I spent an afternoon with a dear friend yesterday. We chatted over lunch and walked around his beach town. I have always admired his engaging and caring way - he is a leader who makes others feel like they have his full attention and consideration and they do (that's the important part - it is sincere, not an act).
Why? Because he thinks and lives this way. He notices people and things and takes the initiative to be helpful and caring. More so than most people. More so than I do - by a long shot.
I have always known this about my friend but I was reminded - in a vivid way - during our walk. Those who we passed received a smile and hello. Someone had dropped a baby bottle on the walking path, he picked it up and put it on the cement wall so the owner could find it and no one would trip over it. We passed a couple who were taking pictures of each other, he asked if he could take their picture together and then had some fun with them to make sure they got a great shot. He interacted with people on the street, in shops, and in the restaurant in ways that made each smile and brighten.
You might be thinking that I am a little nuts for calling this out because these human acts are quite normal - or they should be. It is true that any one of these moments would be considered what it means to be a good person - nothing extraordinary.
But here is the distinction. He oozed care in every moment. He was aware of others, noticed others, proactively cared for others, and did so while being fully engaged in our conversation. I was much less aware of others.
My friend is someone for whom people love working and he brings out the best in them. And here is the main point of this post. WE can and should do this, too. It does not take a training class or being a particular behavioral style. We can relate to others in this way if we:
- Choose to be a powerful and positive influence on others.
- Take the time and attention to notice others.
- And then be gracious, kind, friendly, and helpful more often.
Don't go rushing to include these expectations in your new employee orientation. Don't add it to your performance review or create a management competency called, "caring." Just try being more demonstrably caring and see what happens. Lead from a basis of positive care for others and you will find that your days, weeks, and years are more amazing and that your good vibe spreads.
After spending the afternoon with my friend, I found myself thinking about how I can improve what I notice and how I respond to others. I am no ogre, BTW, but I can and want to demonstrate care more often - for everyone, not just a chosen few.
You have likely heard the mind teaser about the tree - if a tree falls in a forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
I have to ask the same thing about caring for others. If we care but no one experiences our affection and goodwill, does it exist? I think that the vast majority of people are caring in terms of our intentions. Most of us are quite selective about how we give of ourselves and I am not sure this serves us, our intentions, or others well.
These tiny actions - smiles, pictures, gestures of help - add up and to make a very big and wonderful impression. Remember, though, that although this benefit is compelling, it should not be the reason that we choose to live a more generous (of ourselves) life. My friend does not think about this. In fact, I am guessing he would think this blog post is quite odd indeed.