The dejection in my client’s voice let me know immediately that business  was not good.  After all, that is one of the reasons he called for help. “Our business is flat. And it’s flat because we cannot get repeat business. The food is good, but we are struggling to get great people to serve the customer.”

So, I asked the question that I always ask, “Are you someone that people want to work for?”  He told me that he thought he was. He said that he pays a prevailing wage and offers some benefits to his hourly workers and that his leaders enjoy the opportunity for frequent promotions to a new title.  I repeated my question and said it differently , “But, do people want to work for YOU?”  He thought about it for awhile and then said, “I guess not.”  I replied, “Then let’s change that.”

 Ambitious people want to work for people who will help them grow and develop and be a better employee and a better person. People do not leave organizations. They leave their managers.  If you want a better staff, then start with being a better You.

My client and I went to work and these are the steps we took to help him improve his people leadership:

  1. Be Self-Aware.  If it were only so easy to see ourselves as others do.  But we can’t, so we have to be willing to ask others to help us.  Ask others to show you your blind spots and help you work on improving your ability to identify your own short-comings.
  2. Be vulnerable. Becoming self-aware requires a level of vulnerability that only the best leaders aspire to. Beyond, self-awareness, be willing to share that awareness with those you lead. Not only do you need to realize your own short-comings, but your followers need to know that you know you have some.
  3. Be “Others Aware.” Everyday you are going to spend time with colleagues and those you lead.  Be prepared to engage in what is important to each of them.  If they have a family, know the names of spouses, children and even pets! If a staff member loves professional hockey, ask how their favorite team is faring this season. Better yet, notice for yourself how the team is doing and congratulate your staff member, the fan, on her team’s success. Remember the little details of their lives and acknowledge their life outside of work.
  4. Care More.  Those that work for you want to know you care both about the work they do and their lives beyond work. Treat your team members the same way you treat others in your life that you care about.  Take the time to write a note when you see they are discouraged.  Show you care by spending time with your team.  Eat lunch with them. Work side-by-side when they are trying to finish a challenging project. Demonstrate that you believe in the capability of your team member.
  5. Serve Others.  Just because you are the leader, doesn’t mean it’s the job of others to serve you. In fact, the more responsibility you have, the more you should be willing to serve. People like to work for leaders who are willing to do anything they ask others to do.  This can be as simple as bringing your staff member a cup of his favorite coffee or as big as volunteering to cover the holiday shift so that one of your staff can be home with her children.

When we become the kind of leaders that attract great talent, the great talent will attract customers and keep them returning again and again. People decisions are always the most important decisions a leader makes. The most important people decision is deciding the kind of leader we desire to be and then becoming that person.