Why Nobody Cares

Wondering why your people don’t care? Well, your people don’t care because you don’t care for your people. 

This will be a short post, which is probably good because there are likely to be a whole bunch of people who won’t like it.

Perhaps cause the truth hurts? 

You call yourself a leader? Then you must care first. 

As a leader you cannot expect your people to do anything first, especially care. When your people know, with very little doubt, that you truly care about them then they will feel it is safe to care about you. 

If your people can’t trust you, if they don’t see you as honest and credible, then they CAN’T trust you. It’s virtually humanly impossible to truly care about someone you believe does not have your interests in mind. 

If you’re trying to get your people to care, about their job, the company and especially your customers then you had better be prepared to demonstrate that you care first. Until they can care about you it will be pretty difficult for them to care about much of anything. 

You can tell them to care, you can even try ordering them to care but you should know that people buy into the leader before they buy into their leadership. If they can’t buy into you why would they buy into anything you want them to do.

Stop waiting for your people to care, start SHOWING that you understand that they are people, people with the same needs, challenges and emotions that you have. When you SHOW that you care you will no longer have to wonder why your people don’t.

It’s called follow the leader for a reason, YOU go first! 

Leadership Tricks?

I received an email a few days ago offering me free enrollment in a new webinar that promised to share all the latest leadership “tricks and secrets.” It said these tricks and secrets would allow you to get someone to do pretty much anything you wanted them to do, whether they wanted to or not. 

The one thing I can say for sure about the webinar is that it was priced right. There was no cost which was only fair because I’m pretty certain there would be no value either.

Leadership is a serious undertaking. It is not a game. There are no tricks to rig the system or manipulate people, in fact, manipulating people is just the opposite of leading them. Leadership involves caring enough about people that you actually want to help them succeed, however it is that they want to succeed. 

Leadership is not making people do what you want them to do, leadership is about helping them see they right thing to do and then encouraging them to do it. Authentic leaders don’t force people to drink, they help make them thirsty enough to drink on their own. Authentic leaders don’t decide what’s best for their people, they help their people make good decisions for themselves.

Great leaders get people to do great things, not through manipulation but through integrity based influence. They get people to do the right thing for the right reason.

Don’t waste time and maybe even money looking for leadership tricks or secrets. Instead develop a true caring attitude for the people you lead and then demonstrate that caring in everything you say and do. Caring is one absolute ingredient to success as a leader and the fact that it’s a secret to so many is a mystery to me. 

 

The Caring Leader

Many leadership gurus and experts say that in order to truly lead people you must care about them. While I would never claim the mantle of leadership expert or guru I would certainly agree that caring for people is an essential quality of leadership. 

You either care about people or you don’t. There is no in between. You don’t have to like someone personally to care about them, it certainly is easier but for an Authentic Servant Leader “liking” someone is not required to care about them.

You can’t really teach someone to care but you can help them see value in other people and seeing value in someone is where caring begins. I’m not talking about “value” in terms of what they can do for you, the value I’m taking about is the value that a human being brings to the table just by being themselves. 

A great measure of authenticity in a leader is how they treat people who can absolutely nothing for them. If they are still willing to help, support and guide that individual when they know there will be no personal return on that time investment then it’s highly likely they actually care about other people. 

An early step on the road to becoming an Authentic Servant Leader is to understand that every person has value, even the ones who are different than you and even the ones who hide their value deep inside. If your prerequisite for caring about someone is that they think and act just like you then you may be a boss but you are most certainly not an Authentic Servant Leader. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand the value of diverse opinions and thoughts and they work to learn from people different than themselves. If you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded people then you will struggle to grow as a leader. It is by allowing other people to be who they are that you become a better person and a better leader.

Your leadership is about the people you lead, it is not about you. People will not truly follow you until they know that you truly care about them and if they don’t follow then you cannot lead. It’s a pretty simple equation. 

The challenge for Authentic Servant Leaders is not just caring for people that they don’t like, the ultimate challenge is caring for people they actually dislike. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better.” 

Do you have the courage of Lincoln to invest time with those you truly dislike in order to discover the unique value they bring into the world? If you do then you will create the opportunity for yourself to really care about them. 

It’s truly a challenge to care for someone you would rather avoid when you see them coming down the hall. It’s a challenge that Authentic Servant Leaders are willing to accept.

Are you willing to accept it? 

Can a Leader Care Too Much?

The title to this post comes from a question I was asked after my last post. The quick answer is NO, a leader can’t care too much.

The complete answer is a whole lot longer and far more complicated. I don’t believe that an authentic leader can care too much, they can’t “over care” and it’s wrong to suggest that it’s not possible to excel as a leader when you “care too much.” 

Now, here’s where it gets complicated. While you can’t care too much. caring a lot can cause an inexperienced leader to underperform. They use caring to substitute for coaching and accountability. They can have the mistaken belief that they can’t both care about and confront or coach a team member at the same time. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. I have been fortunate to work for some very caring people. One was perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met. There was never a doubt that he cared about his people. He said it and he showed it often. Absolutely 100% of his coaching comments were positive, in several years of working for him there was never any corrective action or changes suggested. 

I wish I could tell you I was that good, I was not. His caring personality got in the way of true leading. He allowed me to drift and develop some poor habits. While I was comfortable and enjoyed working for him, I didn’t grow.  

My experience with this leader is not uncommon. Lots of people work for a leader they would describe as “the nicest person” or as a person “who really cares”. That’s great but as important as caring is, caring alone does not make you a leader. 

To be an authentic leader you must use your caring nature to coach, motivate and nurture your people. Sometimes that will mean having a difficult conversation with them. Which leads me to the second example.

Many of you know that for several years I worked with the Dale Carnegie organization. The person I reported to cared about me as a person, I never doubted that. He also held me accountable and coached the heck out of me. He used nearly every principle from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to do it in a way that motivated me to improve. 

I was motivated to improve because it was the right thing to do but more than that, I was motivated to improve “for” that leader because I knew his coaching came with my best interests in mind. 

Good leaders care enough to show it and great leaders care enough to show it and make the extra effort to coach anyway. It will take a bit more effort to confront and coach in a compassionate way so that your caring nature is not lost in the process. 

Authentic leaders know that the very best way to show you care is to help your people succeed. 

Make no mistake about this: caring is no substitute for accountability and coaching. If you care so much for people that you just can’t hold them accountable and help them reach their full potential then you might be a great person but you’re probably not a great leader.

Care AND coach to make a difference that lasts! 

When Leaders Care

When leaders don’t care then leaders don’t lead. They may well possess a leadership title or position but they don’t truly lead. They simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

Let me repeat that for you, they simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

They can manage, they can organize, they can plan, and they can have success, even great success, but they cannot lead. 

In many businesses today “caring,” especially caring about people, is sadly considered a weakness. It is in fact, anything but a weakness. Caring about people informs every major decision an authentic leader makes. It may make some decisions more challenging and add to the time it takes to come to a decision but it will almost certainly result in a better decision. 

Authentic leaders understand that you manage stuff, budgets, a process, buildings, contracts, and the like. They also understand that people won’t and really can’t be managed. They know that people must have a leader, not a manager, in order to achieve their full potential. 

Authentic leaders also understand that no one cares what they know until they know that they care. People must know that their leader cares more about them as a person than they care about any policy or HR manual or task. 

Authentic leaders know that you don’t have to sacrifice a single drop of profit or success in order to care about people. They willingly accept the added challenge of “serving” their people while meeting all the other requirements of leadership. 

Great progress is made when a leader cares about their people.

Authentic leaders have far fewer “people challenges” because their people are committed and not merely compliant. They are committed to the leader and will go above and beyond for them, often, very often, doing more than is technically required of them. 

Authentic leaders know that no business grows unless the people who make up the business grow first.

People like to grow, they like to be meaningfully challenged. Managers try to control people, leaders challenge and grow them. If you care enough about your people to compassionately challenge them to reach their full potential they will see you as an authentic leader. They will follow you anywhere. They will contribute to your success and the success of your organization.

Your success as a leader is judged by what your people do today but your legacy as a leader will be determined by how your people do when you’re not there to lead them anymore.

Do you care enough about them to invest yourself in them so that they continue to thrive in your absence? If you do then you may just have a chance to truly be of that rare breed… an authentic leader.  

How to do an Innerview

InnerView_LOGOFirst let me point out that I did not misspell “interview’, I indeed meant to say innerview. There is a rather large difference between the two and the difference in the outcomes of each is even bigger.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was still selling Dale Carnegie Training, I made a sales call on the owner of what I believed to be a smallish company in a southern Minnesota city.

Now keep in mind I was there to sell training programs but the entire call quickly became one big learning opportunity for me.

Upon arriving at the company I was shown into the owner’s office and introduced to the owner and his General Manager. The company was an office supply firm with about 300 employees that also operated a few retail office and stationary supply stores in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.

The owner almost immediately told me that before we could do business together I would need to know something about how they did business and with that he set about giving me a tour of his operation. At every stop, the front office, the warehouse, the loading dock, everywhere we went, he would stop and talk for a moments to a few of his employees. After one or two stops it became apparent to me that he knew every one of his employees by name. Not only did he know them by name, he knew something about them too, he would ask about their kids or hobby or just how they were doing.

I didn’t realize at the time what I was watching but I came to understand that it was an impressive display of leadership, perhaps the most impressive I have seen to this day.

When we returned to his office I couldn’t help but comment on what I had seen and heard. I told him how remarkable I thought it was that he knew everyone’s name and something about them. What he said next would change how I thought about leadership forever.

He said that “his people” were the key to his success. He said that without them he had no company. He said that “his people” were his greatest asset and that he “invested” the greatest amount of his time with them.

In the ensuing years almost evey organization I would work with would “say” that their people are their greatest asset but I have yet to see another leader back that up with their actions the way this leader had.

So I asked him the obvious question: How do you get to know so many people so well? What he said this time would change how I taught leadership forever.

He said that you can’t lead people without caring for them and he said that you can’t, or won’t’ truly care about people that you don’t know about. He said that his most important “job” as head of this company was to truly know his people. With that in mind, everyday, absolutely everyday, he would take 5 or 10 minutes to conduct an “innerview” with one or two of the people in his organization.

He explained the difference as he saw it between an “interview” conducted while recruiting new employees and the “innerview” conducted with those with whom he had already entrusted with a part of his company. The “innerview” allowed him to ask much more meaningful, sometimes personal questions about a person’s well-being. About what they wanted from life and how he might help them achieve it.

He would ask them about how the company was doing “for them” and how they might work together to make it work better.

From this 5 or 10 minute investment of time he forged real relationships with the people who controlled the success of his company. He knew, with great specificity, why they came to work each day and how he could help them have a better life. He invested in them and they invested back.

I haven’t talked to that leader in several years and I’m reluctant to use his name without his permission but let me share just a little more about this remarkable person. Remember when I described his company as “smallish”? Well, I might not have done all the preparation for that sales call that a professional salesperson should have. You see, while it’s true that the particular company I was calling on had 300 or so employees, that was just one small part of what I can only call his empire. It turned out that he owned some other “stuff” like Major League Sports Franchises, other worldwide manufacturing and investment firms. In fact, as it turned out, I received this unforgettable life lesson from one of the 10 richest men in the world.

Now think about that for a minute. It’s something of an understatement to say that this guy had a lot going on, he was one busy man. Yet he made the time, everyday, every single day, to invest in his people. Everyday!!!

As I’ve shared this story through the years I am amazed by the number of “leaders” who say that their people are their greatest asset while in their next breath tell me they don’t have time to conduct an innerview.

Really?

Let me be perfectly blunt here as I share what I’ve come to believe about leadership the last decade or so: If you don’t have time to care, then you don’t have time to lead.

Invest your time in your people, it will provide you with the greatest return of any investment you will ever make. And hey, it just might make you some money too!

 

Show or Tell?

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Some leaders say they care and some leaders show it. It’s the easiest thing in the world to say that we care but some immature leaders are just too afraid to show it. Even though we may really mean it challenges can still appear when the people we lead hear it but don’t see it.

Authentic leaders intentionally show that they care. Authentic leaders don’t leave the perception of caring to chance, authentic leaders strategically plan how they will demonstrate that all-important fact that they care.

So let me ask you this: are you a leader that says you care or are you a leader that shows you care? You may truly care when you say you do but people can have doubts, they may question your motives if you only say and never show. So what do you do to intentionally show that you care? Here are a few ideas:

1) Truly listen! Give your time and undivided attention to your people, demonstrate you care by showing active listening. Take notes if you must, repeat back what you’ve heard and leave no doubt that you heard what was said and that what was said matters to you because the person that said it matters to you.

2) Invest time with your people. Some leaders spend time on their people while authentic leaders are investing time with their people. It’s simply not possible to build another leader without investing your time, energy, and resources into that person. You can perhaps build a follower by spending time on them but an authentic leader focuses on building more leaders. Building more leaders requires that you invest your time. Schedule time with your people, never try to invest free time or spare time because odds are you’re never going to have that type of time. Your investment must strategic, intentional, and consistent. Carve out some time each day, even five minutes a day is better than nothing but everyday is a must if you goal is to truly help others on your team grow into a leader.

3) Provide caring feedback. If you’re a leader I’ll guarantee your people want to know what your thoughts are about them. Give them honest, open feedback. Perhaps some coaching on an area of improvement and some positive reinforcement on something they do well. This feedback should be consistent, it should be on a regular basis and understand once you start the feedback cycle you can’t stop. Once started when stopped it causes all kinds of doubts and concerns and hesitations on the part of your people. If you stop talking they believe something could be wrong so commit to continuous feedback, continuous conversations with your people about their progress, your vision and your hopes for them. Let them know that great things are possible for them and that you’re there to help them achieve those great things.

You may not have to really care about your people to call yourself a leader but you do really need to care before your people will call you one. So go ahead, show you care, I dare you!