The real secret to being a great leader is dating your employees.

The best leaders on the planet sell us on their ideas. We flock to great brands, and the awesome leaders behind them, because we believe them when they tell us how their products will make our life (and the world) better.

Of course, they could never seduce us if they didn’t already know what we want. By learning what makes us tick, they position their product to solve our problems.

Yes, this is basically Marketing 101. But, what does it have to do with dating your employees?

Just like the greatest sales professionals understand the magic inherent in knowing their customers, the best leaders know their employees.

Great sales professionals keep a file on all their customers, and so do great leaders. They know the names of children, spouses, favorite meals, interests, and their underlying motivations. Some even know their favorite color, deep-seated fears, and their shoe size. Yes, their shoe size!

But why? And, seriously, what does this have to do with dating your employees?

By seeking to understand each individual’s aspirations, fears, and interests, great leaders position their big ideas so that their employees can overcome fears, reach their goals, and contribute to the greater vision of the team.

Just as world-class sales professionals go to great lengths to learn about their customers, great leaders know their team, and intentionally look for ways to help them reach their goals.

Great leaders understand that good employees, as with good customers, have a choice. They can choose to take their skillset and passion elsewhere, or even worse, turn in mediocre work, and speak poorly of the company and you, their boss.

Gallup calls these people “disengaged.” And a full 68% of the global workforce is either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” That’s a huge opportunity for leaders who are ready to date their employees.

Romantic relationships require an emotional investment—an authentic concern for the other person’s happiness. If you want them to care about you, you have to show that you care about them.

Pretty simple, right?

Then why don’t more leaders date their employees? That is, why don’t they treat the relationship as if it’s valuable, worthwhile—even cherished?

Building real, caring relationships means being vulnerable, which is not something we’re used to on the job. It’s easier to remain emotionally detached, simply bark orders, and ignore issues until it’s time for annual reviews.

Remarkable leaders sell their ideas to people they care about, in much the same way that top sales professionals connect with customers on a personal level. Just as inspiring a customer to buy from you demands a connection with the customer, getting your team to buy into your idea requires a connection.

Of course, it’s about more than buying into your idea. It’s about trusting that you have what it takes to lead them to a worthy goal.

Most leaders don’t know where they’re going (the idea they’re selling), but they want you to trust them to do the driving. Can you imagine selling a $1 billion piece of software to a company without knowing the impact it will have?

No way! Yet, most leaders expect their employees to give every ounce of dedication and commitment to a project without knowing why they’re working so hard. They make demands like, “Do what I’ve paid you to do,” use fear as leverage, and then wonder why the best keep leaving.

Consider the following questions before dating (leading) anyone:

  1. Do I have a big idea?
  2. Does my big idea inspire me?
  3. Do I care about my (my teams) goals?
  4. What does success look like? How will you know when we’ve reached success?
  5. Do I understand the bigger impact on my career, my team, and my customers?
  6. Do I care about the people I hope to motivate? Do I know what drives them?

If you’re already in a leadership position, and lack the answers to any of these questions, get them. Fast! The answers will undoubtedly yield you the loving relationships that will catapult your business to the next level.

Here’s to Your Greatness,
Misti Burmeister