I heard a great statement that is attributed to Dr. Steven Covey. He was presenting at a large conference when someone in the audience asked what (of all the things he’s taught during his career) is the most important idea he’d ever taught. Dr. Covey’s response was that people’s greatest need is to feel and be understood. Of all the great leadership principles he’d taught over his successful career, the most important was simply to remember that people have feelings and an innate desire to be understood by others.
I was introduced to Dr. Covey’s principle through a Live on Purpose Radio podcast with Dr. Paul and Kirk Weisler. While listening to their discussion I thought of three things leaders can do to help people feel and be understood:
- Help people get what they desire: Leaders have a great opportunity to find out what people want to achieve – from their work, their participation, their efforts that tie them to the organization – and do everything in their power to help them achieve their goals. The more a leader helps others improve, the more he or she will progress.
- Express and share enthusiasm: People feed off the enthusiasm of those around them. Leaders who love what they do and show it by their expressions, actions and tone, endear themselves to their followers.
- Communicate with stories: Stories convey meaning powerfully. Stories are among the most effective tools of leadership. They communicate meaning and motivate others to act on what they’ve learned. Stories help the hearer to remember the principles taught.
It’s a simple yet powerful concept: help people feel and be understood. The effects will be measurable.
June 12, 2008 at 2:32 am
I wanted you to know that I very much appreciated your post, and love your 3 suggestions! Well done!
June 12, 2008 at 8:40 pm
Great summary Michael. I think that empathy has two important parts, that you understand and care about how other people feel. True leaders have true empathy.
Anybody who quotes Kirk Weisler must have something on the ball!
June 12, 2008 at 9:20 pm
Kirk and Dr. Paul, thank you for creating incredible value for me and no doubt all your listeners. You each have ways of effectively bringing out principles that motivate others to be better. When you do it together it’s all the more powerful. -Michael