“Are you okay?” were the first words that came out of my Dad’s mouth when I told him I wrecked his truck.
Followed by, “We’ll talk about it when I get home.”
It was the summer before my Senior year in High School and I had borrowed my Dad’s truck to go on a job interview. Instead of paying attention to the road, I was paying attention to the shiny, new, Renault Alliance Convertibles that were prominently displayed at the dealership alongside the road.
And, then….a screech of rubber, the clash of metal, a huge crash and I, instinctively, threw the truck into reverse to try and separate it from the Mack Tool Truck that it had meshed with.
It would not separate and the driver of the truck stepped out, pointed at me with his sausage like fingers (with an over sized cigar in mouth) and said, gruffly, “Just leave it!”
It seemed like an eternity until my Dad got home. Upon his arrival, I explained how it all went down. Even though I tried to paint a picture of, “I really wasn’t at fault” he knew that I was and said, “What I should do is take you in the back yard and kick your butt…but that won’t fix my truck.”
“You’re right, it won’t.” I said (a little too chipper).
I then got the “Dad eye” with a retort of “Be careful, or I will!”
Silently we sat there until he said, “I’m glad you’re okay and we’ll figure out what we need to do.”
My Dad was a scary guy. He worked on big machinery at a steel mill, had forearms like Popeye and most people knew not to mess with him. Conversely, he also was a caring man. He might blow up now and then but he was the kind of person that, no matter what, you knew always had your back. This was evidenced with the first words out his mouth when I told him about his truck of, “Are you okay?”
He was the kind of leader in the home that I always tried to emulate in the workplace. No matter what the situation or the condition of the project, I would work to make the fist words out of my be, “Are you okay?”
How about your team? Are they okay? Do they know that, despite mood swings or apparent frustration, you have their back?
Regardless of the situation, you can show them by just doing a few simple things.
First, ask them. What? Yes, ask them how they are doing and if they are okay. This may seem a little awkward at first but, in time, it will become a natural part of your daily dialogue.
Second, actually listen. Many times, we’re listening to respond, not really listening to hear. Pay attention to feelings and subtle clues Empathy, which is much different from sympathy, goes a long way in connecting you with the person you’re talking to and bridging the gap between you.
Lastly, come up with a plan together. Working together on a plan doesn’t make it mine or yours…it makes it ours. It gives an opportunity to look at what didn’t go right and how we can avoid the same mistakes in the future (the future plan for me and the truck was the pay attention to the road and not to shiny cars that caught my attention).
These three things aren’t the only keys to winning loyalty but they will help foster an open dialogue and in building trust. And, when your team members know that you care and that you have their back, you’ll both work hard to keep each other at the top of your games. That’s when the impossible becomes possible and mountains become molehills.
In the end, we did come up with a plan for fixing the truck. It was a lot of labor on both of our sides but we did it together. We laughed a lot, sweated a lot but he never did let me borrow his truck again.