“Nothin is personal” is terrible advice for leaders. Here’s a better approach

“Nothin is personal” is terrible advice for leaders. Here’s a better approach

I always struggled with accepting that age old saying, “business is not personal,” during my career. Maybe because I saw so many executives and founders intentionally treating employees like robots versus humans. Maybe my past traumas allowed me to lead with compassion, gratitude, and honesty.


When I launched Raw Sugar Living in 2014 it became as clear as ever that business was, in fact, very personal. 

Bringing a mission-based startup to life was important to me, as was surrounding myself with those who would champion the same passion of making clean products affordable and accessible for all. I was obsessed with ensuring that the team was coming to work happy because as another saying goes: “When you find a job you enjoy doing, you will never have to work a day in your life.” I quickly realized the onus wasn’t only on them. 

To treat the staff as humans, you have to be human, too. I am an open book, a confidante, a mentor, and coach—I rally with the team. I lead by example and courageously show my vulnerabilities, both personally and professionally. Doing so in turn allows others to express themselves more freely, resulting in more confidence in their work. We developed a highly communicative and supportive structure, allowing us to achieve a common goal while feeling purposeful and happy. 


Unfortunately, this way of leading is not the norm, and the result is quiet quittinghustle culture, and burnout amongst employees. Gallup recently reported that U.S. employees are experiencing increased rates of disengagement and unhappiness with 60 percent being emotionally detached at work, while two-thirds of employees are looking to resign to seek more fulfillment in the workplace. 

So how do we course correct? We make business more personal.


When I told my team that we were going to have an off-site for brand planning, they were shocked to hear it was going to be hosted in my home. It’s not a format for most businesses, but it made sense to me for a few reasons. Having the team in my home was the ultimate gesture of showing my gratitude while welcoming them into my space, where most of my creative ideas are inspired. 


I observed that employees were timid in the office and in virtual settings, especially the new hires who were experiencing a huge personal disconnect from remote work. By literally opening new doors you’ll realize how efficient your staff can be in reaching benchmarks while developing a sense of camaraderie and friendship that no boardroom could ever offer. 


The World Health Organization states that a “safe and healthy working environment is not only a fundamental right, but is also more likely to minimize tension and conflicts at work and improve staff retention, work performance, and productivity.” 

Let’s stop talking about company culture in the form of mandatory happy hours and shift the focus on fostering a micro family for your team. With most hours being banked at the office (or kitchen table), employers need to empower their staff with the resources to feel safe in vocalizing any challenges or speed bumps along the way. If there isn’t a solid personal business relationship as a foundation, I find that employees will suffer in silence or leave the company, versus trying to work through a resolution with a peer or boss. 


We spend the majority of our time during the week with those we work with. So, by creating micro families within the confines of a company, you are encouraging staff to embrace ideas, differences, and even disagreements (ideally), like they would in their home, with understanding and compassion.


You know the saying “You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar?” Well it’s accurate, especially in the workforce. Leading with fear is not sustainable to drive retention, it also results in a toxic workplace. Instead, lead with love and be kind. Lift the team up on bad days, ask them how their day is, offer a compliment, and absolutely celebrate wins, even the small ones. 

According to the Harvard Business Journal, “in a landmark study analyzing more than 3,500 businesses with over 50,000 individuals, researchers found that acts of courtesy, helping, and praise were related to core goals of organizations,” and that “when leaders and employees act kindly towards each other, they facilitate a culture of collaboration and innovation.” 



I’ve always led with treating those the way you want to be treated but unfortunately, I don’t see this in most of today’s business culture. I find it critical to lead with transparency, gratitude, camaraderie, and empathy, especially in a volatile environment of layoffs, instability, and change.

Remember that you are working with humans, not machines and that any success or challenges your business goes through, greatly affects those individuals who are behind it. In turn, you need to have compassion, grace, and offer true flexibility to support your employees who might experience personal obstacles which can shift their job focus. We’re all in this together, we need to treat people like people inside and outside of the office walls.  

Article link – https://www.fastcompany.com/90834656/its-not-personal-is-terrible-advice-for-leaders-heres-a-better-approach