Running a large corporation is complicated, but the leadership challenges are often just as simple as they are for small businesses.
I recently had lunch with Jack, the CEO of a rather large corporation in Baltimore, who explained, “I’m trying to figure out how to get some of the folks on my team to produce at the level I know they’re capable of performing.” Knowing that Jack has set a clear, inspiring vision – which is usually sufficient for keeping employees engaged and productive – I asked him to share more about his specific challenge.
“As CEO, I have retention and revenue numbers I must reach to continue achieving new levels of success,” he said. “There are a few, key people on my team who don’t seem to care enough about succeeding in these goals.”
“Do you care about their success?” I asked.
His answer sent chills up my spine. “No,” he said.
His willingness to be authentic, even when the truth might seem like the “wrong” answer, was inspiring. I thanked him for his honesty and told him that his solution was simple. “If you want them to care about their work, you have to care about their success.”
He fired back, “I have real goals I must meet! They need to understand that if they don’t do their jobs, they might lose them.”
“So, you’re using fear as a driver?” I asked.
“Yes, and I’ve seen it work in the military for years.”
“While fear might be an appropriate, effective motivator in some situations, it’s not working for you right now, is it?” I asked.
Silence echoed through the long stretch of empty chairs that lined the narrow section of the restaurant where we had already finished our meal. Having seen how respectfully Jack interacted with several individuals on his team, and knowing that, for most people, caring about others is innate, I knew Jack had it in him to be a more compassionate leader.
“Caring for others is part of who you are,” I told him. “All you have to do is release your fear, stay clear on your vision, and show your team that you care about their success.”
As John C. Maxwell puts it, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Great leadership is not always easy, but it is simple. Just keep your eye on your vision, and do what comes naturally for most people – care.