If I do not feel like you care about me, I am going to give you my bare minimum and nothing else.
If I do not feel like you want to know anything about me, I am going to be completely apathetic towards you and anything you want.
If I do not feel valued by you, I will not value anything you have to offer me.
We all do this.
We all feel this way and if you want to lead, it has to start with you and it has to start with you caring about them and letting that show. You have to show them you care about them to your own detriment.
You have to show them you will sacrifice your wants and your needs to make sure they are taken care of.
You have to actually care about them more than you care about you. If you cannot do that, you cannot lead a rock.
People will do what you say because of your title, but you will never actually lead them because there is a huge difference between compliance and following a leader.
Remember the concept, the king serves his subjects.
To best serve your direct reports you have to know what they need as an individual human being to perform better. Each of us is different and it takes different motivations. For some people just hearing thank you on occasion is all they need. Some people need someone to dump on and vent their work frustrations to. Having that person around makes the job easier, does it not?
The point here is that you need to figure out how to be what they need when they need it and that is not an easy thing to do. It gets easier the better you know your people. It becomes easier to anticipate their reactions and gage your message based on how you have seen them receive like messages. Your experience with them will be your greatest teacher in how to inspire and motivate them.
Pay attention when they think you are not. You will be surprised at what you learn. Ask them questions about themselves and the stuff they keep on their desk. Listen to what they say and if need be make notes when you get back to your desk.
You will only be as good as you prepare to be.
This means that before every interaction with a direct report you need to prepare for it by reviewing everything you know and thinking about what you want this interaction to be. Remember you have the responsibility of exemplifying the standard of what this interaction should be. You cannot break. You have to be prepared for anything.
What do you know about what is going in Bob’s life right now?
What message do I want to convey to Bob?
How does Bob respond to this type of discussion?
What questions is Bob likely to ask?
How am I going to answer those questions?
These are all things that should be a part of your mental checklist every time you stop by to chat with someone.
What will surprise you is when you start doing this to your spouse and your friends after doing at work all day for a while. This approach changed the way I interact with people and I would say based on my experience it has made me a better father, a better friend and a better leader in whatever I choose to do.
Define a customer.
This is my all-time favorite interview question to ask. The answer I am looking for is this.
Everyone you interact with is a customer and every human interaction is a customer service interaction.
Think about that perspective for minute or thirty.