Servant Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, and Employee Retention with Kreischer Miller’s Mary Ellen Harris
Mary Ellen Harris, Kreischer Miller’s Chief Human Resources Officer, talks about the importance of servant leadership and emotional intelligence in employee retention, the biggest challenge for leaders to embrace servant leadership, and the negative impact of annual performance evaluations.
Mary Ellen Harris is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Kreischer Miller, where she leads the HR function for the organization.
Mary is an accomplished leader with experience in all areas of Human Resources gained through working in a wide variety of industries, including software development, accounting/ financial services, clinical laboratory, retail, and legal services. Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Better People Podcast:
- The characteristics of servant leadership.
- The biggest challenges for servant leadership leaders.
- The necessary aspects of emotional intelligence.
- The benefits of using model behaviors to create a safe space for growth.
- How to build strong relationships.
- How servant leaders should treat their employees.
- What it really means to ‘value people’.
Connect with Mary Ellen Harris:
Connecting with the host:
- Margaret Uhrich on LinkedIn
- 05:26 – “Servant leadership. Just almost a very sort of definition of it, if you will. I think that when you hear the term, some people’s minds go in different directions. They’re now not quite certain. What does that actually mean, servant? That’s an unusual word. And people have different emotional reactions to that word, right? So I wanna just clarify that, and the credit to Peter North House, who is an amazing author and a leadership expert, he really focuses on the defining servant leadership as really putting, it’s like looking through the leadership lens of putting the needs of your constituents or your followers first. In fact, his argument is you even put those needs before profit, and his contention is that by doing so, you’re going to encourage your people to perform at their best. You’re going to encourage things like diversity of thought.”
- 9:08 – “I think people in leadership positions are fearful of particularly letting down, if it’s a publicly traded company, you’ve got looming over you the stockholders. They want a profit, they want a profit, they want a profit. So I think profit, focus on profit, the need to focus on profit, right? Businesses that are for profit need to be profitable. And that’s not a bad thing. But I do think it influences people’s behavior because of the importance of making a profit in those scenarios. I think that also people are afraid to admit that they don’t have all the answers. And I think they’re afraid to admit that perhaps relying on their people is a good thing. Because I think it makes them feel like they have imposter syndrome, right? Like that they’re, you know, not good enough. So I think that those are pretty impactful.”
- 13:34 – “Give people the benefit of the doubt first, instead of assumptions and jumping to conclusions. And that, I see, is very damaging to relationships when people do that. And I witness that all the time. And some will come into my office and say, Mary Ellen, this person’s really, really weak. Well, why do you think that? Right? And it’s often because of not facts, it’s often because of perceptions and jumping to conclusions. So I think that those are important elements of emotional intelligence from a very pragmatic perspective.”
- 14:04 – “Biases play a role in that as well. And there’s, so, I mean, I’ve been doing some research into this now, really focusing on it in my coaching practice. And there’s, I think, over a hundred biases out there. I mean, that they’ve documented now. So there’s so many things that could come into play, and I think you’re right, having the emotional intelligence to ask yourself, to question yourself, right? Yes. Am I making an assumption that’s not correct here? Yes. And as you said, right, give the person the benefit of the doubt. And when you can do that, you know, the next step is then to start asking those questions”
- 24:35 – “Here’s how we do things here. And this is our culture, and these are our values, and these are our guidelines. Absolutely, right? They’re our guidelines and this is our pay time off policy, and this is how this works, right. Which is important. You have to have, you know, the handbook so that people know how to navigate the organization, but really looking at it through a very different lens of what I’m going to call servant leadership and emotional intelligence. And so that’s a big project that’s literally in the process right now.”