At the height of his poplularity, Lionel Richie stepped away from his songwriting and singing career to be there for his very sick father for several years. In an interview with Matt Lauer, he essentially said, “When life calls, you have to go.”
When life intervenes, you have to be there for a sick friend or family member. That doesn’t make you less of a business leader. It makes you more of one. It shows that you realize that business is a subset of life, not the other way around. By doing great quality work day in and day out, you are able to be there for other people when they need you.
I’m not talking about the consistent excellence delivered by being a great parent, child, grandchild, sibling or friend. I’m talking about those times in your life when you parents are very sick or a friend is extremely ill or facing a major difficulty. Leave whatever you have to leave and go be there for the other person. Your greatness as a leader is first demonstrated by what you do for those people closest to you, not for the masses removed at a distance.
Make the creation of value for other people the driving force in your professional life.
Value is anything that increases the chances that the other person will achieve what he or she wants to achieve.
Start with your customers. What can you do to guide your organization to help your customers achieve what they want to achieve. (Note: The starting point is to identify what they want to achieve.)
Then move to your boss, your peers, your employees, and your suppliers. How can you help them achieve what they want to achieve? In the end, your job is to add value every day.
If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of thinking that business leadership is all about planning and presentations and strategy and making critically important decisions. That stuff does matter. It matters a lot. But so do the people who work in your organization and the people who work for your suppliers and distributors.
I suggest you make a list of fifteen key people who are connected to your organization, either on the inside or the outside. Then next to each name write down how you will provide some words of encouragement for that person. Will you write a handwritten letter, will you take the person out to lunch and express your encouragement face-to-face, will you pick up the phone or Skype the person, or will you do it in some other way?
Your words of encouragement don’t have to be complicated or fancy. You could simply say, “I appreciate what you’ve done in the past to provide such great value for our organization, and I just want to encourage you to keep on pressing forward. Your future is incredibly bright.” Or “I really believe in you, and I believe your best is yet to come. I believe you can be even better than you have been in the past, and here’s why I feel that way…” Then you can provide specific insights about the person which has led you to feel that way about him or her.
Find some way to encourage other people in a one-to-one format. Once you’ve written down your plan for encouraging others, then implement your ideas for each person on your list. You might even get in the habit of focusing on other people every day and encouraging some one each day in a sincere manner.