Workplace gratitude is more than simple appreciation or “thanks” — it’s a way of living and working that builds a sustainable, positive culture and engages employees to do their best work.
Did you know that Prince is a model for building workplace gratitude? Well, he is!
When the legendary musician and songwriter died last week at the age of 57, he left behind a rich legacy of influential music and an enormous vault of unreleased songs.
Now we’re discovering another Prince legacy besides his music: a model for passionate leadership, hiring great people and, ultimately, lasting workplace gratitude.
This alternate legacy is emerging now as Prince’s friends, collaborators, fans and music critics openly discuss his character and analyze his career and influence across nearly four decades.
Prince didn’t just leave behind amazing music. He also has a surprising legacy of generosity, compassion and trailblazing leadership. Read on to find out why Prince is a model for leadership and what his legacy teaches us about creating great work by nurturing a culture of workplace gratitude.
Prince’s Legacy: 7 Lessons for HR Leaders
Prince had a reputation for eccentricity, but he was also a savvy and forward-thinking businessman. He built his artistic vision for music like any smart business leader: by picking the right people for the right jobs, by being generous and compassionate with his collaborators and community, and by staying fiercely authentic.
Here are seven lessons from his legacy that HR leaders can apply in the workplace:
1. Be Fair and Communicate Directly
In the early 1990s, while the rest of us were wondering what an “information superhighway” was and what good it could be, Prince was already capitalizing on the Internet to connect directly with fans and to make the music industry fairer for musicians.
In a Washington Post article, Sam Jennings, an artist and designer who worked as Prince’s webmaster and creative director from 1998 to 2007, reflected on how Prince “revolutionized” the Internet as an early tech adapter.
“Anyone who has followed his career knows that he was a huge advocate for artists’ rights and a fair payment system,” Jennings writes. “Technology was catching up to his vision.”
Both these elements of his early tech experimentation — fair pay and direct communication — are absolute musts for a happy workplace culture. When company leaders communicate directly with employees on a personal level, it builds transparency and loyalty.
2. Lead with Love and Generosity
Liz Meriwether, creator of the FOX comedy “New Girl,” was deeply inspired by her experience working with Prince when he guest starred on an episode in 2014. He was hands-on in the episode’s development, and his dedication both delighted and fascinated Meriwether. In a Slate essay this week, she writes:
“It was clear, in those few weeks that we made something together, that Prince rarely, if ever, lost his vision. That wasn’t because he was a magical, otherworldly being; it was because he was rigorous, and generous, and he knew how to fight for what he wanted. It was a beautiful, constant fight. It was love.”
3. Hire the Best People
Prince was a longtime champion of female musicians and hired women for his backing band while the music industry discouraged women from making rock music. According to Tracy King of the New Statesman, Prince simply wanted the best people for the job, no matter who they were or what the industry standard was.
“Prince deliberately championed female artists and believed them musically worthy, at a time when perhaps the industry would not have taken a chance on them without his endorsement,” King writes.
4. Be An Employee Cheerleader
A Muse article on how Prince spent his life elevating and mentoring women also gives us a glimpse into Prince’s managerial style: kindness and confidence-building.
One of Prince’s mentees said she learned “work ethic and kindness” from her mentor, adding that that if he believed in you, he’d be “your biggest cheerleader… he gave me confidence.”
5. Be Authentic and Celebrate Authenticity
Prince was a living example of the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” according to VR Causes founder Marlon Fuentes in his LinkedIn post, “What Prince Taught Us About Authenticity.”
Prince “packaged [his] essence and walked the talk in such a confident way that your mental image and feeling for him was visceral, unmistakable and incomparable,” Fuentes writes. “What he taught us is that authenticity, passion and courage are the true ingredients for uniqueness and emotional connection in an identity.”
Just as fans were able to connect with Prince’s authenticity through his music, authentic leaders are able to connect and engage better with their employees — and gratitude grows in a workplace where authenticity is honored and celebrated!
6. Model a Culture of Giving Back
Prince’s generosity wasn’t limited to his work ethic. He was also a philanthropist — a fact he kept mostly secret while he was alive. Now, the story of his low-profile (but very generous) philanthropy is coming out.
He gave millions to a wide range of causes, from George W. Bush’s Green Jobs Act to #YesWeCode, an organization that educates urban youth about technology. All the while, he never sought publicity for his philanthropy and often gave anonymously.
“He cares a lot about people,” environmental and human rights activist (and longtime friend to Prince) Van Jones tells Rolling Stone.
“His cause was empowering and uplifting people. That didn’t stop when he walked off the stage or out of the studio. It was a current of genius trying to move the human heart,” Jones said.
A workplace culture of volunteerism and giving back is increasingly important to employees and employers alike. Not only does it make us feel good, it’s a meaningful way to improve teamwork, engage employees and strengthen relationships.
7. Give for the Joy of Giving
One of the most heartwarming stories to come out in the past week is of Prince’s secret $80,000 gift to drummer Clyde Stubblefield, a music legend in his own right best known for recording the drum break in James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and other hits.
When Stubblefield was faced with crippling medical bills for bladder cancer treatments in 2000, Prince stepped in and paid it off in full. Prince’s only request was that his gift be kept quiet.
The most amazing part is that Prince and Stubblefield weren’t even personally acquainted. Prince was moved to make the gift simply because Stubblefield was his drumming idol and he wanted to show his gratitude in a practical, meaningful way.
In the workplace, giving for the joy of giving — without ulterior motive — is the pinnacle of gratitude! When accompanied by a heartfelt message of thanks, sharing even small gifts with employees is a meaningful and memorable way to demonstrate appreciation!
Want to Build an Everyday Culture of Gratitude in Your Workplace?
Download our free eBook “Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude” for practical advice on recruiting and retaining a great workforce, increasing profits and building a sustainable culture of gratitude.
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