In this age of jadedness and cynicism, it is easy to be wary of people and things. But in earlier times, the opposite was true. The default position was that we all trusted each other until we were given a reason not to. I tried to raise my kids to understand that people are inherently good; and that if someone is cross with you there is often a reason that you might not see or be aware of. It could anything from someone having a bad day, to a medical condition, a family problem or something or even more serious.
As a leader, I try to meet people where they’re at. So, if someone is having a bad day, you understand that going into a work situation. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily acknowledge it or even try to address it. But, rather, you become aware of it and trust the person enough to know they have the right intentions and that you share the same goals.
In dealing with the Russians, President Ronald Reagan borrowed this actual Russian quip; “doveryay, no proveryay” or “trust but verify.” It seems to me that more and more, people want to follow the pattern of ‘distrust then verify.’ I think that is a bad way to go through life and most certainly, not a positive leadership quality.
In the past, I’ve paraphrased Pope Francis who said that “without hope there is no future.” That is most certainly true. A hopeful life or a hope-filled life is happy life. But we cannot rest on hope alone. Benjamin Franklin said that “he that lives upon hope will die fasting.” This seems a little dramatic, but this is where opportunity come in.
The greatest leaders are the ones who can help people turn their hope into opportunity. This is not easy. Hope is inherently futuristic. Opportunity is very much in the present. Hope must be patient. Opportunity can be fleeting.
One of my greatest joys as a leader is to watch a colleague conquer a challenge, exceed expectations, or meet a stretch goal. It’s like that feeling in school when you were aiming for a grade of B but got an A. Even when you lose a valuable team member, you will always hear a good leaders say that they never want to hold anyone back. Leaders love the success of their teammates as much as their own.
When I was CEO of Bank of Michigan, in some years, our Mortgage Originator made more money than me. He was heavily commissioned so when he performed, he made a lot of money. It was good for him and good for the bank, which made it good for me.
What can we do to help people turn their hopes into opportunity? First, we can trust them enough to know that they have good intentions and will do their best. Second, as leaders, we can point them in the direction of opportunity. Someone younger or newer employees might not see the same opportunity that you see for them. Third, we can provide the tools, training and education that helps to set them up for success. Fourth, we can give them the runway they need to seize that opportunity. Depending on the situation, this could mean getting out of their way, providing some coaching, or just offering positive reinforcement. Finally, because life is full of setbacks, we can be there to pick them up if they fall, lend a helping hand, offer a listening ear, or simply lead by example.
As we enter spring and the Easter season, let us lean in favor of trusting one another, remain filled with hope, and help each other seize the opportunities before us.