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BE A PEOPLE PERSON
Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships
By John C. Maxwell
David C. CookCopyright © 2007 John C. Maxwell
All rights reserved.
WHAT DRAWS ME TO PEOPLE?
Understanding the qualities you enjoy in others
THE BASIS OF LIFE IS PEOPLE and how they relate to each other. Our success, fulfillment, and happiness depend upon our ability to relate effectively. The best way to become a person that others are drawn to is to develop qualities that we are attracted to in others.
Just as I was preparing this chapter, I received an anonymous card from a member of my congregation. It was especially meaningful because it reflected the importance of warm, rewarding relationships:
When special people touch our lives then suddenly we see how beautiful and wonderful our world can really be. They show us that our special hopes and dreams can take us far by helping us look inward and believe in who we are. They bless us with their love and joy through everything they give. When special people touch our lives they teach us how to live.
Does that reflect the kind of person you are to others? It was a humbling blessing for me to receive such a greeting card. I realized how appropriate it is to this chapter as we consider what qualities we need to develop in our lives—the qualities we enjoy in others.
This poster in a Nordstrom's department store once caught my attention: "The only difference between stores is the way they treat their customers." That's a bold statement. Most stores would advertise the quality of their merchandise or their wide selection as what sets them apart from the rest. The difference between Nordstrom's and other stores, according to an employee of the competition, is that other stores are organization-oriented; Nordstrom's is people-oriented. Their employees are trained to respond quickly and kindly to customer complaints. As a result, according to writer Nancy Austin, "Nordstrom's doesn't have customers; it has fans."
A study by TARP, Technical Assistance Research Programs, in Washington, D.C., shows that most customers won't complain to management if something goes wrong with the purchase. But TARP found out that, depending on the severity of the problem, an average customer will tell between nine and sixteen friends and acquaintances about his bad experience. Some 13 percent will tell more than 20 people! More than two out of three customers who've received poor service will never buy from that store again and, worse, management will never know why.
Every company is bound to goof now and then, but from the customer's perspective, what's important is that the company responds. This is the secret of Nordstrom's success. The TARP study also shows that 95 percent of dissatisfied customers will buy from the store again if their problems are solved quickly. Even better, they will each tell eight people about the situation's happy conclusion. The trick for managers and salespeople is to give customers ample time to offer feedback on the service they receive.
This chapter certainly isn't about department stores and customer satisfaction, but there are some principles from these reports that should speak to us about our relationships with others:
Are we quick to respond to others' needs?
Do we run from problems or face them?
Do we talk more about bad news or good news?
Do we give people the benefit of the doubt, or do we assume the worst?
The Golden Rule
What's the key to relating to others? It's putting yourself in someone else's place instead of putting them in their place. Christ gave the perfect rule for establishing quality human relationships. We call it the Golden Rule, a name it got sometime around the seventeenth century. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ summed up a series of profound thoughts on human conduct by saying, "Therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you" (Matt. 7:12).
In this brief command, Christ taught us a couple of things about developing relationships with others. We need to decide how we want to be treated. Then we need to begin treating others in that manner.
Recently I took my daughter Elizabeth out to a restaurant for lunch. The waitress, whose job it was to take care of people, made us feel that we were really inconveniencing her. She was grumpy, negative, and unhelpful. All of her customers were aware of the fact that she was having a bad day. Elizabeth looked up at me and said, "Dad, she's a grump, isn't she?" I could only agree with a look of disdain.
Halfway through our experience I tried to change this woman's negative attitude. Pulling out a $10 bill, I said, "Could you do me a favor? I'd like some change for this $10 bill because I want to give you a good tip today." She looked at me, did a double take, and then ran to the cash register. After changing the money, she spent the next fifteen minutes hovering over us. I thanked her for her service, told her how important and helpful she was, and left a good tip.
As we left, Elizabeth said, "Daddy, did you see how that lady changed?"
Seizing this golden opportunity, I said, "Elizabeth, if you want people to act right toward you, you act right toward them. And many times you'll change them."
Elizabeth will never forget that lesson because she had seen a noticeable change take place right before her eyes. That grumpy woman didn't deserve to be treated kindly. But when she was treated not as she was, but as I wanted her to be and believed she could become, her perspective suddenly changed.
Whatever your position in a relationship, if you are aware of a problem, it's your responsibility to make a concerted effort to create a positive change. Quit pointing your finger and making excuses, and try being a catalyst by demonstrating and initiating the appropriate behavior. Determine not to be a reactor but an initiator.
Five Ways You Want Others to Treat You
These next five points seem too simple even to mention, but somehow we overlook them. The qualities that make relationships right aren't complicated at all. There's not a person reading this who doesn't need, like, or respond to these qualities in others.
1. You want others to encourage you.
There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. Think about it; most of your best friends are those who encourage you. You don't have many strong relationships with people who put you down. You avoid these people and seek out those who believe in you and lift you up.
Several years ago Dr. Maxwell Maltz's book, Psycho-Cybernetics, was one of the most popular books on the market. Dr. Maltz was a plastic surgeon who often took disfigured faces and made them more attractive. He observed that in every case, the patient's self-image rose with his and her physical improvement. In addition to being a successful surgeon, Dr. Maltz was a great psychologist who understood human nature.
A wealthy woman was greatly concerned about her son, and she came to Dr. Maltz for advice. She had hoped that the son would assume the family business following her husband's death, but when the son came of age, he refused to assume that responsibility and chose to enter an entirely different field. She thought Dr. Maltz could help convince the boy that he was making a grave error. The doctor agreed to see him, and he probed into the reasons for the young man's decision.
The son explained, "I would have loved to take over the family business, but you don't understand the relationship I had with my father. He was a driven man who came up the hard way. His objective was to teach me self-reliance, but he made a drastic mistake. He tried to teach me that principle in a negative way. He thought the best way to teach me self-reliance was to never encourage or praise me. He wanted me to be tough and independent. Every day we played catch in the yard. The object was for me to catch the ball ten straight times. I would catch that ball eight or nine times, but always on that tenth throw he would do everything possible to make me miss it. He would throw it on the ground or over my head but always so I had no chance of catching it."
The young man paused for a moment and then said, "He never let me catch the tenth ball—never! And I guess that's why I have to get away from his business; I want to catch that tenth ball!"
This young man grew up feeling he could never measure up, never be perfect enough to please his father. I would not want to be guilty of causing emotional damage to my wife, my children, or my friends by not giving them every opportunity to succeed.
When Elizabeth and I used to play Wiffleball, I would pitch and she would swing. I told her it was my responsibility to hit the bat with the ball. Once she had swung at least twenty times without making contact with the ball. Finally, in desperation and disgust, she said, "I need another pitcher; you can't hit the bat!" I was duly brought low for my failure to let her succeed. I have since done better.
The story of Eugene Lang gives us an ultimate example of encouragement. Entrepreneur Lang was Success magazine's "Successful Man of the Year" in 1986. The following is part of a feature article about Lang's encouragement of others:
A gray-haired man stands alone in the center of the auditorium stage—a distinguished, paternal presence sporting a fine wool suit and the barest trace of a mustache. He scans the sunlit room, with its peeling paint and frayed draperies, but his gaze lingers on the people.
They are Black and Hispanic men and women who fill most of the seats in the auditorium. Though some do not speak English, their attention is fixed on the man at the podium. But his speech is not aimed at them. He has returned to this place where he once was a student to address the 61 sixth graders, dressed in blue caps and gowns, who are seated in the front rows.
"This is your first graduation—just the perfect time to dream," he says. "Dream of what you want to be, the kind of life you wish to build. And believe in that dream. Be prepared to work for it. Always remember, each dream is important because it is your dream, it is your future. And it is worth working for."
"You must study," he continues. "You must learn. You must attend junior high school, high school, and then college. You can go to college. You must go to college. Stay in school and I'll ..." The speaker pauses, and then, as if suddenly inspired, he blurts out: "I will give each of you a college scholarship."
For a second there is silence, and then a wave of emotion rolls over the crowd. All the people in the auditorium are on their feet, jumping and running, cheering and waving and hugging one another. Parents rush down the aisles to their children. "What did he say?" one mother calls out in Spanish. "It's money! Money for college!" her daughter yells back with delight, collapsing into her parents' arms.
The place was an elementary school in a poverty-stricken, drug-ridden, despair-plagued Harlem neighborhood. The speaker was multimillionaire entrepreneur Eugene Lang, who 53 years earlier had graduated from that very school. The date was June 25, 1981, and the big question was whether the warm and ever-confident Lang, a man who believes that "each individual soul is of infinite worth and infinite dignity," would fulfill his promise.
Well, he did and he still is. Of 61 graduates, 54 stayed in contact with Lang, and 90 percent of those achieved a high school diploma or equivalent, and 60 percent went on to higher education. You have to understand, at that time, in that community, the high school drop-out rate was 90 percent.
Lang began the "I Have a Dream" foundation and now other entrepreneurs all over the country are also going into classrooms offering the same kind of scholarships. Even the U.S. Congress took notice and used Lang's ideas as a model for a nationwide education program called GEAR UP started in 1998.
People need to be encouraged. Eugene Lang believed in these kids and it made all the difference in how they lived the rest of their lives. The article goes on to show Lang's impact:
Lang's students speak confidently of becoming architects, computer experts, entrepreneurs of all types. Lang says 25 will go to college this year, the others will have high school diplomas, opportunities for vocational training and, eventually jobs. "This approach is exactly right," observes Charles Murray of the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research, whose book Losing Ground laments that poor people are losing their drive to climb the ladder of success.
Ari Alvarado expressed it from the students' side: "I have something waiting for me," he said, "and that's a golden feeling." And if this program works, it may in fact become the ultimate capitalist success story—for, as George Gilder points out, the roots of capitalism lie not in greed but in giving: The true capitalist is one who invests money and energy today in hopes of a return in the uncertain future. That's what Eugene Lang has done, and it's likely that some of his dream students will follow suit. "I want to become a doctor and do well so I can adopt a class of my own someday," says the optimistic Alvarado. "Just think, if all of us adopted classes ... it could spread across the world!"
That is exactly what Eugene Lang hopes will happen: "We have to create the opportunity to work with hope, to work with ambition, and to work with self-respect. The rewards? There is no way to describe the joy of having a young person touch your arm and smile because you have taught him new values and touched his heart and mind. The greatest experience you can have is to see that child with his new aspirations."
The happiest people are those who have invested their time in others. The unhappiest people are those who wonder how the world is going to make them happy. Karl Menninger, the great psychiatrist, was asked what a lonely, unhappy person should do. He said, "Lock the door behind you, go across the street, find someone who is hurting, and help them." Forget about yourself to help others.
2. You want others to appreciate you.
William James said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."
Have you heard the story about the young politician's first campaign speech? He was very eager to make an impression on his audience, but when he arrived at the auditorium, he found only one man sitting there. He waited, hoping more people would show up, but none did. Finally he said to the one man in the audience, "Look, I'm just a young politician starting out. Do you think I ought to deliver this speech or dismiss the meeting?"
The man thought a moment and replied, "Sir, I'm just a cowhand. All I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I'd feed it!"
Principle: We cannot underestimate the value of a single person.
With the advice from the cowhand, the politician began his speech and talked on and on for two hours as the cowhand sat expressionless. Finally he stopped and asked the cowhand if the speech was all right.
The man said, "Sir, I am just a cowhand and all I know is cows. Of course, I do know that if I took a load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow came up, I surely wouldn't dump the whole load on him."
Principle: Don't take advantage of people.
J. C. Staehle, after analyzing many surveys, found that the principle causes of unrest among workers were the following, listed in order of their importance:
1. Failure to give credit for suggestions.
2. Failure to correct grievances.
3. Failure to encourage.
4. Criticizing employees in front of other people.
5. Failure to ask employees their opinions.
6. Failure to inform employees of their progress.
Notice that every single item has to do with the failure to recognize the importance of the employee. We're talking about people needing appreciation. I try to apply this principle every time I meet a person. Within the first thirty seconds of conversation, I try to say something that shows I appreciate and affirm that person. It sets the tone of the rest of our time together. Even a quick affirmation will give people a sense of value.
Treat others as you want them to treat you. Treat them as if they are important; they will respond according to the way that you perceive them. Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they never know it. Too many of us tend to be tight-fisted with our praise. It's of no value if all you do is think it; it becomes valuable when you impart it.
3. You want others to forgive you.
Almost all emotional problems and stress come from unresolved conflicts and failure to have developed right relationships with people. Because of this, many people have a deep desire for total forgiveness. A forgiving spirit is the one basic, necessary ingredient for a solid relationship. Forgiveness frees us from guilt and allows us to interact positively with other people.
Excerpted from BE A PEOPLE PERSON by John C. Maxwell. Copyright © 2007 John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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