Employee Career Development: Leaders Should CareI recently read an article about the work Google is doing to codify what optimizes management effectiveness at Google. It reminded me of an experience I had early in my career.
I was a mid level, up-and-coming manager at a lunch meeting with a senior executive. As the business portion of the lunch came to an end, he asked me about my corporate aspirations. As I expressed my thoughts, he asked more questions. As I answered, he continued to ask questions, and I realized he really cared about what I was saying and about my career.
Clearly I thought the topic was important (!), but it quickly became obvious that he did as well. So much so that this senior executive cancelled his appointments and sat with me in that restaurant for much of the afternoon working things through with me.
I was both humbled and impressed.
He never did it again, but he didn’t have to. I knew how much he cared about my career and performance and operated from that base from then on. I gave him the very best performance I possibly could. Every day. He incidentally went to an exceptionally senior role, and I remained with that organization for many productive years afterwards.
So how does this relate to Google’s research? They have found that we look to our leaders to include “care” as part of a leader’s competency skill set, something with which I would wholeheartedly agree, But not, “I’m doing it because I must” care. Rather, “You’re so important that I’ll cancel my afternoon appointments” care.
Leaders have the opportunity to truly release human potential … or conversely to stifle it. Leaders can draw out the very best a person has to offer, or they can use their authority and position to feed their own ego and sense of self worth, often at the expense of those they’re leading.
Great leaders recognize the privilege they have to guide, shape, and improve the lives of those they lead, and in so doing, they significantly benefit their organization and its shareholders.
If each of us were to apply the following test we would recognize the power of great leadership:
1. First think of the contribution that you made in your job when you felt your leader was truly exceptional (your “best” leader). Use a mental 10 point scale.
2. Then remember when you felt your leader was …..umm…. awful (your “worst” leader). Again, on a 10 point scale, what was the value of your contribution?
3. Now, subtract the two numbers. The chances are that as a result of these different leaders, the difference in your contribution, that is in the value you added, was as great as 3 or 4 points on that 10 point scale. That’s a 30% to 40% increase in value with a great leader!
When we ask ourselves why these great leaders were so great, it’s likely that one of the top reasons is “they really cared about me.”
In today’s world, when individual productivity can provide such a significant competitive edge, our challenge as leaders is to learn to be like the best – to truly see the value, the worth, and the potential in every person we lead … and then to reflect that in the care we show them.
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