Friday, January 24, 2014

Servant Leaders: Looking For The Potential In Your People

Servant leaders get excited about the potential they see in people. It’s one of the differences in servant leaders versus other types of leaders. Servant leaders talk about the potential of their people, while other leaders talk more about their people’s weaknesses. Servant leaders start looking for the potential in their people by spending time and listening to them. They also don’t judge people based on their looks, background, and education. The people they lead start with a clean sheet of paper and lots of opportunities.

During my first day as president at one of the company's I led , I had a very unusual situation happen with one of the salespeople. I had scheduled meetings with all the salespeople, senior managers, supervisors, and key people at the headquarters plant. This was to give them a chance to meet with me one on one and time to express their thoughts on the state of the company and the issues and challenges they were facing in their departments. When I met with one of the salespeople, the first thing out of his mouth was, "if several things did or did not happen, he was going to quit." No hello or how are you. Well, as you can imagine, this was a first for me as a leader. But I guess growing up in the mountains of Virginia gave me the ability to not be too surprised at life, so I softly said, “Nice to meet you. Why don’t you sit down for a few minutes, and let’s talk before you quit.”

Well, two hours later after some very honest conversation, he left my office still employed. What I had seen was a person with lots of spirit, a passion for succeeding, and a fire in his belly to prove he could do the job. What he needed was a leader who could give him some guidance, support, and a dose of reality and honesty. We built a great relationship during the coming months, and about a year later, I promoted him to sales manager for one of our product lines. He did a great job and grew the product line from around $500,000 in annual sales to over $6 million in a little over two years. What I saw was someone with lots of passion and potential, while leaders before me saw a troublemaker, who kept trying to get them to listen to his ideas and suggestions. I would agree that his tact at times wasn’t the best, but what leaders do is train and teach others how to improve and make adjustments in how they work and deal with people. The prior leaders just didn’t know how or didn’t want to spend the time and effort needed to harness his energy. Too often leaders are so involved with " their own tasks" they miss the most  important part of their leadership role, which is growing their people. 

There are lots of people like this in the business world; people with passion, heart, and energy, who just need someone to come alongside of them and say, “Hey, I know you have some great ideas. How can I help you succeed?” Do all situations like this work out as well as this one did? No. But it could work out a lot better if leaders would drop their big-title attitudes and build relationships with their people, find out what makes them tick, their goals, what gets them excited, and how they can help them.
There is so much potential passing though the doors of every company every day that is going untapped. People who want to accomplish great things for their families and just need a leader to give them a hand, to show some attention, ask for their ideas and suggestions, and then give them the tools to succeed.

As leaders too often we just say, "Our people don't get it or they aren't capable." We forget part of a leader's job is to teach and grow their people.  We forget that while businesses need strategy, tasks to get done and results; its the 1000's of interactions that take place every day in a business "Between People" is what brings success or failure. Leaders start spending time with your people and you will be amazed at the improvements you will see in your people and the bottom line. What are you waiting for?


No comments:

Post a Comment