Aim for the Hearts – Hearts Win Customers

–We'll go to the ends of the earth for someone we love. Heck, we'll even get on board with their purpose.

Want to win customers? Focus on, and show that you love and care for your people. No, customers may not care that you love and care for your people, but they do care that your people have an endless supply of love and care for them. So, invest in your people as part of your organization’s purpose. When you do this, and they can feel it, that’s when they’ll give you their absolute best. Why? You get what you give, and you do what you’re focused on. So, aim for the heart and give a sh!# about your people.  You’ll win their hearts, and in turn, they’ll win your customers’ hearts for you.

It’s People, Purpose, and then Pay, when it comes to what inspires us.

We see this every day when it comes to the question of what motivates people. They will die for each other. They’ll join another’s cause. And, they’ll exchange their effort as a commodity.  It’s People, Purpose, and then Pay, when it comes to what inspires us. Of the highest motivators of those three, we will never do anything as well, as when we are doing those things alongside people we love. Were you expecting, “when we love what we do?” That’s what we regularly hear. However, “who we’re alongside with” matters as much or more, and has a stronger influence than “what we do”. We’ll go to the ends of the earth for someone we love. Heck, we’ll even get on board with their purpose. And, we’ll do so, even if the job sucks.

Let me tell you about a real sh!#y job I had 20 years ago.  I repaired side sewers, generally, not something you’re going to love to do. If you don’t know what they are, they’re the nasty pipes that take all of your poop from your house or apartment to the main sewer. Two things happen to them, they get clogged by human or natural causes, and or, they break. Have you ever climbed down into a hole full of poop? Let’s just say, it’s not like playing Army as a kid and hunkering down in the foxhole that you dug with your best friend.  Or, was it?

People will die for each other

Bob and Steve, well, they had GAS. They sure did, they “gave a sh!#” (GAS) about me. They would teach me about all things plumbing, residential, and commercial. They were patient, kind, and sometimes really frustrated with my progress. Mistakes in plumbing can be messy. But they revealed that they truly cared for me as I learned the trade. If you could imagine the sh!# that we worked on and laughed about. And the stories, oh man, sometimes the smell made you think you were going to die. For 7 years we got sh!#y call after sh!#y call, and we willingly and gladly took care of things. We would go the extra mile because we didn’t want to let each other down.

Sometimes, your buddy would get buried by a project and it was going to run seriously late. You would stay a little later to help him and get done sooner, that way, you both could go home earlier to have dinner with your loved ones. You’d also work harder to be more competent and make fewer mistakes. If there’s one thing you didn’t want to do a 2nd time, fix a side sewer, again. Rework sucks! Or worse, you didn’t want your buddy to have to pick up after you.  We felt accountable to each other.

Feeling accountable creates accountability, not the fear induced by managerial coercion.

Many managers terribly misuse the term accountability.  They say, “I’m going to hold you accountable (to getting tasks done).” That’s not accountability, it’s coercion based in fear. Accountability is a response of the heart, a feeling. The action we take in response to that feeling-  we make willing relationship choices, to deliver and not let someone down. As managers, we should be saying to ourselves, that we will take care of our people so well, or, that we will develop the type of relationships that inspire people to be accountable to each other and the customer. Feeling accountable creates accountability, not the fear induced by managerial coercion. Fear only creates the kind of compliance that requires more fear. Accountability is person-to-person, person-to-self, not person-to-task.

Funny thing, some of my fondest work memories are from digging out and cleaning up sh!#.  You see, Bob and Steve cared for me, invested in me as a partner in their purpose- removing sh!#y distractions for people learning at Seattle Pacific University.  We would dig the extra mile for, and do the best for each other, which in turn became doing the best for the students at SPU.

Care for your people as you invest in them as part of your organization’s purpose

That’s really what happened to me when I got hired at Seattle Pacific University in the Building Maintenance and Trades.  I’m not sure how purposeful SPU’s leadership went into caring for its people as a motivating practice for them, or if they just did it out of their ethos. Regardless, I’m very thankful they did. Not only did I get to learn about, drywalling, locksmithing, framing, welding, electrical, plumbing, finish carpentry, painting, and concrete, I learned that caring for your buddy, your people, and investing in them creates the deepest and most inspired commitment and abilities in the workplace. I gave a sh!# back. I ended up with a good case of GAS! (Thank you, Seattle Pacific University- Plant Services)

People will join another’s purpose

Bob and Steve’s purpose was a worthwhile one. Though, it wasn’t a purpose I’d ever considered. “Hey, I think my cause shall be, making sure that people don’t have to worry about their sh!# so they can study better.” I guarantee you, that, had never crossed my mind. However, as with any cause or purpose, when someone you care about and also cares for you, invites you to join… the next thing you know, you’re right alongside them, sometimes, literally in the trenches.

It’s because they cared for me, that I cared about their cause. Their purpose became my purpose. My brain, brimmed with oxytocin, a direct side effect from the Side Sewer Brotherhood. This automatically put me into a much more cooperative and empathetic mental space when I was working with a smelled-up customer. Our customers would be in one of two emotional states: one, I’m irritated at you because I can’t sh!#, and two, I appreciate you, you’re an angel from heaven because you’ll fix my sh!#.  From the care that Bob and Steve gave me, I was able to draw upon my fully invested heart, and pass the good on to our customers, even, the most frustrated ones, that had sh!#y attitudes.

When our motivation wanes for the cause, we can fall back on the emotion of, I’m not letting my buddy down, period.

When I joined Bob’s and Steve’s purpose, I adopted the customers’ concerns as my own. Paul cared for the customer! While this sounds really awesome, there’s a flat reality here. Do we have enough trouble following through on our own personal concerns?  Let’s go down the list: diet, exercise, learning, not doing any of 7 deadly sins… oh, and that email I was supposed to send.  However, if our organization is about more than a purpose, we have a reinforcer; it’s about each other – people. When our motivation wanes for the cause, we can fall back on the emotion of, I’m not letting my buddy down, period. On that emotional side of things, the buddy you love is worth emotionally more than the cause you love, which is worth emotionally more than the money.  Yep, and there were times when that was the primary motivation to change my own sh!#y attitude, as I drove up to a customer’s house.

Win your people’s hearts and they’ll win your customers’ hearts

When it came right down to it, Bob and Steve won my heart and I joined their purpose.  When my heart lapsed and wasn’t in it for the cause, I was still in the game for Bob and Steve. And the customer, they were completely relieved (hehehe… pun intended) and appreciative. I got the job done for Bob, Steve, and the customer.

People will exchange their effort as a commodity for pay

While the motivation of people and purpose will always trump pay in the long run, there’s a time and place to hire, and even be a mercenary (Merc).  Like, when your people get buried on a short workload increase, that’s when you hire and pull in a Merc.  Your people are maxed out, and anything else you throw at them will cause their work to diminish in quality and quantity. Or worse, they’ll hate coming to work, lose productivity, and then go look somewhere else for a job. So hire a Merc. We’ve all been a mercenary at some point with our work skills; we were in a place in our lives where we didn’t want to commit to people or a cause. But the Merc has a key weak point in the motivational equation: wow, that money over there looks a lot shinier.  Or, yeah, dealing with people’s mistakes, not worth the money. I’m outta here.

Organizationally, the problem comes when money is your organization’s primary focus for motivation. You see, they’ll work for the money and sure they want to do the job.

When an organization predominantly focuses on hiring people from and who have this mindset, the workforce of the organization becomes commoditized.  And people will act like a commodity where allegiance, accountability, and attention go to the highest bidder.

Teams do not flourish in this model because it undermines safety and trust. Teams require the trust that comes with heart, camaraderie, empathy, and sisterhood. Your organization’s growth will be hamstrung by a money first focus.

Pull in a mercenary to help keep your people in the game

If your people are stretched, a Merc can come in and prevent them from snapping or breaking. This should be an ever-present consideration as you take care of your people. With the right people focus, you’ll find some of those super-skilled Merc’s will have enough GAS, and join your cause.

Adding it all up: choose Heart Based Leading

Heart Based Leading

  • Focus on and show that you love and care for your people and invest in them as part of your organization’s purpose

  • Understand the levels of motivation: people, purpose, and then pay and how they apply to each of your people

  • Mutual accountability will be the natural result of people caring about each other as they fulfill the organization’s purpose

  • Pull in the Merc for tactical work to keep your people from snapping and strategy strong

  • Your people will have the GAS to go to the ends of the earth and do amazing things for you, your company, and your customers

You’ll win your people’s hearts and they’ll win your customers’.

How to get there

Get coaching and training to help your people find it in themselves to be calm, kind, and guiding. It takes time to develop new ways. Give a sh!# about them. With practice and mindfulness, your people can avoid reacting in fight/flight to economic duress or adversity, and instead respond with better focus and drive. Don’t tell people that they gotta care for each other. Show it, live it and invite them into it. You’ll find that when your people start focusing on caring for each other, their effort towards your organization’s purpose will accelerate. And your customers, they’ll be better served.

You get what you focus on. If you’re primarily focused on money and not losing it, whatever you achieve will happen at the expense of your people and your profits. If you keep the focus on caring for your people, they’ll take care of you and your customers. It’s pretty simple, just requires loving focus and effort.


Paul Haury
Paul Haury
Belonging Coach & Evangelist for Heart-Based Leadership in Workplace Culture & Happiness. I’m a coach, a mentor, an optimist that nerds-out on all things in the social-behavioral and neurosciences for what motivates us in how we can be better, and, get us to with whom and where we belong. The paths that get us there follow roads of vulnerable togetherness, kind and honest challenges in personal accountability, and a deep curious appreciation for being wholly human in full potential. It’s here, where we land on the good side of our fears and aspirations, and make our dreams happen. We’ll never do anything as well, as when we’re doing what we’re doing with and for those we love. I help people create their own unique spaces to go farther and higher in their individual brilliance than they ever could alone.

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  1. Great and funny read, Paul.

    “Rework sucks! Or worse, you didn’t want your buddy to have to pick up after you.”
    Have you ever worked with this kind of person with just send it down the line-attitude?

    Part of the social contract of yore was that we teach you and you hang around for a bit so we both benefit from what we taught you. Job hopping was frowned upon because it broke this contract. And for the colleagues, it was always somebody else who had to clean up after the hoppers half-baked projects when the hopper had left for more prestige and higher pay.

    Hopping is the norm in organizations that don’t teach and don’t create career tracks for their employees to induces the employees to stay for more than two years. Promoting from within might not have given the same diversity of experience as catching a hopper for a management position, but perhaps that problem could have been solved if top management was not so focused on promoting carbon copies of themselves.

  2. Paulllll !!!! Such a great piece that won my heart over with every word including sh!# 🙂 I cannot agree with you more although I could not have shared your stories. I love the idea of buying into someone else’s purpose by the way. So true. I don’t think about this part of it so often.

    I agree with you completely when you say love your people first if you want more customers. I always say it is NEVER enough for companies to love me or respect me. As a customer of Wells Fargo for example I always felt valued. But I knew they were not treating their people as such and it always bothered me. Then it was all on the news. Most organizations still think if they are good with customers it is OK. Not never OK. First as you say you feel from their people if they are happy or not. If they work very hard to show us they are excited about their job we know it is fake. I had several instances when I called some vendors in a previous job and ask how come they are so cheerful each and every time they answer the phone. It was always because they felt cared for. The culture there.

    I also like the accountability piece. So true.

    Thank you for the post. I love it. I will read it again and share!