An effective leader cares as much about the people doing the job as they do about getting the job done right. Where does that come from? It all begins by asking yourself big questions, such as:
· How would I want to be treated in this situation?
· How would I want someone to support me?
Throughout my career, those questions have become a kind of filter through which I resolve challenging situations. I would tell myself, “I am going to treat other people the way I’d want them to treat me." In other words, using the Golden Rule in the workplace will resolve many business situations and help you become a better leader.
Many years ago, I was a quality analyst for a major bank in St. Paul, Minnesota. As an analyst, my job was to monitor phone calls between customer service representatives and bank customers. Then, on a one-on-one basis, I would offer the CSR feedback on what they did well and how they could improve their performance.
A few days after my wife and I had our first child, my manager, Sharon, asked me, "John, where do you see yourself in the next five years?" I told her that I'd been wrestling with that very question for a long time. I said that, because of my background in speech communication, I felt like a solution without a problem - I loved to speak but did not yet have anything to talk about.
Sharon said, "John, let’s make this a win/win. Over the next week, put some ideas down on how the bank can help you with your professional growth goals and how you can mutually help the bank win too."
The following week I sat down with Sharon and shared my idea for a win/win. I told her that, as a quality analyst, I know where rookie CSR’s typically will run into trouble or experience difficulty at the onset of their job. I then proposed a 2-hour training class to help new CSR's understand the challenges they might face and what they could learn from their predecessors.
Sharon loved the idea. Together, we drafted a proposal for the training program, which she presented at her next operations meeting. Within two months, I was speaking to 30 rookie CSR’s, feeling like I was making a difference in their jobs and solving their problems! It was a game-changing moment that would guide the rest of my career.
Without realizing it right away, I was learning an invaluable lesson in leadership from Sharon.
For years, I’d thought of a leader as a boss who helps another do better on a phone call or a task. On that day, I realized that a leader has a much more significant influence. Today, I firmly believe that the best leaders can help change someone’s career or life, simply by caring about the people working for them.
There is nothing magical about management. As a leader, you have got to care! You have got to like people. You have to show up every day and act like people matter. You got to bring it every day and become intentional with your actions. The will to want to work faster, harder, and smarter does not lie in the employee’s hands or on their shoulders. It rests in the employee’s mind and heart, and a great leader will focus on appealing to that to bring out the best in their employees. People are not widgets or other units of production. They are humans deserving of respect and care. An effective leader cares about not only getting the job done but about the players getting the job done.