Be Consistent In Showing Your Caring – And Your Cheerfulness

Don’t wait until you feel like it. Just do it.

When I speak in corporations, they’re always concerned with the bottom line. And they should be. They even want to know how my seminars will affect their bottom line. No problem.

But I’ll give them another bottom they never even thought about. And that is… we spend roughly 50% more time with our customers, coworkers, and bosses than we do with our friends, spouses, children, and other relatives combined. So whether we like it or not, we have significant relationships at work, and those relationships dramatically affect the quality, productivity, and profitability of the work that is done.

The way I see it… every relationship in your life… at work… at home… adds to, subtracts from, divides, or multiplies your effectiveness. Every relationship influences you — for good or bad. Or as author Mike Murdock says, “Those who do not increase you inevitably will decrease you.”

The good news is almost any relationship can be made into a good relationship or at least a better relationship. And as I said in last week’s “Tuesday Tip,” there are at least 4 qualities you must exhibit to build positive, profitable relationships: courtesy, consistency, friendliness, and sincerity. I talked about courtesy last week. Let’s go on to CONSISTENCY.

All things being equal, we feel more secure in our relationships with CONSISTENT people. Even if the other person is consistently difficult or consistently wrong, we can learn to cope with such behavior. But we are utterly incapable of developing a strategy for the person who is guided by whims and notions.

And the same goes for you. If you want your relationships to work, you’ve got to be consistent — reliable, predictable, and dependable.

That doesn’t mean you have to be boring. And it doesn’t mean you can’t change when change is warranted. But you must decide — to behave a certain way — regardless of how you feel — if it’s the right way to behave. Because it works.

To be specific, if you want to build your relationships, you must be CONSISTENT in two areas.

=> 1. Be consistently cheerful.

Don’t rain on other people’s parades when you arrive at your job in the morning. Let the first thing you say brighten everyone’s day.

Almost everyone likes a person who is happy, upbeat, and easy to be around… most of the time. And almost nobody enjoys being around a person who is up one minute and down the next.

Of course the secret lies in the decision you make — not the mood you’re in. A good salesperson knows that. When a prospect or customer asks him how he’s doing, he gets in the habit of answering, “Terrific” — even if it’s been a tough day.

And yet some people think it’s okay to spew their bad mood onto everyone else around them. Perhaps you’ve seen the sign that says, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Of course it’s meant as a joke, but it’s not funny. It’s pathetic, and such behavior is highly destructive of relationships.

If you’re going to be effective in relationships, you must learn to show cheerfulness whether or not you feel like it. In fact, when I was a university professor, getting my annual performance review from the Dean, she told me I was “determinedly cheerful all the time.” I wear that as a badge of honor.

And just in case you’re thinking cheerfulness is nothing more than some social nicety, let me remind you that consistent cheerfulness may be a critical factor in the amount of teamwork you get from your coworkers, the degree of loyalty you get from your customers, or even the quality of product you get from others.

Charles Plumb, a U.S. Navy pilot in Vietnam, made that clear.

After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Sometimes in the daily challenges of life, we miss what is really important. We may fail to consistently say “hello, please, or thank you.” We may fail to be consistently cheerful, congratulating someone on something wonderful that has happened to him, complimenting someone else on her contribution to the team, or just doing something nice for no reason whatsoever. And the person you’re consistently cheerful with may be the very person who will be packing your chute. He or she may be the person you need the very most at some point in your life.

=> 2. Be consistent in noticing and meeting the needs of others.

Undoubtedly, there are thousands of managers in the workplace who have no business being managers. They have no idea how to develop other people. You’ve probably had a boss like that at one point or another. They made you miserable, less productive, and even diminished your physical health.

But Tom Rath says in his book, “Vital Friends,” “We have also found thousands of managers who have the opposite effect, and they have something in common: great managers care about each of their employees as a real human being, not just a means to an end.” They consistently notice and meet the needs of their coworkers.

Tom talked about Sondra, one of the highest rated managers they had ever studied. But what amazed him was the variety of descriptions her employees gave her. It sounded like they were talking about different people.

One of Sondra’s employees did not need to be micro managed and Sondra gave him “room to roam.” Sondra was there for him, but she didn’t look over his shoulder on a daily basis.

In direct contrast, another of Sondra’s employees described how much she appreciated the way her boss “stepped in all the time to see how I was doing.” She said, “I loved having a boss who cared about my family and was interested in me.” This enabled her to get more done on the job. Apparently, this employee wanted and received regular attention.

Herein lies one of the secrets of the best managers. They consistently get to know each coworker as an individual, and they tailor their management to each employee’s needs.

There’s a lesson here for all of us. To build relationships, you can’t care about people’s needs some of the time and forget them other times. You’ve got to be consistent. Follow the example of the Japanese mother.

There’s an ancient Japanese legend that talks about a small village in a remote area faced with a severe famine. So many people were dying of starvation that the whole community was threatened.

So at a town meeting it was decided that some people would have to be sacrificed to let others live. And as a community, they decided to sacrifice their elders so the young would have a better chance of survival. Each family was to carry out the task as they saw fit.

One young man decided to carry out the task by taking his elderly mother up the mountain. It was a sad journey as they walked far up on the mountain. As they walked, neither one spoke because their grief was so great.

The son noticed that his mother would tear off small bits of her shawl and simply drop them to the ground, again and again. He was puzzled over what she might be thinking. So finally, when they neared exhaustion and were close to the end, he gathered the courage to ask the meaning of the tiny bits of cloth.

His elderly mother replied, “I have been dropping those along the way so you will be able to find your way back.”

Talk about CONSISTENT caring. The old mother exhibited that. Consistently CARING for the needs of someone else. Add that to CONSISTENT cheerfulness, and you will strengthen your relationships.

Action:  How CONSISTENT are you? Do people breathe a sigh of relief around you because they know what to expect? Or do people wait and whisper, wondering what kind of a mood you’re in, not knowing how to behave around you?