[July 23, 2015] Leaders know that personal relationships are more important than ever in today’s complex and uncertain world. That is why it’s crucial that leaders are saying the right thing to those around them and building close relationships in their professions.
For those who’ve experienced combat or been through a disaster realize that you have to give something extra in that environment because things are tough. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes you get knocked down. Yet, if you’re a good leader, people who count on you will help you up because they need you standing on your feet. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it is the crux to ensuring good relationships are built.
For example, during the American Civil War, General William T. Sherman sent a letter to his friend General Grant in the Spring of 1864 saying, “I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come if alive.”1 Those of us who study history learn from it by looking into the corners others dare not go. That study helps us build upon our knowledge of how people strengthen their connections with others. It matters a lot.
Those of us in the military and in business and elsewhere that leadership is in high demand have probably learned the most about relationships. Like General Stanley McChrystal noted, when referring to his units in combat in Afghanistan, that relationships are the “sinew which holds the force together.” Everyone promises every other soldier that no matter what happens, no matter the cost to me, if you need me, I’ll be there. A good friend of mine told me this during the worst of times in Iraq in late 2004 during what is known as the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Leaders who mistakenly say the wrong thing either through bad timing or ill-conceived wording may see negative or unintended consequences. Words have power and we are judged by those words. Since leaders are confident, they may not properly prepare their thoughts before speaking; this is a common mistake.
The weight of a single word can make the difference in how we are perceived and how our relationships are formed. Care in our preparation of our thoughts helps us verbalize and say the right thing. Saying the right thing is no easy task and requires practice, preparation, timing, and good sense.
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