When the problems of others matter to you, your success will matter to them.
John D. Rockefeller, one of the shrewdest, most successful business people in American history, said, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun.” Somehow or other, he knew that all success can be traced back to people. Whether that is financial success with your customers or teamwork with your coworkers, it all ties back to your people skills.
Of course there are lots of people skills that you should master, and much of my career is focused on teaching people those skills. However, no skill is more important than the depth of your concern. When you’re concerned, really concerned about the hurts and problems of others, you’re on the sure road to success.
Dr. Mike Murdock confirmed that. He tells the story of meeting a young lawyer who opened his eyes. The young lawyer had worked with one of the greatest lawyers in the Midwest, a man who had won nearly every case with multi-million dollar settlements.
At first, the young man couldn’t figure out the reason for his boss’ success. His boss’ research, reading, and preparation seemed to be about the same as other lawyers. But when the old lawyer walked back and forth in front of the jury, a transformation took place on their faces. And when they came back from the jury room, they always gave his client a huge settlement.
So one night at the company Christmas party, the young lawyer questioned his mentor. He said, “You must tell me your secret. We watch you carefully. We read your material, but none of us in the firm can figure out why your juries return multi-million dollar verdicts.”
The old lawyer said, “I’d like to tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me if I did.” But the young lawyer persisted, month after month, asking the same question. The old lawyer just kept saying, “It really would not mean anything to you.”
Finally, one day the young lawyer was going to leave the firm to join another firm. His old mentor said, “Take a drive with me.”
They went to a grocery store. The old lawyer filled the back of his car with groceries and then drove into the country. It had snowed. It was freezing, and the roads were treacherous. They finally drove up to a very modest, inexpensive farm house. The old mentor instructed the young lawyer to help him carry in the groceries.
When they went inside the house, the young lawyer saw a little boy sitting on the sofa. He noticed the boy had no legs and learned it was the result of an auto accident. The old lawyer spoke to the family for a few moments, and then he said, “Just thought I would bring a few groceries for you. I know how difficult it is for you to get out in this kind of weather.”
As they were driving back to the city, the old lawyer looked at the young lawyer and said, “It is quite simple. MY CLIENTS REALLY DO MATTER TO ME. I believe in their cases. I believe they deserve the highest settlement that can be given. When I stand before a jury, somehow they feel that. They come back with the verdicts I desire. I feel what my clients feel. The jury feels what I feel.”
The old lawyer was successful because the problems of others mattered to him. What about you? Do the problems of others really matter to you? Do other people “feel” your concern? There’s an old saying, a rather wise saying that states: “PEOPLE WILL FORGET WHAT YOU SAID. PEOPLE WILL FORGET WHAT YOU DID, BUT PEOPLE WILL NEVER FORGET HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.”
As strange as it may sound, a good place to start using this skill is on your boss. We all expect the boss to care about our problems, but it’s just as important to care about his/her problems–if you want a positive, productive work environment.
Employees need to be an oasis for the boss. For example, when times are tough, can your boss count on you–or count on you to complain? When you can’t meet your deadline or your budget, does your boss know that well in advance, or is she faced with a last minute crisis? If your boss came up with a list of the top ten things that keep him awake at night, would you be on it?
That point was driven home to me when I walked into a convenience store a few days ago. I asked the person behind the counter if she was the manager. She said, “No, I don’t want to work that hard.” I immediately felt sorry for her manager. I thought what a hassle to have an employee like that. But I also thought, “Sad employee.” She’ll never go anywhere with that little concern over the problems of others.
If, one the other hand, you lower your boss’ hassle factor, your success will matter to him. In fact, lowering his hassle factor is one of the best ways to advance in your career. The old lawyer proved that.
Of course, bosses also need to care about the problems of their employees. Employees are constantly wondering if anyone really gives a rip around the workplace. And caring is one of the top motivators. In study after study, employees say they “want to work for someone who is concerned when we have problems.” In fact, it’s among the top five motivators.
If you’re a boss, you need to remember that a paycheck doesn’t show that you care. Everyone gets a paycheck. What shows that you care is spending time with employees, listening to them, and asking how they are doing personally and professionally.
If you don’t “show” that you care, employees conclude that you don’t. Then they reciprocate, and they stop caring too. Remember boss, when the problems of others matter to you, your success will matter to them.
One way to test out the power of this “Tuesday Tip” is take on the one-week challenge. For one week, treat every person you meet, without a single exception, as the most important person on earth. You will make an amazingly, wonderful discovery. They will begin to treat you the same way. As Martin Walsh says, “When you look for the good in others, you discover the best in yourself.”
I’m not saying it’s easy. It will always be a challenge to let the problems of others matter to you. And it can be difficult to draw the line between appropriate caring and inappropriate care-taking.
Some people are hard to like. Some people’s problems are hard to care about. And some people don’t “deserve” your caring.
But that’s not the issue. As one father said to his son, “Remember that you show courtesy to others, not because they are gentlemen, but because you are.”
Action: Take an inventory of yourself this week. Just ask yourself one question over and over. How do you make people feel? How do you make your boss feel? Your coworkers? Your customers? Your spouse? Your children? And everyone else? If you make them feel anything less than extremely important, you’ve got some work to do. Not only are you hurting the relationship, you’re hurting your own chances of success.