71: Leaders With Heart Understand What Drives Their People

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In this episode, Heather speaks to Steve Browne, Vice President of Human Resources for LaRosa’s, Inc. – a regional Pizzeria restaurant chain in Southwest Ohio, with 13 locations and over 1,100 Team Members. Steve shares some insights from his new book HR on Purpose. He also talks about being open to feedback, affirming our employees for their efforts, and making relationships the focus.

Key takeaways:

  • Affirm your people enough and tell them that what they do matters.
  • Don’t use a “report card” approach to employee appreciation.
  • Enjoy life more instead of thinking of work at work.
  • Find out what drives your people instead of telling them what should drive them.
  • Talk about life with your people.
  • Leadership manifests itself. It’s not a program.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • Situational leadership is legitimate.

Surely, you will all enjoy this one.


Steve Browne is the Vice President of Human Resources for LaRosa’s, Inc. He has been an HR professional for 30 years and has worked in the Hospitality, Manufacturing, Consumer Products, and Professional Services industries in various HR roles.

He is currently a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Board of Directors and has been a member of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC) representative for the North Central Region of SHRM and Past Ohio State Council Director. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable as well as an HR internet forum, called the HR Net, which reaches over 12,000+ people globally each week.

Steve is also an accomplished speaker who has been featured at local, regional and national Conferences, Chambers of Commerce, HR chapters and businesses. He’s very active in Social Media and has a nationally recognized HR blog – Everyday People. He also has authored a new book called “HR on Purpose !!” which looks at Human Resources from a fresh, positive and intentional perspective.

Lead with Flexibility

My leadership moves and flexes a lot more than it is a distinct state. You can lead at any level, at any role, and at any capacity within organizations. To me, I see leadership as an opportunity and it has to be more hands on. I don’t do well with the people who use it from an authoritative standpoint where, “I am the boss and you’re not.”

I actually learned about leadership from my parents. They modeled what they expected in others. Now, I am constantly trying to learn how they did it. I would like to say I model things well all the time but it’s too utopian, I know. 

To be honest, I fail like everyone else. But, I make sure I am adapting with others: meeting where they are, and accepting people for who they are and what they bring.

I don’t think we affirm people enough to say that what they do matters. – @sbrownehr #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Enjoy and Connect Genuinely

I have always been attracted to others who are just genuine as they walk in the room. You don’t have to tell them to be authentic because they just are. You just see it.

I also believe people likes to talk about others. When I meet the managers, they would tell me about their partners, their spouses, their children, or their dogs. Rarely do they talk about themselves. Sometimes, they would be talking about their co-workers, and not them. 

Either you pass some of the anger, frustration or angst that happens in the midst of a daily job, but underneath it all, people want to be connected outside of themselves.

Very rarely do I find somebody who is so self-involved that you never hear about anybody other than themselves.

Deep down, I wish more people would enjoy what they do. In anything, you have to have a purpose. I love going home every night knowing the next day I have more things to do. I’m never finished and I’m good with that because I am with my people. People are a working progress.

Work is part of who we are but it’s not all that we are. – @sbrownehr #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Spend Time Intentionally

My people and I talk about life a lot more than we do work. We talk about work when we need to, and it’s very intentional. 

I’ve learned to study them and we use StrengthsFinder to assess their types. Then, I take time to learn who they are and figure out how to deal with them uniquely in their style.

I will intentionally spend time with my people, just to hear the good stories and the rough ones, and to genuinely understand how things are going in their lives. 

It doesn’t concern me or bother me if they have different interests, ideals, or beliefs than mine. Through that I’ll know what drives my people, rather than pushing what I think they should be driven by.

It sounds a little too altruistic and when I bring this up, people would go, “That’s good for you.” But no, it works. 

Going to the store and talking to the general manager, who just wants talk and get things out of her, is a more worthwhile use of my time than anything I do. My desk doesn’t care.

No one is like you, and that’s cool. – @sbrownehr #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I wish people would enjoy life a little more and have fun. – @sbrownehr #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You are doing something that matters. – @sbrownehr #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Steve on LinkedIn and Twitter

Visit Steve’s blog, Everyday People

Grab a copy of the HR on Purpose book!

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast

Listen to the podcast on Spotify

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