shutterstock_94460596As we celebrate Presidents’ Day, we honor our country’s two greatest leaders, George Washington who had to form a union, and Abraham Lincoln who had to hold it together. Both succeeded because they educated the people about the reasons for action. They both had to sell their cause.

The takeaway for leaders, whether they are politicians, managers, or business owners, is simple. To truly engage your people, educate them beyond what you want them to do and how you want them to do it. Give them appreciation for why you want them to perform in a certain way.

When we were building the Barefoot Wine brand, we found that our people were more engaged when they knew why they were doing a specific job, not just how to do it. We would explain our company’s mission statement, and how each staff member’s performance was essential to achieve the goals of the company.

We would invest hours with our new people explaining the cause and effect that connected their job to the customers’ purchasing decision. We would give them a “money map” showing them how the customers’ money went to buy our product, how it traveled through the retail and distribution companies we dealt with, and eventually ended up in their paycheck. We would detail the reasons why their job directly affected the provision of goods and services necessary for the customer to make a purchase. We would give them the reasons why every team member in our company had to perform excellently to keep our customers coming back. We explained each business associate’s loyalty requirements, from distributers to retailers, from store clerks to consumers, and how our people satisfied all of them.

Some said that kind of training was a waste of time, that new people don’t need that level of detail. They argue that the sooner the new hire starts producing, the better. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it assumes that the processes are already the best they can possibly be, and that there can be no further improvements in customer service or efficiency. It also assumes that expensive mistakes won’t happen due to misconceptions about purpose.

We found, however, that people tend to “make up” reasons when they don’t know the real ones. If they didn’t get it, we would go over it again – and again. When they asked a seemingly simply question about their job, we would listen closely for any misconceptions they held. We wouldn’t just give them the answer so they could thoughtlessly “cut and paste” to quickly get on with their job. We would take the time to sit them down and start from the beginning about the reasons until they connected the dots.

The time we invested in this type of education really paid off. We often heard, “Well, if that’s what we are trying to do, then why don’t we …” and they would streamline our procedures or make them more effective. Sometimes they would even come up with completely new ways of doing things.

Presidents and leaders at every level are only as successful as their ability to engage their people. If your people truly understand why they are being asked to perform, you’ll drastically reduce costly misconceptions and you’ll achieve your company’s goals in surprisingly more efficient ways. Your people will be happier and more engaged because they understand why their performance is essential to the company’s success and that their teammates are relying on them.

Productive people start with good leaders. Happy Presidents’ Day everybody!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact