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We Believe in Shared Leadership

In this article, Kevin Hancock is interviewed about his progressive view on shared leadership. He shares how the lumber industry is often misunderstood and seen as outdated, but he says this is inaccurate. Everything from the technology inside the sawmills to the culture fostered at the company is modern and innovative. Kevin explains more about why the shared leadership, employee-first company model has been so successful.

“The company focuses on the employee experience, and in doing so, positions employees to really create a world-class customer experience.” – Kevin Hancock

Click here to read the full article.




#33 | BECOMING EMPLOYEE-CENTRIC

“Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer.
I think you build one with your employees first.”

—Angela Ahrendts

The first mission of a modern company should be to advance and enhance the lives of the people who work there. All other corporate value creation is derived from this central priority.

Companies that do this become “employee-centric.” They reach every goal and responsibility of a great corporation through the mastery of this first mission. Only on the wings of thriving employees can twenty-first-century companies soar.

I learned this by accident as the CEO of one of the oldest family businesses in America (Hancock Lumber, founded in 1848).

In 2010 I acquired a rare voice disorder (spasmodic dysphonia) that made speaking difficult. Suddenly I was forced to let others, eventually everyone, become our collective corporate voice. Over time, the more focus we put on strengthening the voices of our employees, the better we performed. This was the birth of our employee-centric mission. Help employees feel trusted, respected, valued, and heard—and everything else just happens. It’s magical, simple, and now tested. In the 10 years that followed we outperformed the previous 160.

So, what did we learn?
What are the rules of creating an employee-centric company,
and what changes occur when you become one?

First, the rules:

  1. The mission changes. The new mission is irresistible. Make the work experience highly meaningful for the people who do it. The old mission would have been about something like sales growth or shareholder value. Those are still important, but they are now wonderful outcomes of a higher calling.
  2. The top corporate metric changes. A new mission requires a new metric. Since enhancing the employee experiences is the new mission, measuring that experience as defined by the employees themselves becomes the new first-priority metric. We accomplish this through third-party engagement surveys. The national average for employee engagement is 34 percent. Ours is 88 percent.
  3. The purpose of listening changes. Listening, not talking, becomes the new management priority (thank you, voice disorder!). But for this to be effective, managers must adopt a new reason for doing the listening. Listening is for understanding, not judgment.
  4. A safe culture for people to say what they actually think is established. In a company driven by listening, it is essential to make it safe for people to speak with their authentic voice. In this approach, an employee perspective is not “right” or “wrong”; it’s simply valued and honored as it stands.
  5. Ego is transcended. It is here that business ceases to be a modern-day Roman Colosseum where “work warriors” prove their supremacy through conquest. Instead, the company becomes a place where adults gather to learn, share, create, experiment, find meaning, add value to the lives of others, and grow. In this model managers become facilitators, not gladiators.
  6. Sustain these rules for thirty-six months from the top of your organization all the way to the front line and back again, and you will become an employee-centric company.

When you become employee-centric, here’s what will be different:

  1. Everyone will be sharing the responsibilities of leadership.
  2. Ideas will be overflowing and acted upon in countless dynamic ways across your organization.
  3. Discipline and commitment to accuracy, best practices, and core operating systems will increase exponentially. People support what they help to create.
  4. The heavy lifting of running a company will become lighter for everyone.
  5. Most importantly, meaning—real, deep, authentic, human meaning—will have been injected into the very core of your corporate existence. What it means to be a business will have been reimagined. Advancing humanity is what your company does now.
  6. Corporate performance takes off as the outcome of a new, and higher, calling.
  7. In the process, winning is redefined. Winning isn’t winning unless everyone is advancing.

* * *

This all sounds irresistible and universally beneficial. So what would possibly prevent a corporate leadership team from pursuing this mission?

The answer is the same thing that has tripped up humans and their leaders for eons: ego, overreaching, the inertia of the status quo, and a lack of deep appreciation for the full potential of the individual human spirit.

Humanity advances one human at a time.  As a result, companies can learn to thrive by simply putting their focus on the human beings right in front of them—their employees.

 

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines
of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

—Martin Luther King

 

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

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This is the thirty-third post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!

 




The Breakfast Club Guest: Kevin Hancock

In this radio podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with The Breakfast Club host Mark about his career, his newest book, 48 Whispers, and his mission to empower and strengthen the voices of those around him. During Kevin’s life journey, he has adapted Hancock Lumber to create balance for the employees and ensure that their voices are heard in the company. Kevin also shares how he became involved with the Lakota at Pine Ridge and how this led to his idea of shared leadership.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • You’ve always got to live in the present and really perform in the present moment. And certainly our company has become very focused on the employee experience, the people who work at the company, making sure that work is a meaningful for them. So that’s really kind of what brought us down that best places to work path. (01:13-01:39)
  • This book is really about coming into your own voice. It’s a photojournalism book that takes a bunch of my favorite pictures from over a decade of traveling out to the reservation in South Dakota. And then pairs that with 48 short meditations. And if I had to summarize what all those meditations have in common, it’s really about coming into your own voice, self-awareness, really turning inward to find your strength, your purpose, your path. Where we’re all living in a world where there’s so much external noise, 24/7, internet wired world, that what can get lost in that I think is our sense of self. And this book is really about the idea that you’ve got to build your future from within. You’ve got to really look within yourself, connect with the essence of who you are, and then build an external life that’s true to that. (12:58-14:05)
  • Simply put, the people who work in a company know how to make it better. They know what holds it back. And all leaders really have to do is to create a safe environment where the right questions get asked, and the people that work there feel good about just actually saying what they honestly think and know. (19:59-20:21)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Success Made to Last

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with host Rick Tocquigny about shared leadership. Kevin describes how losing the full use of his speaking voice led him to Pine Ridge, where he discovered an entire community that did not feel heard. The two events convinced Kevin that each human is here on earth in a personal quest to find and share their own unique and never to be repeated voice. Unfortunately, across time leaders have done more to restrict the voices of others than to liberate them. Kevin takes these understandings and develops and deploys a new leadership model designed to push power out – away from the corporate center – and give everyone in the organization a leading voice. The result is a high performing corporate model in which business metrics soar as an outcome of a higher calling.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.




Keep it Local Maine: Episode 29

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with Keep It Local Maine hosts Kimberly and Todd Regoulinsky about his shared leadership philosophy and creating an employee-centric business model for Hancock Lumber. He shares the journey that brought him to this understanding and how important he feels investing in your employees is for the business and for the employee. He has created a culture where the leadership responsibilities are shared among everyone, meaning that solutions are coming from the people working inside the situations and not just upper management. Kevin can see the confidence that it helps build when everyone’s voice is respected, heard, and valued.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • But essentially what happened was I had to quite quickly come up with a new approach to leading that involved not talking very much. And that led me down a simple trail at that point. If you’re not going to talk a lot, you’re going to listen a lot. And so I really ended up kind of flipping my approach leadership, from talking to listening, and from being on that stage, to sharing the stage. (04:06-04:40)
  • It’s about leaders or managers actually doing less, not more. And really focusing more on the culture of the organization. And creating a platform for a truth that authenticity to surface. Because you know, you think about it. In any organization, if people feel safe, safe to just be their authentic selves, say what they think, be who they are, be at peace as they are, just think about how transformational that one template can be. It really changes everything. (07:02-07:46)
  • Like our performance as a company has improved pretty dramatically in the year following this approach. But that’s, to me, the outcome of something bigger and more important. Which is really just celebrating – I mean, I don’t want to overdo it – but humanity. The sacredness of each person honoring everybody as they are. It’s actually kind of getting back to a simpler approach. And when you just honor everybody as they are and don’t feel like you have to fix, control, change, regulate, direct everybody, think about how much easier life gets. (11:27-12:14)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




We Need More From Business and It Starts With Listening

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with People At Work host Bev Attfield about his journey to finding an employee-centric business model and developing a workplace culture where everybody leads and every voice is respected, valued, and heard. Kevin shares how devastating feeling unheard can be, both in the workplace and in the community, and he has developed a way to embrace all voices at Hancock Lumber. By sharing the leadership responsibilities with everyone, Kevin has decentralized the power and spread it across everyone in the company. He shares the impact this has had, economically and socially, and how it can be utilized for any community, not just the workplace.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • And I think that it starts within ourselves, even to be more specific. That the leaders need to change the way they approach leadership, the way they think about listening, the purpose of listening, the power of showing respect for all voices. (10:07-10:32)
  • It is a manifestation of nature. It is a manifestation of the divine and the individual is a sacred power source of its own. And I think that really is where we’re headed. (23:35-23:53)
  • In nature, the leadership power is dispersed. It lives in all aspects of nature. And because humans are a part of nature, not separate from it, we ultimately are on a long arching path of aspiration to live in harmony with that natural rule. (27:06-27:33)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




The Seventh Power

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to The Bregman Leadership Podcast host Peter Bregman about his new book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership and the leadership style he adopted from his findings. Kevin has integrated an employee-centric culture into Hancock Lumber, highlighted by the importance of everybody partaking in a leadership role. By empowering others to lead, Kevin has been able to foster a safe space for ideas to be implemented and challenges overcome. The results for the business have been astounding, but Kevin ensures to speak about how any community can benefit from this interconnectivity and shared leadership practice.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • What struck me after months and months of answering a question with a question, was people already knew what to do. This is what really got me thinking differently about leadership. They didn’t actually need a top-down, management-centric directive to the vast majority of questions and challenges that they faced during the course of a workday. They already knew what to do. All they really needed was the confidence and the courage to trust their own judgment and voice, and a safe work culture to know that it would be okay to make a mistake or have something they chose to do not go perfectly. (11:40-12:33)
  • But what we’ve found is that if people feel they aren’t being included in a transparent, authentic process of making decisions, that they are much more apt to support those outcomes. Our safety director is fond of saying that people support that, which they help to create. So we’ve actually seen by having authentic dialogue, is the discipline to core systems and best practices actually improves. It doesn’t weaken or fray, it actually strengths. (17:07 -17:47)
  • The truth is, great people are everywhere. There’s a sacred light that dwells within us all. Everyone has value to contribute and the ability to lead. The idea is to turn the corporation inside out. In the old model, employees were commodities that sacrificed and served the organization. In the new model, the organization becomes a conduit for serving individuals within a company. For example, self-actualization, one employee at a time becomes the goal. Profit, while enhanced is now the outcome of a higher purpose. (20:05-20:39)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




The Power of Shared Leadership in Business

In this video series, Kevin Hancock speaks to Fire It Up With CJ host CJ Liu about his journey to a business culture where everybody leads, managing a business through the COVID pandemic, and his new book The Seventh Power: One CEO’s Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership. They discuss the sustainability of an employee-centric business model and how a company of Hancock Lumber’s size fares in this environment. Kevin finishes their discussion by sharing that empowering the voices of others and listening to their authentic voice is not just for business, but it is a movement that can happen in any community.

Click here to watch the video series.




6 Ways HR Needs to Evolve Post the COVID-19 Crisis

In this article, editor Puja Lalwani speaks to HR leaders, including Kevin Hancock, about how to evolve after the COVID crisis. In Kevin’s section of this article, they speak about the importance of communication. HR and leadership must communicate in crisis situations, but Kevin takes it one step further.

“Leaders should prioritize authentic, safe, and vulnerable communication with the members of their company or community at all times. The goal is to make it safe for people to express how they actually feel and share what they honestly think. This becomes especially important in a time of crisis, but if that’s not the normal approach, it will be impossible to just ‘turn it on’ conditionally and temporarily.” – Kevin Hancock

Click here to read the full article.




Kevin Hancock of Hancock Lumber

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks to The Grow Maine Show host Marty Grohman about his journey to finding the new employee-centric business model at Hancock Lumber. By dispersing the power of leadership to everyone in the company, Kevin found that employee engagement and job satisfaction are heightened to a new level. Employees are encouraged to find solutions to the problems they identify as important and given a safe space to solve them. This level of trust and respect between managers and employees has created a unique work culture. The company has thrived because of it, but Kevin notes that any and all communities are able to foster this type of relationship.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • But long story short, with my voice difficulty, I really ended up seeing, getting forced into initially, and then embracing an opportunity to essentially let everybody speak for the company and got really excited about this idea of, well, why can’t everybody lead? (5:26-5:50)
  • So I guess what I may say in summary is that I think the key is trying to create a culture at work where it’s safe for people to actually say what they think, including difficult times when we’re looking at a situation that didn’t go great. (14:29-14:55)
  • So, that’s one thing I’ve really learned across my career is that you can be really good within your own organization, but there are going to be forces that come to play or to bear that are bigger than you are, and you have got to be agile and change responsive and financially strong in order to constantly be readjusting and reinventing your business. (39:55-40:38)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Shared Leadership: Giving a Voice to Others

In this podcast, Kevin Hancock speaks with Life As Leadership host Josh Friedeman about leadership and empowering the voices of others. He shares the journey he underwent to finding the employee-centric business model and how sharing the leadership responsibility among everyone at Hancock Lumber has created a flourishing culture and business. By giving others the opportunity to lead, employee engagement and job satisfaction has skyrocketed and problems are being solved by everyone. Kevin speaks about how this can and should be applied to all types of communities and the benefits it creates for all involved.

Click here to listen to the full podcast.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast (click here for the full transcription):

  • And that’s what I really got excited about this idea of, well, my own voice condition might have limited my ability to speak at times, but maybe it was an invitation to strengthen the voices of others. (9:20-9:34)
  • But I think having said that, specifically to your question, the big epiphany or turning point for me was starting to see the business of business as being more than just business. (16:19-16:37)
  • Now, having said that, the other reason I’m such a big believer in that approach is simply to ask oneself who is the human being that you can most influence and that’s self evident as well, that the only person, any of us can really change is ourselves. And I have found that the best way to create change within an organization is to become it. (27:52-28:24)

Click here to download a PDF of the transcription.




Kevin Hancock at the ChIME Event

In this video, Kevin Hancock is the keynote speaker at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine to discuss spirituality and business. He shares his thoughts on improving the workplace culture and environment to enhance the value of the lives of employees. His philosophy that everyone can help lead the company and be comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas is a major pillar in this enhancement. He finishes his presentation by speaking about his journey to Pine Ridge and his book Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse.

Click here to watch the full keynote speech.




Guest Presenter: Kevin Hancock

In this video, Kevin Hancock stars as the guest presenter on Skidompha Library’s “Chats with Champions” series. Kevin discusses his book Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse and the journey the book showcases. This healing quest brings Kevin to South Dakota, where he meets the Lakota tribe living on the Pine Ridge reservation. He then discusses how the lessons he learned during his journey have helped him grow, learn, heal, and evolve as a person and leader.

Click here to watch the full video.




Using Lean Processes to Improve Your Organization

In this video, Kevin Hancock presents at the Franco Center Chamber breakfast event, speaking about how Hancock Lumber has used lean processes to improve. Kevin defines a lean company as one that is “focused, efficient, accurate, agile, responsive, fun, and constantly improving.” He then shares the ways that he has helped foster these attributes to become a part of the daily culture at Hancock Lumber. He finishes by sharing with the audience how that works to improve and enhance the quality and value of life for the employees.

Click here to watch the full video.