Growing Your Leadership With Caring – Grow Great Daily Brief #65 – August 21, 2018

Today is as good a day as any to simplify the name of the podcast. The focus is still aimed at helping leaders, particularly small business owners, but let’s just go by “Daily Brief” shall we? It’s easier to say. And to remember. The Grow Great Daily Brief. Proof that I’m embracing minimalism and simplicity in my own life. I’m not just preaching at you. 😉 

Let’s talk about caring. And I’m not talking about caring about how much money you make, or how successful your enterprise is…or the dozens of other things you care about. I’m talking about caring about people. Firstly, the people you work with. Teammates. Associates. People inside your organization. Secondly, the people who buy from you. Customers. Clients. 

Employees Come First

Lots of business owners and leaders give it lip service. As usual, talk is cheap. 

The other day I’m reminiscing with a leader confess that he felt he’d been doing a great job. The team was performing well. He felt good about himself as a leader. Until the higher up’s had a 360 assessment done. It revealed his team couldn’t stand him. They found him pompous, unapproachable and out of touch. He sensed none of those things. The news sent him reeling, questioning his every move. 

He was a smart guy. And had a degree of wisdom, too. So he used the information as an opportunity to gain some clarity about himself. Others might have resented the information or the people who delivered it. They may have disagreed and dismissed it. Thankfully, he didn’t do that. He decided instead to accept it as the viewpoint of people on his team. People who worked with him. They’d say they worked “for” him.

Emphasis had always been on the team hitting their goals. The performance was the deal and mostly, the team achieved. Each one of them (seven of them) would readily project how much more successful they could have been if their boss was more compassionate and caring. About them, and about their customers. But he wasn’t. Well, he hadn’t been.

About 6 months went by, prompted by a meeting he held with the team. During that meeting (conducted with some serious coaching to help him do it well) he opened up with his team like never before. He thanked them for their feedback and apologized. He listened. He took notes. Then he committed to them, and to himself, that he would do better. 

He did do better! Regular meetings with regular feedback provoked him to read books he’d never read before. He found himself having conversations with his team members that he never thought possible before. In fact, he wouldn’t have considered having them in the past. Now, they’re crucial conversations that he can’t fathom living without. 

This leader went from being an autocrat to a leader. He did it because he cared enough about his own career to be open enough to care about what his team was thinking and feeling. He’ll be the first to tell you, he had to swallow his perceptions that he was all that, and he had to make himself believe that the feedback of the team members was valid, at least from their viewpoint. Another 360 performed almost a year later wasn’t surprising. He was fully prepared for the results because he already knew how his team felt. “A week never ends without me knowing,” he says. Why? Because he cares. 

Clients Are Next

Thousands of working lunches and dinners with a variety of business acquaintances – sometimes prospects, sometimes customers, sometimes suppliers – will show you how nice people are. We meet at a nice restaurant with white cloth table settings and multiple wait staff per table. Not my kind of place, but it happens. It’s one of those dinners where folks are intent on one-upping each other. I watch. And listen. Smiling inside. Quite often outside, too. I always find it entertaining to watch grown people engage in popularity contests over a meal like a bunch of high schoolers. 

One guy is particularly brash. He’s the guy who dominates every conversation with some opinion. Sports, weather, politics, the economy…no topic is too expansive for him. He’s got an opinion about it. And it’s coming in hot and strong. 

From the get-go, he’s curt with the restaurant staff. It’s evident he’s going to behave with a “you bet you will” attitude. Constant demands. Never once a “thank you” or a “please.” Tossing out directives and commands, not requests. I’m his guest, along with the rest of the group. But by the time our water glasses were first filled I knew this was a guy who didn’t care about anybody including his customers. Like others at the table, I was thinking, “If he’ll behave this way toward these people doing their best to wait on him, then he’ll behave this way toward me, too.” 

Which is why employees are first. A leader who treats employees poorly, or without regard, will not treat customers well. They may say they will, but they’re liars. 

Too many business owners and leaders behave transactionally toward their customers. The customers pay a specific amount of money, which warrants decent (not extraordinary or dazzling) care. But the new wears off quickly and the owner moves on to hunt the next customer, treating their business like a never-ending series of one-night-stands. 

If you can’t or won’t fall in love with your customers, then you deserve to go out of business fast. And you will. 

The energy expended to practice contempt toward clients is often more than the energy required to love clients. Hatred, contempt or indifference burn humanity. They ruin people, mostly the people who practice them. But also the people to whom those feelings are directed. 

Love is the answer. It’s right. People who say YES to us and allow us to serve them deserve our love. Of all the providers they could select they chose us. It’s an honor. Highly valuable. 

Leaders – and I use that term loosely – who refuse to decide to honor employees and clients with care are tyrants. Not leaders. 

You Are Third, Which Makes You First

It’s right. Caring and compassionate leaders do what’s right all the time. 

It’s practical. There’s math involved. Simple arithmetic. Not calculus. Let’s say you have 60 employees and 2,000 clients. That’s 2,060 people who have a direct relationship with you. They each represent a variety of others indirectly connected. Suppose that number if four times the total, or 8,240. Then there’s the vast scope of influence of all those people. Think of the number of people who see various Instagram posts, Facebook posts, Linkedin shares or other social media reaches. You can’t count how many people are impacted by how you behave. And I don’t care if you’ve got Google search queries set…the reach of your influence for good or bad is extensive. People talk. And they repeat what they hear. 

Jeffrey Gitomer is a famous sales coach and author. I’ve followed Jeffrey for over 30 years. He’s long said that people can say one of three things about us. Something good. Something bad. Or nothing. And we get to choose what they say. He’s right. Sadly, too many business owners don’t choose wisely because they think caring about themselves is the path best taken. But you come third. And if you’ll decide to put yourself after your employees and clients, then you’ll start to win bigger. You’ll grow great!

You’re building an army that will fight against you or one that will fight for you. It’s up to you to build the one you most want. Stand apart like an arrogant dictator, like my dinner host, and you’ll be fighting alone. Stand with others, show them how much you care, and like the team leader who decided to wake up and change his ways, and you’ll be a wise General building a large army capable of winning in any market conditions. In our simple math solution, there could be you alongside 8,240 others who all know how much you care about them, or you can go it alone. You know which way is going to win. 

Care enough to put others ahead of yourself. It’s the path of leadership. It’s also the path toward achieving your wildest dreams. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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Grow Great a public sector leadership podcastAbout the hosts: Randy Cantrell brings over 4 decades of experience as a business leader and organization builder. Lisa Norris brings almost 3 decades of experience in HR and all things "people." Their shared passion for leadership and developing high-performing cultures provoked them to focus the Grow Great podcast on city government leadership.

The work is about achieving unprecedented success through accelerated learning in helping leaders and executives "figure it out." 

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