There is a story floating around the internet that has a piece of wisdom all leaders would be smart to explore.

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at Wal-Mart, just couldn’t seem to get to work on time.

Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their “Older Person Friendly” policies.

One day the boss called him into the office for a talk.

“Charley, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang-up job, but you’re being late so often is quite bothersome.”

“Yes, I know boss, and I am working on it.”

“Well good, you are a team player. That’s what I like to hear.

It’s odd though your coming in late. I know you’re retired from the Armed Forces. What did they say if you came in late there?”

They said, “Good morning, Admiral, can I get you coffee, sir?”
 

How well do you know your people?

Tom Peters wrote “Management by Walking Around?” The same philosophy applies here to leadership. The only way to really know your people is to go to get to know them.

Five Questions To Begin With

When is the last time you’ve been out on the front lines of your business, learning about those who work for you?

Here are five simple questions that will give you important answers with which to build better relationship with your followers:

  1. Just like the Admiral in the story, do you know their background? Where did they come from, what was their previous employment, and education?
     
  2. What about their family? What do you know about their spouse, partner or children?
     
  3. If they are of a different nationality/culture than you, what have you learned about their differences? How is working or living in your country rewarding, challenging or difficult for them?
     
  4. What are their outside interests, hobbies or social involvements?
     
  5. What do they like best about working for your organization? What is the biggest challenge they face in doing their job well? Do they have any suggestions on how to make their job more efficient or productive?

Every time I meet an excellent leader, they always know the people in their organization. It is what builds the bonds to withstand the difficult times and cements the thread of community that makes the good times even better.

“Know thy people,” will be one of the key factors in strengthening and scaling your organization.

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