Great Leaders Cultivate Healthy Relationships
Who do you turn to in times of crisis?
It is important for leaders to build environments and structures where people get encouragement and connection from others.
It was the winter of '08 and one of my clients is a CEO of one of the big Wall Street firms. And had been through '08 and the crash, and he's got 10,000 brokers out there. And he showed a letter from an angry client to a broker and it said, "You know, you guys are all crooks. You should go to prison." And he said, "My people, my men and women out there," he said, "these are the best people in the world. They live for their clients, they die for their clients. And they're getting blamed for this whole thing. It's not their fault." He said, "I can feel it. They're just starting, they're waxing and waning. Can you do anything for them?"
And I said, "Yeah, I think I can." I said, "We're also interested in that client." Because right now, that client, they're in a trauma state. There are only three things they can do. They're going to sue you, or they're going to take their assets across the street, or they're going to do something irrational with them. But if your broker can enter into a relationship and have the boundaries against the toxicity... and enter into that relationship and build the alliance in a way that morphs him back on the same side of the table, then everybody's going to do well.
And what we did was we put his highest performers and about 20 markets together. Flew around to 20 cities and sat with them for a day and asked them two questions: What's it like for you and what's it like for your clients? And I just listened and they processed it. Now the goal was and what we did was that I took all that data, went and constructed a couple of programs. We flew 500 managers in, trained them to go deliver this in small teams in the company over the next eight weeks. And all centered around them getting together, and processing what was going on in very structured ways to change their brains.
But here was the big finding that we didn't expect. We knew the program would work. And we knew the program would turn them around in performance and morale and all that kind of stuff. But here was the huge one, just the listening tour where we went around in these 20 markets and sat them down together, the CEO was bombarded, bombarded with emails. "I can't believe that the firm cares about me this much to take time out and sit down, and get us together and just talk about what this has been like."
He got letters from spouses, said, "Thank you for giving me my husband back. He used to come home and just sit and stare at the wall. And the kids would be going, 'Dad, Dad, Dad.' Or stare in front of the computer at some of the highest performers, Barron's top 50, tell me, 'I just go to work, I can't pick up the phone.' " Because sometimes in the heat of what's going on in a bad market or a tough situation, what happens is the brain chemistry does began to change. And it begins to wind down and it turns into some toxic stuff.
One of my favorite studies, years ago before PETA got in control of the earth, they took monkeys and put them in a cage and just freaked them out. Scare them, "nah, nah, nah." You know, with all this noise and flashing lights and the monkeys are freaked out. And they go in and they draw the brain chemistry and measure the stress hormones and the stress levels. And then they get a reading and they do one thing. They open the cage door and they put the monkey's buddy in the cage and close the door.
All the markets are just the same. All the chaos, all the noise, all the stress. But they open the door, they put the monkey's buddy in the cage. They close the door, they draw the blood again and the stress level has dropped in half just because the monkey's got his buddy in the cage. So here's my question to you, the leaders, as we close: Who's your monkey?
Turn to the person you brought with you on your team, say, "Baby, be my monkey." Go into your teams, get your people. Like a Navy Seal when they land behind enemy lines, they've got to know where's the enemy, but also where's my buddy? Create structures where your team gets encouragement and connection from you and the few people that are in it with them. You will see their brain chemistry change. You will see their attention change. You will see their energy change. You will see their focus change. And you will see things turned around because that's the way the brain was designed to work.
Dr. Henry Cloud is an acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author. He draws on his experience in business, leadership consulting, and his practice as a clinical psychologist, to impart practical and effective advice for improv...
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