“Don’t speak, don’t speak, don’t speak” I kept telling myself as I sat in the district meeting. I knew it would embarrass the speaker if I shared my opinion on the truck load of horse manure he had just spent the last hour spreading over the audience. He had been a corporate employee for 15 years and his framework was designed to ward off litigation. It really wasn’t his fault. He had been brainwashed by the system to play it SAFE.
Still, I was born on a soap box and a couple dozen bees were having a family reunion in my bonnet. It took everything in me to hold back the 58 Oldsmobile that was stuck in my craw. He was looking for feedback, and I was in the front row. But, was it really MY place to debate him in front HIS audience?
As fate would have it, he flat out asked me: ”Corey, what are your thoughts on the subject?”
I tried to hold it in. I really did. But once it occurred to me that the poison he was spreading could potentially affect the field workers throughout his district, the cork came off the bottle.
“Well Jeff, do you mean all that stuff about how we are to TREAT EVERYBODY THE SAME in the name of FAIRNESS? And, that the company policies were designed to protect the individual’s rights and so on?” I asked wanting to restate his argument to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood his point.
“Exactly” he said, seemingly proud that he had apparently made himself clear. From that point on it was as though everyone else in the room had disappeared, and that we were locked in a one on one discussion in which emotions ran a little high. I’ll be honest, the subject strikes a serious cord with me.
“Yeah” I said. ”That’s no good!”
“Come again?” Jeff said falling back on his heels.
Me: ”When I took over my store I had no thoughts of leadership, influence, or growing others. I thought about things like increased benefits, more freedom, and about having the title of MANAGER. But then I read a book called ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’ by the late Dr. Stephen Covey and I realized that by assuming the role of supervisor I had a MORAL AND ETHICAL OBLIGATION to grow my staff members to their highest possible potential.”
Jeff: ”Well of course. That’s what leaders do.”
Me: ”Ah yes, but I wasn’t a LEADER because I was manager. I wasn’t a LEADER until I found out how to help others grow into their best possible selves.”
Me: ”Yeah leadership and title have almost nothing to do with each other. You can only LEAD people if you learn about them, care about them, and root for their success as much or more than you do your own. What managers miss, and leaders truly understand, is that to lead others to find their BEST selves, you have to help them figure out what drives them as unique individuals.”
Jeff, now somewhat engaged, (I think for the moment he had forgotten he was the corporate mouthpiece): ”How do you mean?”
Me: ”What many people with a title forget is that your followers have much more going on in their lives than their job or your project. Most people teeter on the brink of either blowing forward to do an awesome job, or falling backwards to spend an eternity with the apathetic. After all, their lives are stressful.
If you can learn what uniquely drives them to succeed, and show them what lies on the path up ahead, they will leave apathy in the dust. For example, take the superstars at my store:
Debbie loves to travel. She needs flexibility in her schedule. Jo Ann loves to learn new things. She needs attention and the trust required to let her try something out of the ordinary. Anton is an innovator. He needs me to stay out of his way so he can learn, and then teach me stuff I never even thought existed; both about work and about life.
To lead each of them, I have to KNOW all of them at the core level. And, I have to treat them accordingly. If I”m not willing to do that, I have an obligation to ‘pass the baton’ to someone who will.”
At that point I reached in my bag and pulled out John Maxwell’s best selling book: ”The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership” and turned to Law #2~The Law Of Influence.
“Jeff” I said, “According to Maxwell’s Leadership Law #2, leadership is influence. No more. No less. How can you influence me if you don’t even know who I am?”
He just kind of stared at me in a way that showed me that we were approaching overload.
“I’ll leave this book with you.” I said as warmly as I possibly could. ”Once you read it, I’m sure you’ll see things differently.”
“Corey, you are a real piece of work.” Jeff quipped as he shook his head. He shared a goofy smile that indicated that the meeting was now over.
“Now that I agree with!!” I said with my own goofy smile as I packed up my soapbox for the long drive home.
How much do you know about the people in your lives whom you would like to influence? Have you taken the time to learn what drives them as UNIQUE individuals? Have you shared with them your passion for helping them find their best selves? Would you find YOUR highest self if you did?