SLII®: Powering Inspired Leaders

One of the things we’ve learned in recent weeks is that when change disrupts business as usual, effective leadership is more important than ever. Businesses today must be nimble and responsive, able to apply creative solutions to unprecedented problems. But an organization can only be as agile and innovative as the people who lead it. That’s why it’s critical to empower inspired leaders.

Can inspired leaders be developed? Absolutely! SLII®—the most widely used leadership training program in the world—creates caring, skillful managers who build meaningful connections with coworkers to unleash their potential and create exponential impact.

Now, “exponential” is not a word I would normally use, but it perfectly describes the multiplying power of SLII®. When one manager develops these proven leadership skills, their positive impact can affect the entire organization.

People Must Be a Priority

The days of rigid management styles are over. Especially now, when it’s imperative to tap every resource an organization has, “we” leadership rather than “me” leadership is the formula for success. Our research shows that when leaders sincerely care about the people who work in their organizations and see them as a top priority, strong financials follow.

Leaders trained in SLII® know that meaningful relationships are built through authentic conversations. Whether it’s talking with a new hire about getting a job done or serving as a sounding board for a highly experienced employee, SLII® leaders drive performance and unleash talent. Skilled in the art and science of having conversations targeted to people’s development level, SLII® leaders understand what inspires their team members. They care about their growth. They see their promise. They’re there for them, no matter the situation.

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Good Leadership

Inspired leaders trained in SLII® create business environments that encourage diverse ideas, brilliant solutions, and above all, an engaged workforce. When people feel valued, they bring their all to the job. They’re committed, and that makes the difference between an organization that thrives and one that doesn’t.

Sometimes this commitment shows up as cost savings. In 2018 a couple of inspired BMW employees figured out how to increase the efficiency of the central electronic control unit in every vehicle, saving the company about $42 million in the very first year.

Sometimes this commitment shows up as the brainstorming of revenue generating ideas. For example, one of Amazon’s most popular site features—Prime Now—was created by an inspired employee.

You can always tell an organization that powers inspired leaders. These are places where employees shine, putting the whole company in a positive light. I’m thinking about the fabulous employee at a ShopRight supermarket in New Jersey who delighted customers by singing the old Police song, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” This made customers smile but more importantly, reminded them about social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helping businesses to thrive—not just survive—is why we’re so passionate about what we do at The Ken Blanchard Companies. It’s a joy to watch SLII® leaders throughout an organization build meaningful connections that drive great results and make the world a brighter place.

Finding Your Significant Purpose

Maybe it’s happened to you: You have a vision of what you want to accomplish. You begin to tackle the job. Suddenly, hours have flown by and you’re astonished by what you’ve achieved.

When work is connected to what we deeply desire, we can tap into energy and creativity we don’t even know we have. But to reach that seemingly effortless productivity, it’s not enough to simply have a vision of what we want to accomplish; our work also must have a purpose that is significant to us.

Jesse Stoner and I have written extensively on the creation of an effective vision, which is comprised of three elements: a significant purpose, a picture of the future, and clear values. Today I’m going to focus on that first element, a significant purpose.

Zeroing In on Your Significant Purpose

An organization can begin to find its significant purpose by answering the question, “What business are we in?” If your first thought was, “We’re in business to make money,” you’re missing the point. As author and speaker Simon Sinek says, “Profit isn’t a purpose.”

A significant purpose is bigger than what your company does. Rather than simply explaining what you do or what products you provide, your significant purpose must answer this question:

“Why?”

Your significant purpose must clarify—from your customer’s point of view—what business you’re really in.

For example, a mattress company with a significant purpose doesn’t simply sell mattresses and make profits; it’s in the business of providing people with a good night’s rest. An insurance company with a significant purpose doesn’t simply sell policies; it’s in the business of giving customers peace of mind.

A couple of real-world examples include Tesla, whose significant purpose isn’t simply to sell cars; it’s “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Technology Education and Design—otherwise known as TED of TED Talks fame—has a simple yet powerful significant purpose: “Spread Ideas.”

The CEO of outdoor apparel company Patagonia, Rose Marcario, beautifully articulates the concept of a significant purpose. “If you want to retain great people and have a great company, then you have to inspire the people to a greater, bigger purpose than themselves, and for us it’s saving the planet,” she says.

Patagonia’s significant purpose—saving the planet—seems to be working well. Since Marcario took the helm, the company has quadrupled its revenue and profit while setting the standard for sustainable clothing production. The company’s significant purpose overrides the traditional economic model of growth at any cost; Patagonia encourages customers to get their gear repaired rather than buy new things. The company’s purpose also guides decision making: Last year, Patagonia announced it would donate $10 million from the recent tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations.

A Significant Purpose Must Inspire

The fact that Patagonia is succeeding financially points to a key element of a successful significant purpose: it must inspire people’s excitement and commitment. The key word here is “inspire.” If people are not fired up by your significant purpose, the words you use to describe it—no matter how lofty—won’t matter.

Too many companies make the mistake of having a purpose that merely describes their products and services or promotes a meaningless assortment of cringe-worthy platitudes. If people can’t make a heartfelt connection to the meaning behind the words, your significant purpose will be worthless. But if you work together to find an inspiring purpose, those words will fuel everything your company does.

Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance in developing a significant purpose. Back in 2004, our company helped Petco Park—the newly-built home of the San Diego Padres—to find their “why.” Rather than merely providing customer service to baseball fans, passionate employees rallied around their new significant purpose: “to create Major League memories.”

Did it make a difference? It sure did. People connected to the vision and found all kinds of creative ways to wow their customers. That summer Petco Park got 7,500 unsolicited notes and letters from fans telling stories about how they’d been blown away by the service they’d received.

Now, I call that a grand slam.