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6 Steps to Become a Heliotropic Leader

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Here are one dealership's tips for utilizing technology to improve customer service.

Plants grow toward the sun. In fact, flowers will actually turn their blossoms to face its direction. The sun provides the nutrients that plants need to grow.

Salt, on the other hand, inhibits growth when it is absorbed by the root. And as a result, the plant will likely die.

People are not that different from plants. They require certain things to grow and will experience setbacks under certain circumstances if those requirements aren’t met.

Similarly, in the workplace, a leader can either be the sun or the salt for his or her employees.

“We put salt on people’s roots; it’s really toxic. It stings and lasts longer than the positive,” Harry Cohen, author of Secrets of the Obvious, psychologist and independent management consultant, leadership coach and restaurant owner, says. “You have to give five ‘atta boys’ to one, ‘What were you thinking?’”

And that, Cohen says, is the foundation for heliotropic leadership, a practice that emphasizes the benefits of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness. According to Cohen, this is something that good leaders need to master.

As a consultant, he says that he’s seen many service advisors that have a great attitude, but he’s also seen many that are “pissed off and angry all of the time.”

What’s the difference? Well, the difference seeps into every aspect of the workplace.

“People will do more for great leaders,” Cohen says.

The best service managers that Cohen has seen are positive and create a culture in which people enjoy working. They always look for ways to improve not only their business, but also themselves.

Cohen says that a key trait in the best leaders that he’s seen is that they have no problem acknowledging the positive and they know how to make people feel great. That’s not to say they don’t hold people accountable—because that’s also necessary but the best leaders have mastered doing this in a way that does not make anyone feel bad about him or herself.

The key to being a heliotropic leader is to be the best version of yourself, Cohen says. Be a person that people want to work for and make the people that work for you feel good about themselves. Some people are naturally better at this, but Cohen doesn’t buy anyone’s excuse that they’re not able to do it.

“If you’re a naturally gifted leader and you have those skills, great. Work on those more. If you don’t, you’ll have to work harder,” Cohen says.

According to Cohen, there are many quick and easy tips that will turn you into the best possible version of yourself, which will also make you the best leader possible.


1. Compliment, praise and recognize.

Every single day, give a shout-out to someone that has done something well. It will lift him or her up.


2. Every day, do something to make your business better.

Cohen says on a daily basis, take note of something that’s wasteful or inefficient and find a way to improve it. Keeping this up daily will turn it into a practice and eventually, improve the problem.


3. Take five minutes.

Take five minutes each day to learn something new about someone on your team, Cohen says. It takes no time at all and it shows people that you care, which is something the best leaders do.


4. Address what you have allowed.

Cohen says the best leaders realize that if there is a problem within their organization, it’s because they allowed it to happen.

“What have I allowed to grow that’s not good for my garden?” he says.

Take time to look around and find problems. Then, work toward fixing the behavior.


5. When you make a mistake, do the next right thing.

Cohen can’t stress the importance of “not salting anyone’s roots” enough, but he acknowledges that everyone is human and that it can happen from time to time. Tempers flare and sometimes things come out.

“If you want to rip someone’s head off, walk away,” Cohen says. “Do not use your power or position to make someone feel bad.”

However, if you do slip up, Cohen says that you must acknowledge it and immediately make it right. Apologize for what happened and take ownership.


6. Remember self-care.

If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t succeed in leading other people. Cohen says leaders need to practice self-care.

“Get good sleep, eat well and exercise,” Cohen says.

“Don’t give up; try what works,” Cohen says. “Every person is different. Always keep working on bringing out your best. Create a positive environment.”

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