Your Best Interest

By Scott Westerman
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Scott’s Maxim: “Every truly sustainable relationship must be win-win.”

Here is a tale of two departures.

The employee closed the office door behind him. The supervisor knew something was up. “I got a great offer this week for a job that will expand my responsibilities and give me some pretty cool new challenges. I’m going to be the new (fill in the blank) at (fill in the company).”

The supervisor was stunned. She had no idea that this was coming. How could the employee do this to her? The company already ran lean and it would be hard to quickly recruit someone to fill the hole. And the new job was with a competitor! The supervisor felt betrayed and angry. “I’m happy for you,” she said, even though her voice didn’t mean a word of it. “As you know, this will be your last day. I will have HR go with you as you clean out your desk. You can leave your ID badge with me. Good luck.” The supervisor looked away and began to think. This was the fourth person to leave the her team. She had developed a reputation. Nobody wanted to work for her.

Contrast that one with this one.

The employee closed the office door behind him. The supervisor knew something was up. “I got a great offer this week for a job that will expand my responsibilities and give me some pretty cool new challenges. I’m going to be the new (fill in the blank) at (fill in the company).”

The supervisor bounded from behind her desk and encircled her team member in a huge bear hug. “That’s awesome,” she said even though her voice choked a little on the words. She motioned the team member to one of two chairs that were in front of her desk. The supervisor sat in the other chair. “Tell me more about it. From what you’ve already shared, it sounds like a terrific opportunity.” The news wasn’t a surprise. The supervisor had been advising her team member all through the interview process. This was the fourth person from her team to leave for a promotion. And even though it was with a competitor, she knew that she would quickly have many applicants for the new vacancy. The supervisor felt a wave of satisfaction wash over her. She had developed a reputation. People wanted to be part of her team because they knew she would prepare them for the next step on their career ladder. “And don’t let me forget to set a date for your going away party,” the supervisor said.

I have seen both of these scenarios play out. What makes them different? A key cultural trait that great companies share is that employment relationships are truly a win-win situation. Great people are attracted to companies that they feel are looking out for their best interest.

Build a reputation as a place where people come to be challenged, to grow, to work hard while having fun. Create a leadership mindset that focuses on the whole person, not just the part that is a replaceable cog in your corporate machinery. Smooth employment transitions are more likely to happen when you’re constantly training your team members for their next assignment. Great companies spend a lot of time deciding who gets on the bus. Once they are there, they are treated like the precious “human resource” that they are. Look out for their best interest, and they will look out for yours.

How does this work in our personal world? We are, in effect, supervisors of our own relationships. We decide who gets in and who stays out. How we treat the most important people in our lives will directly effect how they treat us. If we start from the premise that we are here to help everyone we meet enjoy a happier and more productive life, our behaviors will focus in that exact direction. People may float in and out our daily interactions over the years, but like the best of friends, whenever your paths cross, you’ll pick up right where you left off.

The only way that long term success happens is if the people you interact with feel that they are getting just as much value out of the relationship as you are. If that’s not happening, reassess how you invest your most precious resource, your time. And focus your energy in a different direction.

Marginal companies are like abusive relationships. They continue to exist because there are people who will put up with being treated like marginal human beings. If you find yourself in one of these situations, change what you can change, accept what you can’t change, and, most importantly, remove yourself from the unacceptable.

If you’re a leader, a high performer, a friend, the highest compliment anyone can pay you is to say, “My life is better because I met you.” Live your life in this spirit and at the end of the day, their best interest will be in your best interest.

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