Billion Dollar Empathy: Branson Style
(Originally Published in Table Talk)
By John Yeomanson
I am sure everyone spent hours during last year’s budgeting season crunching numbers and constantly revising his or her department’s 2005 financial goals until final approval was received (big sigh of relief). Now that the budgets are in the bag, I wonder how many of you asked yourselves during the budgeting process, how do I lead my staff to obtain these lofty goals? What changes can I implement to grow and develop my department this year? My suggestions for New Year’s business resolutions are to develop a greater depth of empathy within your management team and to create a workplace that is vibrant and fun. The one historical criticism that is leveled at a table games is that there is a lack of depth of caring shown by some of its management team when dealing with team members’ questions and concerns. This sometimes seems to be a bigger problem in table games compared with other departments Ask yourself this question: how many times last year did situations end up at your door or find their way to Human Resources which were really quite trivial and which should have easily been solved by your management team? Empathy is just one of the traits that great leaders and successful business people possess, and the depth of the empathy that they show sets them apart from the “business at any cost” crowd.
A classic example of a successful leader with a deep sense of empathy is Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin. On a recent appearance on The Daily Show, he told Jon Stewart how difficult he had found it to dismiss the contestants from his reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Branson admitted that after letting the first contestant go, he was almost in tears, and was consoled off camera by the very man he had just “fired”! If Branson can show this type of caring and emotion after spending only two weeks with a group of contestants, one can only wonder how strongly his philosophy must resonate throughout his company. Branson had built the contestants up instead of tearing them down, and they were motivated by the desire for success rather than by the fear of failure—this is exactly how he runs his company, and the loyalty shown by his employees and Virgin’s successes speak for themselves.
Obviously empathy is only one of the traits that Richard Branson possesses–he built his empire by going in where angels fear to tread, bucking trends and having fun doing it; he isn’t afraid to implement suggestions from his staff, and stays approachable and down to earth. This is proof of his democratic style of leadership. Company successes are “owned” by all of the workers; conversely, they gladly pull together in difficult times. Implementing this type of philosophy along with a good dose of empathy demonstrates that good old table games adage, “If we’re not having fun, they’re not.”
How does this relate to table games? Do you want to reduce the amount of sick calls and turnover in your department? Do you want team members to feel valued and part of the team? Do you want your guests to have a good time and to feel that they have received excellent service? The development of a department that is fun and shows a deeper sense of caring and understanding will project across the table to your guests. Although they may not make a billion dollars, your staff will feel like a billion dollars—and it will show. The increase in morale will translate into an increase in motivation, and this will help you to achieve those lofty budget goals and make your department a great place in which to work.