Most leaders love working with people. I sure do.
Years ago a young Non-Commissioned Officer asked me a simple question that has given me so many gifts over the years. He simply asked me, “Hey Sir, what is your story?”.
He didn’t ask me what I did for a living, or what I liked to do with my free time. He asked me an open-ended question which allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to go and share with him what was on my mind, or what I thought he should know about me.
Leading people is about truly understanding what drives them, what their needs are and what I can do to help them.
Leadership is about supporting those around you – working to solve their problems so they can stay focused on the main thing that they need too.
Leading people is not about sharing your story or talking about you, it’s about understanding where other people are coming from and working every day to improve things for them – not you.
For years whenever I meet someone new I’ve politely asked them “What’s your story?” Sometimes the words might be a little different, but the theme of the question is always the same. As soon as I ask it, I just listen and enjoy the answer.
The gifts that this simple open-ended question has given me are absolutely immeasurable. I’ve learned about what people care about, what they are scared of, what is on their minds, what I can do to be a better leader or friend for them. It also gives me a great place to pick up a conversation the next time we are together. This simple question has been the foundation for building hundreds of amazing relationships in life, business, and the military.
Give it a try the next time you meet someone new and ask them “What’s your story?”
And to David C… thanks for asking me that question so many years ago, and thanks for the gifts since then.