What Do Your Employees Really Need from You?

I was recently talking to a CEO about how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped employee expectations. She shared with me that team members are looking to their organization for answers on topics well beyond the company’s products, services, and policies.

They want to know public policy decisions, health issues, personal safety measures, and more. They don’t want their leaders to shy away from tough issues like vulnerability, mental health, race, and family demands. They also expect executives and board members to care about significant causes and to take a stand on important issues. 

As I reflected on my conversation with the CEO, I thought of a scene from the television drama Mad Men. The series focuses on a fictional advertising agency in 1960’s New York. The scene that came to mind involves Mad Man’s protagonist (or should I say antagonist), Don Draper after he returns from claiming an award at an advertising industry event. Don is everything you might expect in the male lead of a 1960’s business drama. He’s good-looking, damaged, passionate, damaged, misogynistic, damaged, unfaithful, damaged – wait, did I mention damaged. You get the point.

Don is having a heated discussion with his then protégé, Peggy Olson. Peggy feels slighted for Don not recognizing the contribution she made to the agency’s winning the award. 

What’s Don’s response?

He shouts, “It’s your job. I give you money; you give me ideas.” 

Peggy retorts, “You never say thank you!” 

Don yells, “That’s what the money is for!”

Three quick thoughts on this: 

  1. There were likely some very good leaders in the 1960s. Don just wasn’t one of them. If he was, it wouldn’t make for an interesting drama. 
  2. I’m grateful that there are CEOs like the one I mentioned at the beginning. She recognizes, the need to improve, embraces it, and openly discusses getting better. 
  3. Even then, people wanted more from their companies than a paycheck. 

There are two things that I often say about leadership. First, leading others is tough and is not for the faint of heart. Second, the legacy of a leader extends far beyond this month, quarter, or year. 

Make it a great day!

 – Patrick