By Jay Perry
When pondering this question or presenting it to a client, I prefer asking, ‘do you give a damn?’ as it conveys a much more powerful—and potentially negative sensation.
Many people apply this colloquialism in situations where they are not really bothered by something—brushing something off as meaningless. The reality is that we as leaders must display that we care about everything all the time.
One easy area to understand what I am saying is with customers. They are the lifeblood of the business and without them, the business will die. So, you must care about what they think, want or imagine they need even when they are unreasonable.
I have previously said that the unreasonable requests of today will be the norm of tomorrow—and that seems to be holding true. For our leaders, this means working smarter with external customers to ascertain true needs to be satisfied and help their staff manage these extra pressures based upon the additional demands of the customer.
One of the more difficult things that also needs addressing but it is harder to see a connection between our profitability and someone else’s interests is the need to care about the other person’s bottom line. Yes, if we do not care about other’s benefits or goals, we are going to hurt ourselves. One of my clients took this to heart when I advised that they need to focus on the goals of the other party with whom they did business, in a rather adversarial environment, and had spectacular results. Many things came to light as to why certain requests were made of his people. These reasonings were much more palatable to his staff than the blind demands that were forthcoming because of a change in policy.
It also allowed him to move around in negotiations to the point where he gained concessions that would have been costly to him as well as working out a more democratic approach to information-sharing that allowed for greater cooperation between the companies. A more collegial relationship that more closely resembles a partnership-in-learning was achieved all because he cared, and his behaviours demonstrated that care.
This raises another point about the internal customer—employees. Do you care and does your treatment of them communicate that you give a damn?
Are you familiar with their challenges both from the job they do for you and in their personal life? I am not talking about prying into personal business, but do you know things like their commute time and costs? What do they require for daycare? Do they have hobbies that bring—or hold potential for—indirect benefits to your company?
You may not, and I dare say will not be able to solve all problems that your people have. But, by the fact that you listen and can demonstrate empathy and offer support, you will start down the pathway that can help you win in this tough labour market.
Staying on top of the things that others care about by showing that you give a damn is how you stay the one who’s driving.
Jay Perry is the founder of leadership development firm Ally Business Coaching. He is also the co-author of Success Manifesto with Brian Tracy and serves as an education partner to California Coast University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.