As companies continue to pivot in order to grow in a tumultuous market, those that show and provide value will stand out. But what does the word value truly mean? As I think back over my career, I recall leaders who asked two very important questions about value. One concerned the company: "What value are we driving for the client?" The other involved each individual contributor: "What value do you bring to the organization?" Today, I want to ask what value you're providing your team to help them be the best version of themselves.
Before you can decide on your answer to any of the above, we need to talk about the word value.
We often say value without proper understanding, so I created an acronym to help us all make more sense of it. Each letter of the word will help you become more self-aware to evaluate where you are excelling and where you are falling short. I hope the different components of the word will force you to reflect on and assess your self-awareness in order to improve your relationships. After all, relationships are the foundation of every great company, business deal, organization or friendship, and it all starts with you if you want to create V.A.L.U.E.
This is one of my favorite character traits a person can possess. Vulnerability requires us to have the humility to admit we don't have all the answers, the confidence to admit we made a mistake and, most importantly, the courage to speak up when we need help. As a leader, what a gift this is to your employees! By showing your own previous mistakes, or the gaps you're trying to improve, you will help build an environment of learning and honesty. One of my mentors, John Kaplan, says, "It's okay not to know every answer. It's just not okay to do nothing about it." There is no such thing as a perfect person, yet people try to keep their guard up to protect themselves from appearing imperfect. News flash! We all have gaps, and we can all get better.
As a team or a company leader, you succeed in showing your vulnerable self by making it okay for your team to ask for help. As you grow your team, create opportunities to practice demonstrating vulnerability and improvement.
In all honesty, I hate the phrase, "Fake it until you make it." It might be the worst advice ever given. It gives people the idea you can't show vulnerability by saying, "I don't know," or "I'm not sure."
As a leader, I would instead show my team the benefits of being patient on the road to success and focus on being myself. You have to be yourself, always. If you are trying to be someone you're not, your team and prospective customers will see right through you. It is so much easier just being one's true self. Only actors get rewarded for being someone they're not, so keep it simple and be yourself if you want to create more authentic relationships.
The experience I gained in athletic environments has helped me when times get stressful. As a quarterback in college, it was my job to stay calm in tense situations during a game. The same holds true when things get anxious for leaders of organizations or customer account teams.
When you run into challenges, you must stay calm to build relationships. There will be times when things don't go your way, but losing control of your emotions can foster a hostile environment where people feel intimidated by you as the leader. Being level-headed means giving your team the benefit of the doubt before you respond negatively. I always ask myself, "Do you think this person woke up and said, 'I can't wait to ruin Casey's day with bad news’?" The answer is always no. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt every time, and you will find yourself more forgiving and at peace in your relationships.
Being understanding requires you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think before you respond. You must remain focused and ask yourself what an ideal outcome looks like when things might not go your way. If your customer has to cancel your meeting at the last minute, are you going to respond in anger and get mad, or are you going to be understanding and realize that he/she has many other things going on in their world? When your employee or colleague has to cancel a meeting because they are sick or need to get an extra hour to help their child with online school, giving them grace and understanding will keep them more committed to the company's mission.
Externally speaking, showing compassion and flexibility will allow you to shine in your customer's eyes. Sure, there were many times in my career when I would get frustrated about a late cancellation, but then I would always ask myself, "Do I want to be right? Or do I want to get what I want?" Easy question for me to answer! I always wanted a positive outcome for my team and myself in the long run, and this advice challenged me to forever check my ego at the door. By making the decision less about being right and more about the ultimate outcome, I built many valuable relationships and focused on a team-first solution.
As we've learned through the COVID-19 pandemic, being empathic to your team or your customer is by far the most important trait for you to cultivate. To build strong relationships, you have to be empathetic and understand the challenges people face, whether professional or personal. Slowing down to check in on your teammate or your customer to see how their day is going or to find ways to make their life more comfortable is critical. Empathy will help you gain their respect and allow for deeper relationships to develop. Most importantly, as the leader, you will set the example for what you expect from everyone within the organization. It's not about you right now.
Valuable relationships require patience and understanding. Without the proper perspective of someone else's situation, it can be almost impossible to have the right mindset to develop relationships that will last.
Relationships can be difficult and challenging to build. However, when you slow down and take time to live by the acronym of V.A.L.U.E. you will begin to see refreshing and positive changes. So be vulnerable, be authentic, be level-headed, be understanding and be empathetic. I'm confident you will begin to see the number of your relationships increase and their quality improve in both your business and your own professional life.
About the Author
With more than 20 years of business experience, Casey's leadership helps companies emphasize building relationships and not just transactional business deals. He's a father, a husband, a coach, a podcaster, a speaker and a business leader who is the same person in and out of work.
Casey is the author of "Win the Relationship, Not the Deal" and founder of Winning the Relationship, LLC, a consulting firm providing sales leadership and coaching. Additionally, he is the host of the Quarterback DadCast, a podcast that offers stories, advice and wisdom for fathers looking to improve their leadership skills and emotional intelligence.
Casey is a passionate networker and has intense energy for building relationships — genuine, long-lasting relationships. He loves to laugh, serve others and make those around him laugh; if we are not having fun, why do we go to work? Casey loves to empower people to achieve more than they think they are capable of ever accomplishing. Someone will achieve greatness; why not you? Call Casey at (206) 817-7257, listen to his podcast here or connect with him using the information below.
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