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The Difference Leaders Make – and Don’t Even Know It

I was with a client a few weeks ago, happily focused on designing a new IVR, when a young man approached me. He asked if I remembered him.

I didn’t.

“You were my manager in 2002.”

Oh. I apologized for not remembering him and had a nice catch-up chat. He was working for the company where I was consulting. He went on his way and I thought nothing of it, until he approached me two weeks later.

“Do you remember when I told you I had graduated with a degree in MIS and you arranged for an internship with another department?”

No, actually, I didn’t remember that, either. But it sounded right. I love to develop my employees – even if it means them leaving my department. I have always felt that people should have the life they want, that’s fulfilling and satisfying, and I was privileged to be a part of many of my staff’s development. I have seen my staff move into manager position, senior VP roles and even to be business owners.

“You were really busy,” he said almost apologetically.

Yes, managing 100 people.  “How did that work out?” I asked.

“The man I was going to intern with left the company, so I never got to do it.”

“That’s too bad. Are you happy now in what you’re doing?”

“It’s okay.”

My radar pings. “Do you want some help finding a new position? We have severa—”

“No, no,” he said quickly. “I don’t need anything from you. I just wanted to let you know that every time I see you I think about how you helped me. It makes me smile.”

I stared at him, speechless.

“I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you believing in me.”

As he walked away, I was struck by how much of a difference leaders make and probably don’t even know it. Had this man not taken the time to express his appreciation, I would have never known that my efforts had impacted him. The interesting thing about this man was that he didn’t get what he wanted out of it.

As leaders we make a tremendous impact on our staff – sometimes positive, sometimes negative. It’s why people tend to quit because of their boss (either because they dislike the manager or because they are following the manager out the door). This isn’t just friendship or an emotional need.

In a recent study, lack of advancement was cited as one of the top five reasons people quit their jobs. That can fall on the manager. Development planning and understanding your employees is critical to the success of your business. We tend to be loyal to those who help us.

It’s interesting that in this study, appreciation and engagement were not listed, and yet it’s where most companies choose to spend their money. In fact, Forbes estimates that a company spends billions on employee engagement programs that they profess don’t work.

The solution may not be allocating dollars for Friday donuts, birthday cakes or the annual holiday party, but rather developing your leaders to understand the role they play in achieving your businesses goals.

A strong self-actualizing leader can take your business from mediocre to outstanding. And they can do that by not incurring cost. This is true engagement.

We are all leaders in some form or another.

What difference have you made?

Laureen Peltier helps companies uncover their human potential through innovative leadership approaches. As a keynote speaker, a healthcare consultant and meaningful workforce expert, Laureen has improved employee retention, developed leaders and designed mental healthcare programs that are patient-centric. She has been speaking on mental health for over 10 years and is passionate about being an instrument of change to both organizations and individuals. As a call center expert, she relies on over 20 years of experience to guide her clients through the ever-changing customer experience trends.

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