Employee devotion grows from trust

Leon Santoro knew something was wrong in his Southern California vineyard. Workers who’d been friendly now avoided him. They’d grow quiet when a supervisor approached.

Finally, Santoro realized that his workers felt intimidated. Their supervisor was threatening them and draining morale. So, he fired the supervisor, and attitudes improved immediately. Then, his workers asked him not to hire a new boss.

Santoro wasn’t sure, but his people were. They assured him that the best way for them to communicate was directly with him. For his part, Santoro felt he’d reached a turning point in his business: His people felt engaged and committed.

Most leaders think they need to flaunt some grand vision to win over employees, but it ain’t necessarily so, says Tom Davenport, author of Human Capital.

Instead of vision, people simply want to believe they can do good work and contribute to the organization’s goals.

Business lesson: Santoro says his decision not to hire another supervisor makes him a leader who chooses not to lead all the time. His workers become the leaders, instead.

When they make decisions that produce a better wine, he says, he can’t wish for anything more.

— Adapted from “Bye Bye, Boss,” Michael Kinsman, Copley News Service, www.jobjournal.com.