People Come First
I listened to a podcast this week with Jon Gordon and Howard Behar. Both of these leaders recognize and know the importance of putting people first. Over everything. As I listened, I nodded in agreement, as the work I do (although I smile when I use the word work, because it never feels like that), is all about putting people first.
Howard Behar is the former President of Starbucks who took Starbucks from 28 stores to over 15,000 before he left that helm. Howard coined the phrase “We aren’t in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee.” Regardless of whether you are a Starbucks fan or not, or even if you aren’t a coffee lover, the message is simple. Aren’t we all in the people business? Doesn’t it feel right (or at least good) when we put people first?
As I continued listening, Jon asked Howard what the most important responsibility of a leader is. Simultaneously, Howard and I both said, “to take care of your people.” It was a beautiful echo!
I am reminded about the importance of people coming first in a story from a couple of years ago. My volunteer work brought me to an individual (no names needed) who was a bit down on his luck. I was partnered with him to help him find employment and to get back on his feet. In our first coaching meeting (at a Starbuck’s, by the by), he said, “So we have about 5 or 6 coaching sessions and then you will be done, right?” On paper, perhaps, but not in life. Over the next two months, we talked, e-mailed and texted frequently. I helped make connections and in a period of about 3 months, he landed a six-figure job. He wanted to give me credit, but I didn’t sit at the interview table. He did! My heart soared for his success!
People come into our path for a reason. Sometimes, we don’t even know why. But we (he and I) are connected for life! We check in pretty regularly and whenever I get a text from him, I smile. The most important responsibility of a leader is to take care of your people. “He” is my people!
My coaching clients are “my people.” Every day, I do my absolute best to help them be the best leaders and human beings they can be. This is who I am. In the podcast, Howard shared, “At the end of the day, what matters most is the people.” I couldn’t agree more.