It’s not about them.
It’s not about what they should have done.
It’s not about what they should have said.
It’s about you.
It’s about how you choose to show up. Even when it’s hard.
It’s about choosing what you’re going to do.

I just finished an amazing book about relationships called It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding. He shares a number of very real, personal stories about his life and what he’s learned along the way. If I boiled it down into a two words, I would say the key to his (and our) success is:

Relationships and Giving

Nothing new – right? It’s something we’ve all heard of and deep down know that these are critical to success. So if that’s true, why aren’t more leaders behaving in a way that shows us they care?

When you think of beginning a relationship in business, people often talk about networking. When I think of networking, I cringe. As much of an extrovert as I am, the thought of walking into a large room of unknowns with no real purpose other than “networking” isn’t my idea of a good time. It feels shallow and slimy. The exchanges are usually short and not that sweet. Spaulding came up with a new way to think differently about networking. He calls it netgiving.

“Networking is all about you. Netgiving is all about others. Networking is all about collecting contacts and using those contacts for personal gain. Netgiving is all about building relationships that help others around you succeed. Networking is about winning friends and influencing people for personal gain. Netgiving is about influencing friends to make a difference. Networking is about business in a world in which business isn’t personal. Netgiving is about intentionally making business personal.

Netgiving to put it boldly, is about love. That’s the most important ingredient in developing relationships that make life and business something greater than just who we know.”

That’s right – he said “love” and “business” all in the same paragraph. I know some of you are thinking – no way, that’s too weird. I’m not at work to find new people to love. I’m here to do my job. That’s not work/life balance at all. I have to maintain some sort of boundaries with my colleagues and employees. I get it. At first, it sounds strange and maybe a little scary. Bear with me.

“What many leaders have is a faulty understanding of what it means to “love” someone forward. When we really love someone, we’re committed to that person’s best interests. That is true of our employees, co-workers, venders, clients – all of our contacts, even the ones we hardly know.

So if business is personal and love is the most important part of building meaningful relationships in business, then what does it take within us to make business personal? What does it take to make love part of who we are professionally? What does it take to embrace netgiving, and make networking a by-product of who we are, not a function of what we do? What does it take to move beyond transactional relationships? What does it take to put others first and trust that our needs won’t go unmet? What does it take to become selfless rather than selfish?

All questions that you have to answer for yourself as a leader. What does it mean for you? What does being selfless look like for you? Are you doing everything you can to help those around you?  Are you giving everyone all you’ve got?

And maybe both the hardest and easiest question you have to answer is: do I want to do this?

Because, it is a choice. Your choice.

“We first must make a choice to love others – in business as well as in our personal lives. That means we put the needs of others ahead of our own. It means we’re willing to sacrifice. It means our decision making process starts with “how can I help?” not “What can I get?” It means our own litmus test must be to strive for significance, not just success.”

Love can be scary. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re taking risks that involve the heart and that can be terrifying.

Our world needs more leaders who aren’t afraid to love.
Who aren’t afraid to take the emotional risk.
Who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable.
Who still choose love when others around them aren’t.

The alternative is being okay with what’s happening in your organization right now. Maintaining status quo. Not loving. Not caring. Not taking the risk. Allowing fear to be the place from which you operate.

You can stay on that road. Remember, it’s your choice.

I would argue – it’s not a sustainable choice. It’s not a healthy choice.  If individuals don’t feel cared for or protected by their leaders, they’re not happy. They’re not giving you their best work.  They’re probably looking for a different job. What do you want the people you lead to say about you? What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as a leader who deeply cared about and loved those around them.

Tell me, what do you want people to say about YOU as a leader?