Today, I want to talk with you about a topic that we have discussed many times in the past, but it is one that I feel is so deserving of our thoughtful consideration.

Warm fuzzy management.  Well, actually we are going to talk about the importance of engaging our employees.  The warm fuzzy management terminology is a criticism frequently used by executives who feel command-and-control is still the best form of leadership, all facts to the contrary notwithstanding.


As healthcare executives, we are only too happy to talk about metrics, hitting the numbers and being bottom-lined oriented.  Make no mistake, these are important performance deliverables; leaders and managers must be able to produce budgeted results.  But that should not be, that cannot be, the sole reason for our existence.  Yes, we need to deliver quality, safe and cost effective care, but we cannot get there without a workforce that is engaged and motivated.  And that will not happen on a consistent basis unless the leadership, beginning with the CEO,  creates and promotes a culture that embraces love for employees.  Love, warm, and fuzzy don’t sound like big, serious management stuff and many CEOs are uncomfortable with those terms.  They think it isn’t real business. They do not want to sound or appear foolish pursuing a leadership strategy  that is not, forgive me for using my own derisive term, “manly.” Forget love then.  How about profound respect?

Today, in healthcare, and in so many other industries, leaders are reluctant to appear vulnerable by embracing their employees, and that is just tragic. Because the upside benefits are nothing short of amazing.

For example, CEOs who embrace their employees with warmth and support, see these results:

  • Reduced tardiness
  • Reduced call offs — employees who skip work
  • Employees who show up to work even when they can safely stay at home during periods of bad weather
  • Reduced costly turnover
  • Improved productivity

These translate into lower costs and better bottom-line results.

Do not get so caught in your own self importance or your resistance to warm and fuzzy leadership.  Understand it and put it to good use.

I do not care what the economic analysts suggest, in many industries there is significant contraction happening now — mergers and layoffs.  That means there will be a more competitive job market. So, before you get your totally unexpected lay off notice on some random Friday afternoon, now is the time to begin planning for what could be the inevitable.  Very few executives, their egos notwithstanding, are bullet proof, especially in an era where running a business requires tough, sometimes deeply unpopular decisions, from layoffs to the sale of popular but poorly performing assets.  That reservoir of good will not shield an executive from criticism but it will help sustain them through those difficult times.   And it is from that pool of supporters  that references can be drawn during a job transition.

This means that great leaders must develop a reservoir of good will with their colleagues and employees.  If you postpone cultivating your network of supporters until the notice is delivered, it will too late.

I recently ran across a quote that said an executive’s professional net worth is his or her network of colleagues who share ideas and advice, and who provide support in times of turmoil.

Consider this, in a challenging environment which lead to a job termination, the out-of-work candidate must build a strong, credible case for being hired in a new role.  There is a lot that goes into this process — creating a value proposition, constructing a basic resume that can be customized for each new career opportunity and perfecting your answers for anticipated questions.  Then there are the references.   References who can convincingly walk a prospective employer through the reasons for the candidate’s job transition and can be that critical differentiator that wins the day.

For a surprising number of candidates, their references turn out to be the weak link, an afterthought to the whole job search process.

If you step back and look at why that is so, the problem can usually be found in the size, diversity and quality, or lack thereof, of a candidate’s professional network.

Most executives do build professional networks but too often it becomes more of a numbers game, or it is a more informal courtesy to friends and colleagues.  I call that Unfocused Networking.  Why are you investing the time, just to have a big network?  That is a colossal waste of time. No, you should have a purpose, a focus, and one of those should be to build a group of colleagues who can and will step forward when you need support for a job transition, especially if in your last position you were shown the door with attendant publicity on Google.  If you can provide numerous names of colleagues with knowledge of the transition, who can provide support for your statements in the interview, then you significantly improve your chances of landing an offer.

Two candidates, both smart with good experience are being evaluated for a crucial leadership role.  The individual who did the best job of telling his or her story  — building the case for the value they can deliver — typically wins the offer.

Your references, individuals from your professional network of contacts, can be the critical differentiator.

Thanks for listening.  I hope you will visit our new channel on YouTube where I provide career management insights in 4 minutes or less, and SelfPerspective, our twice weekly blog which is published on Tuesday and Thursdays.

Coming soon to JohnGSelf.Com an updated resume and career management guide that can be downloaded at no cost.  More on that in the coming weeks.

Remember, the essential foundation for effective leadership is trust.  Without truth, there can be no trust.