Meet Them Where They Are, Part 1

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I was listening to a podcast yesterday because that’s what I do in my spare time. It’s called How To with Charles Duhigg, and you should definitely be listening to his podcast. Each week is another opportunity to learn how to do something difficult.

Sounds like another podcast I know…hmmm.

[ ‎LEAD+SUCCEED Podcast ]

Anyway, during the interview, Charles’ guest, Samantha Power, made the following comment, “To meet people where they are, as a leader, you have to learn where they are.”

This can go a few ways. You can think, “Hey, maybe my people don’t have the same knowledge I do around a certain project. Maybe they don’t share the same aspirations I have. Or maybe they just don’t want to follow my lead.”

All are valid viewpoints. And each deserves discussion. Today, we’ll consider becoming a compelling leader by knowing where they are.

Now, I have to admit, at first it made me think, “Wait. I’m the leader. Why should I be the one having to do the hard work of meeting them where they are? They should be meeting my goals, my objectives. They should meet me where I am.”

And yet, that doesn’t seem to be a very effective strategy for great leadership. In fact, it’s a pretty bad one.

So, what can we do to execute a better strategy to motivate our people to meet our goals, our objectives? But before we go there, think about what I just said there.

“What can we do to execute a better strategy to motivate our people to meet OUR goals, OUR objective?”

That sounds terrible. It sounds manipulative. It even sounds a bit greedy.

I mean, why would anyone one to meet MY goals? Because I’m the boss? Because I sign the checks? Because I wield the power to hire and fire as I see fit?

Well, this is a common belief and practice in corporate leadership. And yes, it works to a certain extent. But we can achieve the same production through other leadership beliefs and behaviors. Heck, we can significantly improve performance and production through other leadership beliefs and behaviors.

We can begin by meeting people where they are.

But how do we do that? What if we’ve never done that before, let alone thought about it?

Well, we start with acknowledgement. Understand that each one of your employees was hired because you saw something in them that showed brilliance or determination or ambition, or maybe you saw a little bit of yourself in that person.

Whatever it was, it was reason enough for you to take a chance and hire them. So think back to that time when you first met them. Think about how they’ve grown in that time and think about where they are now.

And if you aren’t quite sure, that’s ok. Find out. Ask them.

How are they doing? What are they concerned about? What are they excited about? What do they want to accomplish at work and in life?

Learn what their goals and objectives are. Once you start showing an interest in your people, they will begin to see that you are interested in them, that you care about them.

Now you’ve gotten their attention.

The next step is to validate what they’ve expressed to you. Tell them how awesome their dreams are. Smile and encourage them to chase those dreams, meet those goals, achieve those objectives.

And if you are really motivated to meet them where they are, offer your assistance. Simply ask, “How can I help?”

You don’t necessarily have to take them to the airport or help them move or give them a loan, but you could help them with resources you know about or guide them to other advisors. Or find a way to coach or mentor them to the next level.

Now you’ve built a deeper layer of confidence, motivation, and trust. Now you can begin to enroll this employee to be an ally, an advocate, an activist in achieving your goals.

This is not manipulation. This is relationship building. This is team building. This is trust building.

The more you know about your people, the more able you are to meet them where they are. And the more you meet them where they are, the more  compelling you are as a leader. And the more compelling leader you are, the more you accomplish together.

As President Biden said in his inaugural speech, “And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

Yes, as leaders, we are bestowed a certain level of power. And as leaders, we can exert our power through examples of acknowledging, validating, and supporting our team members. That is showing true leadership.

It’s up to you to be the leader your people will either fear, flee, or follow.

So how will you lead by the power of example? How will you meet your people where they are? And how will you enroll them in the service of the organization’s goals and objectives?

Your Mindful Moment:

Be the leader who compels other to follow, not by force, but by choice.

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