Author, Love Works (2012)
Appeared on CBS hit reality show, Undercover Boss
President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation (HFE)
Serves on several boards, including the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army and John Scott Ministries
MBA from Harvard Business School on a GM scholarship
Valedictorian of Albion College
Wife, Marki, and four daughters
Joel Manby: Love Works
LEADING WITH LOVE
“When asked what was behind our caring culture displayed on Undercover Boss, I said, ‘Well we actually use love to define our leadership culture at Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE). Not love the emotion, but love the verb,” says Joel Manby, President and CEO of HFE. When Joel agreed to appear on the CBS show, Undercover Boss, he had no idea the response he’d receive. His episode was seen by 18 million viewers across the U.S. and was the highest rated episode, behind the show’s premiere episode following the Super Bowl. Not only were people watching, they were taking notice. Viewers were blown away by the HFE employees’ job satisfaction, and perhaps more so by the fact that they had a boss (Joel) who truly cared for their well-being. "The simple truth is this: there is a crisis of confidence in leadership. The level of dissatisfaction and even resentment present in the thousands of letters and email message shocked me. People felt as if they couldn't trust their leaders and bosses. That's why our episode of Undercover Boss provoked such an overwhelming response - people were hungry for something new, something better. Countless workers wanted more from their leaders and their work environment, and we were hearing about it."
Joel is a twenty year veteran of the auto industry. Serving as the CEO of Saab USA, he discovered emptiness in his big business principles and practices. He felt like he was on a high speed treadmill. He and his family moved ten times in 15 years. During one year, he spent 250 days on the road and when he was at home, he had 6 a.m. calls from Sweden and 11 p.m. calls from Asia. He kept missing family birthdays and other occasions. Wanting a great marriage and to be a great dad, he asked his boss if he could change positions, which would cut his travel in half. His boss refused. The harder Joel worked and the higher he was promoted, the worse his life seemed to get. His self-esteem was tied up in the performance of the companies he ran. He wanted out of life, but he didn’t want to be that selfish. When Joel was offered a position with HFE, he seized the opportunity. Once on board, Joel looked to the owners as he determined how to best lead the company. In watching them, Joel realized the word “love” best described them. Joel has incorporated the definition of love, the verb, into the company’s existing organic culture to establish how leaders are to behave. He views love as a mode of thinking-one that has helped him deliver tangible results and position HFE as the 9th largest themed attractions company in the world. "Leading with love is counterintuitive in today's business environment because it turns many so-called leadership principles upside-down. Yet the outpouring of support from people who had never even heard of HFE convinced me that while we might be doing something slightly crazy by leading with love, we were also doing something that people were hungry to be a part of." Highlighting practices such as writing thank you notes to employees each day, providing assistance to 10 percent of his workforce through the Share it Forward Foundation, and letting employees make the majority of all decisions, Joel’s leadership style is controversial, yet extremely successful. Over the past decade, while many competitors were failing or struggling, HFE is thriving.
The seven principles Joel set-up as guidelines for HFE actually
come from one of the oldest and most respected authorities on human behavior: the Bible. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the apostle Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” From this verse, HFE created a leadership that would embrace love as a behavior, not an emotion. Love is:
- PATIENT: Embracing patience is not about ignoring poor performance. When leading with love, the principle of patience means behaving with self-control in difficult situations.
- KIND: Show encouragement and enthusiasm. Kindness doesn’t mean being nice all the time; leaders must hold people accountable.
- TRUSTING: Place confidence in someone. To become a great leader, one needs to assume the best about each person.
- UNSELFISH: Being unselfish doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself—it means thinking of yourself less. Move from a selfish heart to a serving heart.
- TRUTHFUL: Define reality corporately and individually. A strong leader assures that the truth is communicated to every individual about his or her performance and how it can be improved.
- FORGIVING: Release the grip of the grudge. What was done to us doesn’t matter in the end—all that matters is how we respond.
- DEDICATED: Stick to your values in all circumstances. Dedicated love will create hope and enthusiasm in the work environment.
“Leading with love is too important to be left to chance. It takes effort to lead with the principles of love - to be patient, kind, trustful, unselfish, truthful, forgiving, and dedicated . . . leading with love is worth it. On every level it is more difficult, and on every level it is more rewarding, more fulfilling, more right than you can imagine,” Joel says.
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