Leaders Must Work with the Whole Person
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Have you ever wondered why change is so hard for us?  We all know people, at times even ourselves, where the very thought of having to change causes major bouts of fear and anxiety.  What is it about change that makes it so difficult?  I believe it has a lot to do with our sense of self.

It is easy for us human beings to attach what we do and have with who we are.  We become our jobs or careers, we become our daily actions, we become a person’s friend or a colleague’s “go to helper.”  And yet, these are only “what we do”, not “who we are.”  We are so much more than what we do and what our job title is.  However, it is easy to forget this in a world that seems more and more focused on what it can get from us.  Adding value – in all aspects of our lives – can quickly become what is most important in defining who we are.

As a leader, I often have to remind myself that I am a human being – and not a human doing.  That I am valuable just for me – and not what I got done today.  Because, as a leader, I must remind myself that everyone on my team is the same way.  I must humbly respect who they are first – before I can challenge them to add more value.  That is why my relationship with each and every person on our team starts with a genuine concern for each and every one of them as a human being – and not as a human doing.

A leader’s job in a time of ever increasing change means we focus a lot on value added and changes we need to support so we can add even more value tomorrow.  We must develop a language that values each person – as we ask them to change – so we can continue to meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders.

One simple way to communicate that we care about each person for who they are is to learn about the people they love and the things they do while they are not at work.  Some call it small talk.  I call it “real life talk.”  It’s the stuff that rounds out who we are.  It is usually what matters most to most of us.  It’s why we get up each morning. It’s why we work at all.  Taking the time to know this means we care about the whole person – not just what gets done while we are at work.  My favorite leaders that I have learned from do this task wonderfully.  I have seen its impact on my own life.  It’s a small step to truly valuing someone.

In the end, real leaders respect everyone. They try to encourage everyone.  They push for better outcomes.  Leaders even help team members move on when they are not a good fit.  But, in it all, we must respect every team member first as a human being – and then for what they are doing.  A good reminder for me.  Hopefully, it is a worthwhile reminder for you too.