by Michael Holland     

Febreze is a magical mist sprayer that covers up almost any smell.  In truth, it neutralizes the odor by binding “malodorous molecules” in a super-secret process, and the results are tremendous.  But Febreze almost didn’t make it to the shelves.  In the first market tests, the chemical was so effective that after spraying there was no smell.  But the testers chosen were women who were used to using cleaners that had a certain smell: it was what “clean” smelled like, and had been for generations. Without some resulting scent to reassure them that things were actually clean, they felt that something was missing. No one coming into their homes would smell a clean room.

Great leaders are very much like Febreze.  They step up and get rid of malodorous cultures. They use their leadership magic to entice, influence, and guide employees to see a different future.  These authentic leaders use their initiative, determination, and insight to create clarity.  Here are some other ways great leaders use their magic spray:

  • To eliminate the negative culture on a team, leaving behind a pleasant and alluring organization.
  • To remove employees who are detrimental to the good of the team or organization.
  • To create a belief and hope in what could be where what couldn’t be was the old norm.
  • To create impact and make a difference.
  • To awaken employees to see a new standard of behavior for leaders that should be expected.

Just like the reworked formula of Febreze, these great leaders leave behind a nice aroma that lingers in the hearts and minds of their employees.  You can almost picture those employees standing around with gentle smiles on their faces.

There are a bunch of HR professionals out there who really wish they had some magical leadership Febreze to spray around their organizations, and I would bet a few CEOs as well. And while they don’t have that magic spray, they do have you. Can you do what is necessary to “freshen up” your team?

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • The bullet points in this Leadership Learning Moment give an idea of what a “Febreze leader” does, but they don’t detail how this can be accomplished. What are some actionable steps you could take to make some of these happen on your team?
  • In the example with the early version of Febreze, the lingering smell is not needed to get rid of the odor. It’s an extra, but one that makes people more comfortable using it. In leadership, if you fix the problems, do you think it’s still necessary to have the “pleasant smell” afterwords? Why or why not?