The Simplest Way To Get The Best Out Of Your Staff


Jeff Haden


2 min read

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Great leaders don’t need to struggle to motivate, inspire, and lead their employees

I was struggling to engage the audience. Okay, to be honest, I tried not to let it show but I was dying onstage. Maybe I was having an off day. Maybe they were having an off day.

Or maybe the fact that every one of the 100 people in attendance was a CEO, an executive, or the owner of a medium to large business meant that they were way more accustomed to being listened to than they were to listening.

So, I took a different approach. “In one sentence, what is the key to leading people?” I asked.

Throwaway question? Absolutely. I knew no one would answer. That was the point.

They would sit and stare and then I would supply an intentionally against-the-grain answer sure to spark some heat and conversation. (A little contrived, sure, but hey, I was dying.)

So, I asked the question and then paused to read the room. Some people looked down. Some looked away.

As I expected, no one was going to answer. Cool.

I was about to speak when a voice broke the silence.

“I think I know,” a man sitting in the back corner said, somewhat hesitantly.

A few heads turned in his direction.

Mine did too, because I was a little surprised and a lot concerned. Shoot, I thought, now I’ve stepped in it.

He’s about to whip out some leadership cliché or channel his inner John Maxwell or Stephen Covey. I started scrambling to figure out how to recover from the dead end I had created.

So, I was only half-listening as he said, fairly quietly: “No one cares how much you know until they first know how much you care about them.”

Wait – what?

“Can you repeat that?” I said.

Heads turned in his direction. “We think we have all the answers, and maybe we do, but that doesn’t matter. No one cares how much you know until they first know how much you care about them,” he repeated.

I stared. More heads slowly turned in his direction.

He took the silence in the auditorium as disagreement.

“No, really,” he said, starting to sound more confident. “Yeah, we’re in charge and yeah, we talk about targets and goals and visions, but our employees don’t care about any of that stuff for very long.

“We can communicate and engage and connect all we want, but no one really listens to us. They just smile and nod and go back to doing their jobs the way they always do.

“Our employees don’t really care about what we want them to do until they know how much we care about them. When an employee knows – truly knows – that you care about them, then they care about you. And when they know you care, they will listen to you. And do anything for you.”

Best answer ever.


Jeff Haden is a public speaker and author of more than 50 non-fiction books and ghost-writer for innovators and business leaders. To engage with him, email

Republished with permission.

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