My mother was right, and she never knew she was a management guru. She taught me an important lesson as a child – People Know. Her point to me then was that the people around me know what kind of person I am. They know whether I am a person of integrity, or not…and whether I deliver on my promises, or not…and whether I care about them, or not. She said: “People are smart, don’t try to fool them because you won’t succeed. Just be the kind of person you admire and they will know.”
Throughout my business career, my mother’s words have proven true again and again. As a leader of several department-level teams, and then two companies, I learned over and over that the people around me (above and below me on the organization chart, and my peers) knew if I was leading with integrity, competence and empathy. When I behaved that way, they knew, and a mutual bond of trust was established among us. When I did not, they knew that too, and I quickly learned I had to straighten things out with them, apologize if necessary, and work hard to re-establish trust.
In my experience as a leader, I have found that my fellow employees (in particular the teams I was leading) have almost always been well aware of the realities in our business. They knew what was going on with customers, what our operating issues were, and they had a good sense of the business challenges and opportunities before us. And they were waiting for me and the other leaders in the company to acknowledge those truths. When we did that, we experienced something marvelous – our fellow employees at all levels were ready, willing and able to work with us to address our challenges and go after new business opportunities aggressively. When we avoided discussing those truths, our colleagues would turn off their commitment and just go through the motions in their jobs. Our effectiveness deteriorated and our problems multiplied.
Remember that “People Know” – and work with your fellow employees, your customers, your suppliers and your investors with that great lesson in mind. Thanks Mom.