I recently met a young restaurateur who, with his older brother had opened their first business, “The Wooden Horse.” They were 18months in and going well. He was talking to a group of budding entrepreneurs, sharing what he had learned from the experience.
For someone who is just 22 I was amazed at what he had learned about leadership in such a short space of time. As he shared the challenges of running a business he identified the appointment and management of staff as one of the most difficult.
He wisely said that staff are people, they are not inanimate objects. Every person is unique and brings with them to work their own story. Once he understood this he realised that, “every interaction with each individual staff member had to different because they all have their own unique personalities. A joke with one doesn’t work with the next. Know your people. They are your bread and butter.”
I was staggered by this young man’s wisdom. So many leaders never wake up to this seemingly obvious point. Instead, they rely too heavily on their own ‘expertise’, assuming that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is best when leading a group of people because ‘they know best’. What this type of leader is actually saying is that it is ‘all about me’.
This young man had worked out that the way to get the very best from his staff is see each of them as individuals, to know them and adjust his behaviour to support them to achieve the goals of the organisation.
One of the most common questions I am asked when sharing the 10 key practices that build trust in leadership is, “which one is the most important?” No single leadership practice is more important than another because trust, like leadership, is a socially constructed phenomenon. It is all about the relationships we form and you cannot form those relationships if you first don’t know yourself, and then the people you seek to lead. Every person has their own life story.