Last night, I had dinner with a great team of executives. The conversation went over all sorts of topics, but toward the end of dinner, one of the executives turned to me and asked, “If you had to identify just one thing that would help me and my team perform at the highest level, what would that be?”
My mind was racing, I could easily reel off a half dozen things–clear metrics, strong process, customer focus, …….. But he asked me for the ONE thing.
As I reflected, I replied, “You have to REALLY care!” I thought of the great managers I’d had in my career, and the great leaders I’ve encountered with clients. While all of them had differing challenges, styles, approaches, the one thing that stood out with all of them is they REALLY cared.
It’s kind of hard to describe but it’s one of those things that you immediately recognize–partly because it’s rare. There is a level of focus and intensity with these leaders that you don’t see with others. For example, in meetings with their people they are laser focused–there is nothing that distracts them–the single most important thing to them is the person they are meeting with.
There could be alarms going off, a fire in the building, their phones may be ringing and buzzing with messages, but they are oblivious to all of that. They are totally present and totally focused on the individual.
And they have an agenda–they want to have an impact on that person–not just to make sure they are doing their job well, but to make sure they are maximizing their performance and achieving their full potential as people. They take it as a personal mission to help each person achieve their full potential in their current job but also to improve and step up to bigger levels of responsibility.
Their intensity is so great they don’t let people off the hook when they are performing badly. They are disappointed, feel they have failed and are direct in addressing that with their people. They are tough managers and leaders because they have such high expectations–of themselves and every one they work with. But they become inspirational because they do care. You don’t want to fail them, you don’t want to disappoint them.
They don’t go through the motions, They don’t view people as commodities.
Hopefully, each of you has experienced at least one of those people in your lives–I’ve been fortunate to have worked for and with several. I’ve also been around too many who don’t display this level of focus and intensity in people. They go through the motions, they do the reviews, they have the mechanics of the job down—and they do get things done. But something is missing in the relationship and their ability to truly connect with individuals and their teams.
So if you want to be an inspirational leader, you have to REALLY care.
As I reflect further. to be really great at anything, it seems you have to REALLY care. The truly great sales people I’ve encountered all display that same characteristics and intensity of focus. It’s not about the numbers, though they really care about that, but they know the numbers will always be there if they REALLY care about the customer.
They are impatient, they want to see their customers achieve their goals–both as organizations and individuals. They get upset and disappointed when they see the customer miss opportunities and they push them, challenge them–not in the conventional way we think of “Challenger,” but in the way that they are so focused on what the customer wants to achieve they won’t let the customer fail themselves.
And customers “get this.” They value it and treasure that relationship. In some cases where they just can’t go forward, they still value that sales person who REALLY cared–and those people become their trusted advisors.
So think about yourself. Do you REALLY care or are you going through the motions? I won’t deny it, you can make your numbers-whether as an individual or manager. You can achieve goals and lead teams of people. But do you want to be REALLY inspirational. Do you REALLY want to have an impact.
To do this, you have to REALLY care!
Corey–thanks so much for asking the really challenging question.