Right in Front of You
It’s a flash of the blindingly obvious…
One of those realities you immediately nod and agree with…
But it’s something too many leaders and managers take for granted and ignore.
When you leave it that way, it devastates your credibility.
Simple, Yet Profound
A recent commenter said he appreciated the humanity in my approach to leadership.
It got me thinking: What else is there?
The simple, yet profound truth…the flash of the blindingly obvious is simply this:
You Lead People
Everyone you lead is a person.
You are a person.
The results you accomplish – they affect people.
And those results – they only happen because of people.
The world is full of examples where this simple truth is forgotten.
- Employees reduced to the status of pieces in a machine.
- Wars fought on the basis of people’s color or religion.
- Your alienation from that person who acted like an idiot.
- Leaders so divorced from their own humanity they kill themselves through work, food, sex, or drugs.
Stop the Madness
It’s easy to fall into this trap. But it’s also a simple process to climb back out. Every day, work to see people as people:
- Treat yourself as a human being – Create room in your life to laugh, to love, and to grieve. Invest in relationships that connect you to yourself and to life. It’s hard to treat others with human dignity if you don’t first do it for yourself.
- Listen – hear the joy, grief, frustration, and enjoyment in others. Learn their values, what motivates them.
- Create times to share life with your team. Something as simple as a meal and a discussion of dreams and accomplishments connect you to the people around you.
- Do not take yourself too seriously. The engineers sending astronauts into outer space factor in some margin of error – you are permitted to make mistakes. Learn from them. Then try it again.
- Invest in healthy conflict – from Crucial Conversations: when you’re upset with someone, ask yourself why a reasonable, rational person would do such a thing, find out what part of the story you’re missing, focus on solving the problem AND building the relationship
- Make eye contact, greet people, wish them well. Ask “how are you” and wait for the answer.
- When team members are struggling, ask how you can help.
- When you screw up, apologize.
- Acknowledge tough decisions – don’t sugarcoat difficult truths. Be upfront about suffering and appreciate individual and team sacrifice.
- Be sincere. If you can’t talk about something, say so.
- Once you’ve trained and equipped, get out of the way.
- Celebrate success. Celebrate failed experiments. Celebrate the past, celebrate progress, celebrate present persistence.
- Expect excellence, practice fairness. Firm, but fair.
- When someone’s spouse or child is very sick, send them home.
- Say thank you.
- Imagine yourself in the other person’s situation. How would you want to be treated?
- Always, always, always treat people with dignity. Even when terminating employment, you are talking to another human being. Your own humanity is at stake. Don’t compromise it.
- People are never problems. They may not be a good fit. They may have stolen something. They may be quarrelsome. You may have to remove them from the team – but those are problem behaviors. People are not problems.
- Every day acknowledge the beauty, skill, or competence in someone – and include yourself!
Yes, these should feel a bit obvious – but that’s the problem. For all their familiarity, at one time or another, you and I have both ignored the basic truth: everyone we work with is a human being. Over time those simple omissions can grow into a callous disregard for people. Don’t let that happen to you.
It really is all about relationships.
How do you maintain your humanity? How do you consistently invest in relationships with those on your team?
David M. Dye
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I share twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. I currently serve as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoy helping others discover and realize their own potential.