Golden Rule No 1: Know your people, know your people, know your people

Can you believe it’s been two years since we published our book – time really does fly. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d publish one of the stories from the book. 

This story is also relevant as we have been working with a client recently to embed the Golden Rules of Leadership into their organisation and Golden Rule No 1: Know your people, know your people, know your people has struck a particular chord for most and seems to the one that people have found easiest to implement.   

Hope you enjoy the story, and remember it’s like we say when talking about this Golden Rule – if leadership really is about people, you need to know who they are and this more often than not just involves talking to them and taking an interest in them.

To this day, Ian is still the best leader I’ve ever had

So what was it Ian did that was so different from any other leader? The short answer is this: I knew that he cared about me as an individual and he always had my best interests at heart. Yeah I know, easy to write but how did he do that?

Right from the off, even before I started the job, Ian took the time to find out all about me as a person, and I recall a telephone call that happened between us two weeks prior to me starting where he rang to welcome me to the company. Instead of doing what most people might have done, to tell me how great it is working for the organisation and what I would be doing in the first few weeks, Ian spent the entire call finding out all about me, what had made me want to join my new employer, what was I looking forward to and what was I nervous about. 

He was also fascinated with the job I was leaving (at the time I was working as a Customer Service Manager on the Leeds – London trains) and asked me lots of questions about it. Funny, only on reflection now do I think this was his strategy to get me talking about something he knew I was comfortable with, which also gave him loads of information and enabled him to establish a shared interest very early on. From then on, the subject of trains would often feature in our social conversations.

The week after this telephone call I met Ian for the first-time face to face. He walked into the office drinking from a Manchester Utd mug, and because I felt so comfortable after the call the previous week, I made some sarcastic quip about the mug – and from that moment on we never looked back.

During the entire time we worked together he constantly challenged me and never let me rest on my laurels, forcing me outside of my ‘comfort zone’. At times I found it incredibly uncomfortable and difficult, but I never once questioned his intentions. Because he had showed genuine interest and care in me as a person right from the off, and throughout the entire time we worked together; I instinctively knew he always had my best interests at heart.  I often confided in Ian about things I was struggling with (as he did with me), even at one point admitting I wanted to leave and go back to the trains because this job was too hard. Instead of taking umbrage, like a lot of leaders might have done, he listened and then challenged my thinking, helping to make me realise it would have been a total backward step. 

I never once felt judged by Ian. To this day he is the only boss who has ever really understood me in this way, and even though we haven’t worked together for many years, I still seek out and value his opinion.”

Til next time

Elizabeth

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