Authentic Relationships as the New Management Paradigm
The FiveStars mission is to turn every transaction into a relationship for our merchants. We decided to take the same philosophy and transform our internal organization into a relationship-based community. We want to turn every work relationship into a long lasting, authentic relationship that goes beyond our day to day, beyond FiveStars, and is part of an employee’s life and career.
The way we work is changing. Old rules are being replaced with new norms. The idea of “culture” is being replaced by the concept of “community” with a heavy focus on building authentic relationships. That means our employees need to build authentic relationships with each other, and managers need to build solid relationships with our employees.
As green managers step up to fill managerial roles, FiveStars is focused on equipping them with the skills and tools they need to succeed as leaders. It’s not enough to promote a star individual contributor to be your next manager. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader and that’s ok. Individual contributors should actually want to be managers and leaders. They should not be forced into these roles. The failure rate can be detrimental to a team and you risk losing that awesome individual contributor if they fail as a manager.
We need to choose our next leaders carefully and we need to commit to prepare them for these important leadership roles.
Authentic relationships—leading from a place of humility
We are true. We are unapologetically real. We speak our minds and hold each other accountable. And we love that! At FiveStars, we’ve developed a leadership training program that is centered on our core value—building authentic relationships. What do we mean by that? Our goal is to make sure our managers have an honest, genuine, and trusting relationship with their direct reports that lasts a lifetime, not just the duration of an employee’s tenure here. This means that we are responsible for coaching our managers to lead from a place of humility, rather than authority. That’s what true leadership is. An experience that is unforgettable and genuinely memorable that lasts throughout someone’s career and life.
We based our program on Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership—the basic idea that effective leadership is rooted in building solid relationships. Maxwell describes 5 levels of leadership, starting with Level 1, a leader who people follow because they have to, not because they want to. Level 2 is a leader who develops relationships. This is where people follow because they want to, not because they have to. Level 3 is a leader that focuses on producing, but only after they’ve developed solid relationships with their team.
This is where most managers fail. It’s common to skip a level and move from a Level 1 straight to Level 3 and miss out on the relationship build, which is the necessary foundation. Just like a house, you wouldn’t skip the concrete slab and start putting up the walls and the fixtures. Eventually your home would crumble. The same goes for true leadership. Leaders succeed by getting to know their employees and connecting with them personally. This builds trust and understanding which causes people to naturally follow and motivates them to get things done.
But how do we make sure our managers build authentic relationships? Here are a few essential elements of our leadership program at FiveStars that have worked for us:
Essential Leadership Elements Built By The People Ops Team At FiveStars
Clearly define the employee experience for everyone
This includes the elements below:
We begin the team member life cycle with a relationship-based onboarding program grounded in leading academic research, including research from Harvard professor, Francesca Gino and researcher Talya Bauer, to name a few. Our onboarding is unique because it is employee-centric.
Every new hire attends our custom Authentic Strengths seminar designed to be fully focused on the employee. On Day 1, employees share stories about their peak performance—that special time when they are doing their best work. They complete the Authentic Strengths exercise, the basis for their first 1:1 with their coach, and they reflect and write down their strengths, their areas for development, how they like to be recognized, their main motivators, and more. Understanding is the foundation of every relationship. Authentic Strengths is our secret sauce.
Transform the manager-employee relationship to a coach relationship
We call our managers coaches. Coaches lead, manage, mentor, and coach employees to do their best work. Our 80 coaches get ongoing, customized in-depth training.
Turn the 1:1 into a powerful tool
We also have a strong framework around meaningful 1:1s and those include the 15/5 method that Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, invented. The questions are intended to open up a real conversation between the coach and employee and to get the bottom of wins, obstacles, overall engagement, and what’s happening in their lives beyond work.
Clear obstacles to enable top-notch work
A coach’s job is to clear obstacles to help employees do their best work. Talk about the obstacles they perceive are getting in their way and do whatever it takes to clear those. Do it often and with consistency.
As a coach, be real, be present, and help your employees build their lifelong careers
Do this selflessly because you deeply care about their well-being.
Do what you say; don’t just give lip service
Our CEO, Victor Ho, deeply believes in authentic relationships, it’s in his blood. At the executive level, we lead by example and we call each other out and call on each other for help. When we get real with one another there’s a sense of humility and closeness that comes with it. We encourage our entire community to bring up issues to help us continue to improve and make this company great. While it’s uncomfortable and scary sometimes to be truthful, when done well—authentically—it builds deep relationships that last a lifetime.
Our relationships are not only built on the work we do together at FiveStars, they are built on a lifelong investment that prepares and supports people as they go through different stages of their career. That is the power of an impactful employee experience that is grounded in relationships. Read more about how FiveStars is creating a community-based workplace.
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