How Well Do You Know Your People?
Effectual leaders know their people. They are intentional about getting to know them on a deep level—beyond professional formalities and more toward a personal, authentic relationship. They not only get to know their people, they also allow their people to get to know them.
While some leaders do not even attempt to get to know their people at all, others may be motivated to do so for the wrong reasons. I want to invite us today to get to know our people for the right reason.
So, at which of the five levels below do you find yourself, as a leader?
Level 1: I don’t care to know you.
Some leaders see people as robots whose reason for existence is to get the job done. While they don’t mistreat them, they do not want to be bothered by the other person’s humanity. They say, “This is a professional place. You get your job done, and I’ll get my job done. And we will both go home happy at night.”
A leader who says that will not rise to greatness. A boss who has this attitude, is not likely a boss we will enjoy working for, be inspired by, listen to, or care much about. A boss like that will have a very minimal impact and influence on us. I hope none of us are there.
Level 2: I know you enough to direct you.
This second level is a little better, but still not where we need to be. Knowing enough about someone to control or manipulate them, direct them, or push the right buttons is simply a poor relationship—and consequently, poor leadership. People read right through our motives.
If we stop at the pleasantries, the written evaluations, and the mechanical dimensions of relating to someone, we will not get far in our relationships. Imagine if that’s where you stayed in your marriage, or in your relationships with your child or parent. There is not much substance there to make the relationship meaningful and able to withstand the stressors and demands of life. I hope we do not settle for this level.
Level 3: I know you enough to lead you.
Finally, we are getting to a good place. Understanding someone enough to lead them means you can identify where they are on their life and growth journeys. You recognize their level of emotional maturity and leadership experience. You respectfully acknowledge both their strengths and imperfections. And knowing these things about them make you more effective in leading them.
You are able to place them on the right team and give them the right tools and people to lead. You are able to inspire them and make sure they are happy and fulfilled. I commend your leadership if you are here. Now, allow me to make a few suggestions to deepen the relationships you have already formed.
Level 4: I know you enough to help you.
“I want to help you” means exactly what it says. I am trying to know you because I intend to help you. I will want to know different things about you beyond knowing enough to lead you. I want to know your fears and struggles. I want to know your dreams and hopes. I want to know your failures and successes. I want to know enough about you to calmly and confidently help you climb the ladder of life to the next step.
Now, these leaders are leaders I like to hang around. These are the people I want with me on the journey. They are people of character and high values. They go beyond getting what they themselves need in order to succeed, into giving to others what they need in order to succeed.
If you stop here, you would be doing better than most leaders I know. But allow me to suggest one more level.
Level 5: I want to know you because I love you.
Once a week, I take my mom to breakfast. We go to the Cracker Barrel in Burleson. We ask for the same wonderful waitress—Bella. We ask for a table by the window. I order my regular meal: three poached eggs, two fruit cups, and four slices of tomato. I love these mornings.
As I sit across the table from my mother, I really want to get to know what’s on her heart and mind. And she wants to do the same for me. Why? She wants to lead and influence me and help me when I need it. And, I want to do that for her as well. But that’s not why we are there.
See, while helping each other is of extreme importance, our relationship is well beyond that point. I love her. I just want to connect with her and be with her. I want to know what is going on in her life. I want to be part of her journey.
It is the same in leadership. Without crossing boundaries of decency or professionalism, I want to get to that level with the people I lead. And that’s the level I want people to reach with me. That’s where I pray the leaders in my organization will get to with their people. It’s the place teammates should reach for and team leaders should foster.
The strongest relationships are rooted in love. Get to know people because you love them. As a leader, I encourage you to grow deeper relationships with those you lead by getting to know them well. But get to know them for the right reasons.
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