It’s often said that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. In many cases, employee turnover is a function of poor leadership rather than the result of a mismatch between the employee and the company.
Consciously or unconsciously, people ask three questions about a leader when determining how far and for how long they will follow him/her.
Question #1: Do you care for me?
The number one qualification to lead people is a sincere desire to help them. As the Law of Connection states, “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” Conversely, the quickest way to disqualify yourself for leadership is to seek personal gain at others’ expense.
(1) “Do you care enough to think of me?”
List the names of the people you lead. Think about them every day—the challenges they’re facing, the responsibilities they’re carrying, and the resources and training they need. Thank them every week for something specific they have contributed to your team. In addition, do something thoughtful every month to demonstrate that you value them as a teammate.
(2) “Do you care enough to listen to me?”
Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton understood how important listening is for leading well. “Asking for and hearing people’s opinion has a greater effect on them than telling them ‘good job.’” Effective leaders allow others to tell them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.
3) “Do you care enough to believe in me?”
It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leaders, but it’s more wonderful when the leaders believe in their people.
4) “Do you care enough to be honest with me?”
Leaders must walk the balance beam of care and candor. Caring values the person; candor values the person’s potential. Whereas caring establishes the relationship, candor expands it. Caring defines the relationship, but candor directs it. While caring should never suppress candor, candor should never displace caring.
Question #2: Can you help me?
(1) Can you help me do the right thing?
The most difficult things to get people to do are to think clearly and to prioritize their time. Whereas managers want their people to do things right, leaders make sure their people do the right things.
(2) Can you help me see my place in the vision?
People need a picture of tomorrow that brings passion today; leaders help them paint it.
(3) Can you help me develop my potential?
Leadership is not about repairing people’s deficiencies but about discovering, developing, and unleashing their strengths.
Question #3: Can I trust you?
(1) Can I trust you to live what you teach?
Trust is the bedrock of relationships, and followers evaluate the trustworthiness of leaders according to 1) whether or not their actions align with their professed values and 2) whether or not the leaders deliver on the promises they make.
(2) Can I trust you to be accountable?
Accountable leaders are willing to explain their actions and to take responsibility for the team’s results. They operate transparently, and they take the blame when things go badly rather than pointing the finger at others.
(3) Can I trust you enough to give you my best?
John Ortberg describes what is at stake when a follower chooses to trust a leader. “When I trust you, I take a little piece of myself…my stuff, my time, my money, my heart…and put it in your hands. And then, I am vulnerable. Then you respond, and I find out whether you are trustworthy and dependable.” Today’s workers are looking for more than a paycheck; they want to do something meaningful in a place where they feel a sense of belonging. Abuse their trust, and they will quickly take their time and talent elsewhere.
Question to Consider
Since your people are already evaluating you according to the three questions above, it would be wise to spend some time reflecting on them yourself. How well are you 1) showing care 2) adding value 3) earning trust?