgiving
When one manager informed Buffett that his business had to write off a $350 million loss, he was stunned when Buffett told him: “We all make mistakes. If you didn’t make mistakes, it means you didn’t make decisions. You can’t dwell on them.” The lesson for us is when a manager makes an honest mistake, keep it in perspective.
Be confident, yet humble
Buffett knows he’s the best at what he does but he projects an easy confidence that makes him approachable and encourages people to both confide in him and listen to him. He credits his managers for his success, remains plain spoken, works in a modest office, lives in a modest house, and proclaims thrift as a virtue.
Pride in affiliation
Buffett’s ways make the managers of Berkshire Hathaway feel proud to be affiliated with the company. It is telling that no manager who sold a company to Buffett has ever left for a competitor, and several continue to work well past retirement age.
In an era where a Gallup Poll shows that 70% of American employees and 88% of all workers worldwide don’t feel engaged at work, Buffett has bucked the trend. The man who is often called the “Oracle of Omaha” for his stock-picking prowess has also earned that title when it comes to leading people. It’s a rare combination, and one that’s worth striving for and emulating.
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Be a team leader by giving respect to gain respect.