Are you there for your children? For your customers? For your fellow workers? In any kind of relationship, there comes a time when total concentration and total commitment is called for. You just have to be there!
It might be the annual budget time and your boss needs absolute accuracy. It might be a difficult customer and your fellow worker needs your unqualified support. It might be your spouse accepting a new job who simply needs you to understand. It might be your child who just failed a grade. These are the times that make you a leader.
There are three things to remember if youre going to be there for somebody: You better be there: physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Be there physically. Many times, you wont need to say a word. Think about the Boston bombing or the Oklahoma tornado. How many local leaders just came and sat with the survivors? Words were not necessary. They just sat and nodded and listened. They knew what it meant to be there.
But dont think email will do it. Email was not made for this. When somebody really needs you (and you know when that happens), get up and go to them. Dont just sit there and whip off an email with a funny face and think that will do it. It wont. Ive seen people in the same office who cant seem to walk down the hall. Come on. Get physical -- eyeball to eyeball, if you really want to be there.
Be there emotionally. If its a happy occasion, take off your coat and tie, order pizza and have a celebration. Its OK to be happy at work. And if its sad or painful, its OK to cry.
People who say: leave your emotions at home, are usually talking about your emotions, not theirs. These people (sometimes the bosses) cant seem to show sadness or happiness when its called for, but they have no problem displaying their own dysfunctional emotions.
Beth is a bank executive. I watched her one day. There was a birthday celebration in the break room; when she heard the familiar song, she stomped up from her desk and slammed her door. Another day when she was leaving the office to call on clients, one of her employees broke down and started crying. Beth walked up to the woman, and, in a loud, raspy whisper that was heard throughout the office, said, Stop crying, Annette, this is not a bedroom. Beth never learned how to be there emotionally.
Be there spiritually. For many people, this means praying. You know, say a little prayer for me. But thats not what I mean. If you are going to be there for your fellow employees, for your children, for your spouse, for your friends, you need to trust them. And sometimes this takes a huge leap of faith. Thats what spiritual means.
I had a boss once named Frank, who was a financial genius, but he couldnt read people. He could read any financial set of numbers you gave him and forecast the future return on investments, but he couldnt select the right people for the right jobs. He hired me to do that, and for 10 years thats what I did.
Then one day he canceled a decision I had made to hire a salesman. We argued about it and I was willing to concede until he blurted out these words that I will never forget: What do you know about people? He didnt trust me. He was not there for me spiritually. If youre going to be a leader, you need to be there physically, emotionally and spiritually. Its not easy, but its the only way.
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.