By Barb Ward from a conversation with Gail Gumminger

People. They surround us at every turn: in our homes, in our workplaces, at the store. And how we treat them matters. We’ve all heard the saying, “treat others as you would have them treat you,” but do we really?

Consider this scenario:

You’ve had a particularly difficult morning of meetings and as you’re returning to work, you decide to stop at a sandwich shop to pick up lunch. You get to the cashier and ask how much you owe, and she says, “You don’t owe a thing, the gentleman before you paid your bill.” He has already left, so you can’t even say thanks, but your entire outlook on the day has shifted for the positive. Have you ever even thought about doing this for someone else? Maybe you should!

Some call it Paying it Forward, others call it Random Acts of Kindness, but whatever you call it, this is an example of putting other “People First”. It’s a deed that requires no reason, no return on investment, no payback, not even a thank you. It’s simply an act that makes another person feel important and special: a kind word, a small gift left on a desk, a call just to check in and see how they are. It can be anonymous or known. It just has to be genuine.

What would happen if we applied a People First attitude to our every day, in any circumstance, in both our personal and our professional lives?

As a leader there are immeasurable benefits when you put others first, not the least of which is the joy of knowing your team not only enjoys being at work, but also enjoys having you as their leader. Putting People First requires a unique set of skills that are sometimes forgotten when we get busy. By becoming aware and intentional about the six critical behaviors of a People First Leader, you set yourself and your teams up for success. (And employing these strategies in your personal life will not hurt either).  

Six Critical Behaviors of a People First Leader:

  1. Listen. Listen to understand, listen for meaning, listen for new possibilities and perspectives. Simply by engaging fully in the conversation you show the other person that they matter, that they are worth your time. 
  2. Consider who might be underrepresented or adversely impacted by a decision or action you are about to make or take. Inherently, we all filter the world through the lens of our experiences – our personal biases. And this filter colors the way we interact with others, the decisions we make, the way we work in the world. But, if we stop for a moment and open ourselves to other’s viewpoints, we not only open ourselves to a multitude of new possibilities and opportunities, but we become more sensitive to others’ feelings.
  3. Schedule intentional time to connect with others. Be present. Taking the time to connect with others makes it possible for you to really get to know the other person, allowing you to build deeper, more meaningful relationships. Pick up the phone or get up and walk around to connect with your team.
  4. Find ways to recognize and celebrate others often. Recognition makes people feel good about themselves, their jobs and the organization. By taking the time to call out a job well done, you show your team that you truly value them and their contribution. 
  5. Model behaviors that reflect a core belief that people are capable, resourceful and whole. When you are a leader, people look to you to see the standard they will be held to. Your responsibility is to model the values of the organization and to hold yourself and your team accountable for doing the same.
  6. Establish and/or build trust with every conversation. Authenticity builds trust and respect. Being present in every conversation shows that you are available and interested in what is being said. With every authentic conversation trust builds.

When we do these things, we are able to work and innovate collaboratively with a richness that cannot be found without this interconnectedness. We create this interconnectedness when we find value in each other, and we build strong and trusting relationships with each other ~ indeed, when we put People First.