"What do you do?"
🎧 #23 | Listen Now (6 Min) | Here is an acronym I use to guide me - it is the first of two answers I give when someone asks me what I do.
About ten years ago, I was fortunate to attend the JetBlue orientation. What they do is incredible. On day one, everyone attends orientation. The day starts with senior executives joining and introducing themselves. So far, good, but not a big deal.
The big deal? Either the C.E.O. or the number two attends every orientation in person. That means, whether you are a baggage handler or an executive, you start on day one with the same attention. They take action to make you feel deeply cared for and important - because you are important. I spoke with a former senior executive there on Friday, and they still do it. Bravo friends.
For me, I must meet with everyone who joins the team. We are still small enough that it’s possible. But hiring 110 people so far this year makes it challenging. It’s also tough to make deep connections which are central to leadership.
In addition to making a connection, I owe them an explanation of what they can expect from me. I also need their help holding me accountable. To do that, I share my perspective on what I do and what I expect their leaders to do.
I used the analogy that leadership is like a road trip for a while. That long stretch headed towards something meaningful.
On that trip, you play different roles. You drive, navigate, and sometimes sit in the back asking questions. Are we there yet? Can we stop at In-N-Out? Maybe you fill the tank with gas, change a tire, or take Aux - that’s “teenage” to control the playlist for those uninitiated. Hopefully, you listen and try not to tell the driver how to drive. I love the road trip analogy, but it wasn’t enough.
Leadership is about love - love of the mission and humans- and practicing enough self-love to keep it all together. Leaders are ‘responsible’ for the C.A.R.E.of the team. Here’s what that means.
Where are we going (vision)?
What are we going to do (strategy)?
How are we going to behave (culture)?
Why are we going to do it (mission)?
Do we still understand reality?
You will note the absence of “How are we going to do it?” Leaders are not responsible for all the answers but accountable for the decisions.
Leaders must ask questions, listen, synthesize, and remind. They are the keepers of the vision, the explainers, the inspires, and the clarifiers. They must keep an open mind to change while also being a broken record.
“This is where we are going (vision), this is what we agreed we would do (strategy), this is how we will behave (culture), and this is why we are doing all of this (mission). Quick question, does that all still make sense (reality check)?”
Are we all walking down the same path? Are we all clear on where we are going?
“Hey John, come back - you are chasing a shiny butterfly again.”
“Who needs a flashlight? That’s a tree, not a monster. Let’s keep going.”
“Are we still headed where we wanted to go? Do we need to adjust the course?”
Does everyone have what they need to do what the team needs them to do? Time, money, training, tools, etc.
Resources are essential and often overlooked. Someone joins our team, and we toss them the keys and say, “Go forth and do good things.” Regardless of seniority, you owe expectations, training, tools, and feedback - and make sure you sprinkle that all with a bit of inspiration.
Most importantly, you are the resource - you work for them. Organizational charts are upside-down pyramids. Step in when they need you and step back so they can shine.
We are emotional - embrace it. This makes anything to do with humans complicated and leadership hard. We all bring different needs, histories, and languages to the group.
Here are some questions to consider:
Do you make them feel safe? Not from physical harm but emotional harm.
Do they feel that you have their best interest at heart? Even when you are having hard conversations or making hard decisions?
Have you created an environment where people can connect and care about the people around them? Or do they have to worry about protecting themselves?
Have you synthesized the mission into something everyone can understand and believe? Can they get emotional about it?
Everyone wants to do things that matter. Jump out of bed matter. Do they realize what they do matters? Have you told them?
Do they feel loved? They want to be loved for who they are, what they do, and their impact.
None of this is easy. Humility, resilience, courage, empathy, and the need to be multi-lingual are all required. This is in addition to being technically competent enough to earn the team’s respect.
Also, you need to take care of yourself, so you can stay calm and stay clear. Stress, anxiety, and fear can cloud your judgment. When you lack internal clarity, you can’t provide external clarity.
Make it about them, not you. Lead with love, questions, and trust - they will follow you. Get up each day and do your best. Just try and be better today than yesterday. Nothing easy about this, but don’t forget that we are all just making it up as we go.
If you liked this, please take a minute to share it with someone who may find it helpful.
Up next is the second part of what I do - compensation. Stay tuned and take care out there.
PS - it’s important to state I won’t claim to do any of this perfectly, rather it’s what I try to do.
A shoutout to Wayne S for adding the E to this acronym. I’m not using the same word, but he helped me get to the acronym C.A.R.E. Thank you, friend.