A talent show
I learned something about leadership yesterday at an elementary school talent show. My six-year-old daughter was set to perform a gymnastics routine she came up with, but minutes before the show started—around the same time that hundreds of schoolchildren began to fill the auditorium—she began to look visibly scared. My wife and I gave her a couple words of encouragement, but then we had to go sit down with the other parents, leaving her there alone with her nerves and insecurities (just like us).
She was the 12th performer. Some of the acts before hers—performed by kids much older than her—were really good, which began to make me more and more nervous. In my head, I started to think that she might be psyching herself out the longer she had to wait to perform. Flashbacks of my childhood started to pile up in my mind, and suddenly I could remember every time as a child I was embarrassed or made fun of. And I began to hurt for my daughter. By the time the 11th act finished, and my daughter was up, I was a basket case. A real ball of nerves. A wreck.
So, here’s what I learned about leadership: Good leaders really care how their people perform. They care so much so that it can even affect their physical health. Like, they really, really care. And this is a good thing.
Good leaders care
Merely caring isn’t enough, of course, and good leaders know that. Good leaders invest in their people. They make it their top priority to ensure they have everything they need to succeed. They give them the resources, inspiration, and support they need to be the best version of themselves. They give them timely feedback and think constantly of ways they can help them improve. And when they turn their people loose, they watch them carefully—not because they want to micromanage but because they really care.
In HR, good leaders painstakingly come up with policies and programs that will elevate their company culture and their people. They think tirelessly of ways to improve their performance reviews and incentive programs. And they’re constantly looking for ways to automate HR processes so that they can spend even more time creating ways to elevate their people. And then they implement those plans!
As we look towards the new calendar year and make resolutions for both ourselves and our companies, there is no better time for the caring leader than now. There are plans to be made, tools and resources to get budgets for (wink, wink), and there are people who need to know that you (and other leaders) care. In this holiday season filled with glad tidings and wish lists, I’m wishing for a 2016 where leaders (HR and otherwise) will put more time and effort into elevating their people. I’m wishing for a 2016 where HR leaders take the plunge into strategic HR and take their care and turn it into powerful results. After all, most people get into HR because they care about people and want to help them succeed. Why not make the steps necessary to make that happen like never before? We can do it!
You should know that, while my wife and I aren’t the best leaders (by any stretch of the imagination), we do take our daughter to gymnastics lessons twice a week. We did work with her on her talent show routine, give words of encouragement, and offer constructive criticism when that was called for. But as leaders know, at a certain point, you just have to let your people loose and hope their talent prevails.
And it helps to have peers who care, too. Apparently, while sitting with the other performers, an older girl noticed our terrified daughter. In a moment of kindness and mercy, she apparently leaned over and gave counsel far wiser than anything my wife or I came up with: “It’s okay, we’re all scared.” Mic drop, unknown schoolgirl. In five words, she cut to the heart of my daughter’s fear with absolute precision. After everything my wife and I tried to do to help our daughter, it was our daughter’s talent and a peer leader’s advice that made the final difference (there’s something to think about). Nerves were calmed, confidence was lifted, and a talented little gymnast got on stage. And she nailed it!