Be a better person, and you’ll be a better leader


Imagine walking into your local grocery store, favorite restaurant, museum or movie theatre, your dry cleaners, bank, or hardware store, your school, college, or church, your business or even your home, to find everyone wearing a sign around his or her neck.

The sign says, “Make me feel important.”

Then imagine your surprise when you look down and see the same exact sign hanging around your neck. And, as hard as anyone might try, the signs can’t be removed.

The signs are there for a reason: as reminder that it is incumbent on each of us to make sure that we let the people around us know that they are important.

People want to be needed, to be included and to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be appreciated, respected, listened to and informed.

When people are treated well, they are more productive, engaged, and happier.

The question is: is your behavior making the people you’re with better or worse? Are you feeding or killing their spirit? Are you making people feel important?

Behaviors tell the true story of how we feel about those with whom we work and interact. Actions tell all.

The attitudes of those around you are a direct reflection of your leadership.

When you don’t pay attention to people, when you ignore them, it hurts. If you fail to greet people, recognize them, or give them eye contact, you are ignoring them.

If you don’t listen to people, it shows that you don’t care about their opinions. In a short while, what you really want will start to happen: people will stop offering their thoughts, ideas and opinions to you.

If you interrupt people when they are talking because you are the leader, others will think that you believe yourself to be the only one with answers, and that your way is the only way. Soon, you will be doing all the talking and all your meetings will be short ones.

When you fail to show appreciation, if you fail to use the two most important words in our language — thank you — not only will people see you as impolite, they will also believe that you don’t care what they do or how they do it because what they do isn’t all that important to you.

It’s easy to kill initiative. Just be ungrateful. Unfortunately, initiative is something already in very short supply. If you want people to quickly lose their initiative, continue to be ungrateful and watch once loyal and productive employees become clock watchers and one hundred percent paycheck focused.

A story is told about IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr., who one day called a young vice president into his office to review his work. The young executive had just spent ten million dollars on a research project that failed completely. When the vice president arrived, he offered his resignation to Watson, saying, “You don’t have to fire me. I’ll go peacefully. I know I’ve made a mistake.” Watson replied, “Fire you? Why would I fire you? I’ve just spent ten million dollars on your education. Now, let’s talk about your next assignment.” Do you take Watson’s approach or one less civil?

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said that “Everyone likes a compliment.”

The role of the leader is simple: build people up through a consistent message using words and deeds.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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