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What business can learn from President Joe Biden’s ability to engage his staff and supporters?

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Last week saw the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and for many this hailed a new era of Leadership post Trump. Regardless of one’s political preferences, a key attribute that Joe Biden brings to the Presidency is his leadership qualities and we believe that businesses can a learn a lot from him in how to manage, motive and engage their staff.

Being humble

There is a well-known story about Joe Biden during his election campaign going to meet the editor of the New York Times for endorsement – that he subsequently did not get. As he arrived he spent around a minute in the elevator with a lady called Jacquelyn Brittany, whose job it is to escort special guests and dignitaries up to the Editor’s office.

During this brief encounter, he asked Jacquelyn several questions and took a selfie with her. It made her day. In fact, his short conversation had such an impact on her that she went away and posted a video on her social media page.

The overriding learning of this brief but now notorious encounter is Joe Biden’s ability to make others feel like his is not the most important person in the room. He has the ability to listen and engage with every person he meets.

recent survey by Capterra (a software review specialist owned by Gartner) revealed some interesting insights into this topic. It showed that employees want a combination of personal validation and material rewards in the workplace. And when asked how they would like to see this, they answered: 

  • A verbal thank-you (22 per cent)
  • Treats such as vouchers and gift cards (18 per cent)
  • Monetary rewards (16 per cent)
  • A personal note (11 per cent)
  • A handshake (11 per cent)

What it showed is that the personal touch from leaders goes an awful long way.

A business is made up of many different job roles and whilst some are better paid than others, each one has its role to play in creating a successful organisation. The most well-known and successful business leaders can engage with and motivate everyone at their business. This skill will not only help to create stronger sense of belonging at the business, but also help drive ongoing employee engagement.

Know your team!

We have often written about the need for businesses to properly understand and know their team so that they are able to deliver the benefits, recognition and rewards that drive and motivate them to perform. This is not just the role of HR either but a responsibility that should be taken on by the whole business especially the team leaders and senior management.

According to one of Joe Biden’s ex-colleagues, this is exactly what makes him a special boss to work for. “Joe Biden gets to know people, he really develops personal relationships with people". But this is not just limited to colleagues, but to supporters too. He feels the need to connect with everyone to get a wider perspective of the world. A great example is when Biden went to a memorial service for a woman who gave him just $18 every time he ran.  It was in the basement of a low-income apartment and barely anyone was there — no press.  He just wanted to honour a woman who supported him and get to know her family and friends.    

Taking the time to know your team enables you to know more about them as a person. How to motivate them, what situations they are comfortable in, what their priorities in life are and what drives them. If you know this, you can reward them accordingly to help motivate them. For example, if someone who loves spending time with their family, you can encourage them to leave work on time, have extra days off to spend with their partners, wives, or kids. Alternatively, for someone who is into self-learning, you can help them by offering time and support in this area of their life.

Being understanding and flexible

This is probably the most relevant leadership trait to today’s working environment. As we continue to struggle in the face of the Covid-19 global pandemic, companies and business leaders are having to demonstrate increasing levels of understanding and flexibility towards their employees. Many employees are having to home-school their kids or care for elderly or the sick and this has fundamentally impacted the traditional hours of work.

Entire workforces are now remote and business leaders need to demonstrate that they understand the demands being placed on them as individuals. This is something that was highlighted about Joe Biden in 2014 as the then Vice-president. A leaked memo sent to his team just before Thanksgiving showed him encouraging his staff to take the time to be with their family and never “sacrifice family obligations” for work reasons. This memo raised his profile as an understanding leader and individual and led to several previous and existing colleagues showing praise on Mr Biden.

This sort of understanding and flexibility not only demonstrates a human side to leadership, but also builds loyalty and motivates a team to work harder.

Whilst many of these character traits may come naturally to some, they are also skills that can be implemented and incorporated into a company culture – driven by its leadership. And if you are a company that believes in supporting your staff through employee benefits or rewarding and recognising their hard work and commitments, then this is a culture and style of leadership that you should want.

For more information about how to develop and tailor your reward and recognition programme, download our free e-Book.


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