My husband and I frequent a local restaurant where we are regularly waited on by the same server.  We often strike up a conversation with him, as he is amiable, outgoing, and always conscientious in his manner.  We’ve learned that he is in his early 20’s, working two jobs, and trying his best to finish college.   During our most recent discussion earlier this week, he told us the news that he had committed full-time to his day time job, and was going to stop working at the restaurant.

After congratulating him on his new venture, I asked him what drove his  decision to commit to this opportunity full-time and make a career out of it.

Without hesitation, he immediately responded, “My new boss.”

Of course, as someone who helps people develop leadership skills for a living, I was immediately intrigued.

‘What do you mean?” I probed.

” Well, you know how some bosses act one way in front of others and then are really another way when they work with you?  This guy really cares about helping me learn and is really interested in me.  I will learn a lot and quickly  become a manager myself just by watching him…”


His  subsequent summary of  some really simple attributes only confirmed what I have come to learn over the past 20+ years working with leaders in organizations.  It made me think about how the millions of dollars companies spend  each year trying to figure out ways to measure and increase  employee engagement can be largely spared simply by dissecting this young man’s simple insights.

 In a nutshell, here are three nuggets to glean from the rest of my exchange with him:

1.  He was looking for connection and wanted to know that his leader genuinely cared about his welfare.

2.  He wanted to learn and grow and make a meaningful contribution.

3.  He expected his boss to be a coach and help him with career guidance, and not just view him as  an expendable “human task completion resource.”

Nothing you don’t already know, I’m sure.  Just pure, Leadership 101 stuff.  You’re probably wondering why I’m even writing a blog post about something so obvious and seemingly simple.
Common knowledge, right?
But is it common practice? 

Here are some questions for you to think about around the impact of your own leadership:
Are you doing these things for the people who work for you?
Are you a role model and a coach?
Are you connecting to people on a deeper level?
Do people feel like you listen to them and really care about their welfare?
Do you take the time to help those who work for you develop?
Are your conversations transactional or are they developmental?
Are you too busy to make time to lead?

And finally, would the people who work for you describe you like this young man described his boss?  
Do they want to work for you?

Or better yet, would you want to work for you?