It was a flight from hell — hours on the tarmac in Cincinnati awaiting clearance to take-off (awaiting the CNN crews any minute to document our plight), circling Charlotte like a merry-go-round with a stuck throttle, then even more time awaiting ground crews to realize that big aluminum tube outside their break room was a jet full of passengers with full bladders and empty stomaches. Nonetheless, my travails were time well spent. Why?
Because my fellow prisoner on the flight in the seat next to me was a very engaging and personable President of a respected hospital in the Midwest who shared my heart for all things with engines — whether that be classic cars, motorcycles or over-active grandchildren. When I told him I was an executive coach, we talked a bit about the state of leadership and what it takes for CEOs, senior executives and managers to really influence and nurture emerging talent in their company — at any level. He said he has sought to maintain the craft in his organization with these simple tenets:
1. Care about them. Not just some mushy talk about them being important assets, but slow down enough to know and show interest in some aspect of their individual lives. When something good or bad happens in their life, care about it and show that. It is a powerful connection.
2. Mentor them. Be open enough to talk about your failures and success, what you have learned, your “secret sauce” that has propelled your growth. Create an atmosphere where they feel they can talk about their aspirations and struggles and share from your storehouse to encourage them.
3. Expect a lot from them. Whether on the surface or deep down inside, good people have a natural yearning to excel, to achieve, to make a difference. We learn our potential — and often overcome our fears — when we are pushed outside of our comfort zone and stretched to the point of failure.
My reflection on those points is that good people will rise to expectations of people they trust — and trust is earned by the first two steps. We cannot expect the most of people in a sustained way if we don’t reciprocate and invest in them.
(That jinxed flight was a year ago. I’ve forgotten all about the hassle of that, but my conversation with a fellow passenger is still right there. For good reason. It makes sense.)