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Nice guy leadership can pay off

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Josh Weston spent 43 years at Automatic Data Processing (ADP), the payroll company, serving as its CEO from 1982 to 1998. It generated double-digit annual growth consistently under Weston’s leadership.

Weston credits his devotion to employees as a key to the firm’s success. Reflecting on his career, he finds that motivating people means lavishing them with positive attention.

As the company expanded, Weston knew that he could motivate people more effectively face-to-face. So he routinely traveled to its 40 locations across America, using his visits to mingle with individuals and listen to their ideas and ­concerns.

He liked to bond with employees in casual settings, figuring that they’d feel more comfortable opening up to him if they got to know him informally. To foster more camaraderie, he invited groups of staffers and their spouses to dinner.

At these dinners and other gatherings, he made sure to chat with everyone and learn a bit about their personal lives. Then he’d follow up about their hobbies or pets—or whatever else they mentioned—when he saw them again.

He wrote congratulatory notes to employees to thank them for their superior work effort. And he’d call them if they were admitted to a hospital, asking how he could help.

As a result, ADP’s workforce viewed Weston as an ally rather than a distant CEO. They were driven to produce better results because they liked and respected him.

A big believer in launching new initiatives one step at a time, Weston adopted a “pilot before you pile-it” approach. That meant he tested new programs on a small scale before a big release, giving his team opportunities to learn and fix glitches prior to full implementation.

— Adapted from “Former ADP CEO Josh Weston Gives Future Entrepreneurs Lessons on Leadership,” www.stevens.edu.

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