Relationships are what I care about most. I believe relationships are most profoundly influenced by your level of care. It’s how others experience you.
I talk to Francois (our son) quite often about his reputation, and his trail. How do people experience you? What do they remember about you? What is your story to the world? What people experience from you is the foundation of your relationship with them.
Every aspect of life, from the way you live at home to the way you operate in business and in social settings is affected by the way you treat people.
At home, I take the time to put my things away, keep the kitchen and bathroom tidy and so on. I am deliberate about it. We share cleaning duties, for sure, but I always take time to clean up after myself and not leave a trail. Why? Because I respect my wife and value our relationship enough to do so. It matters.
Though many would disagree, I believe that the way we conduct ourselves at home is more important than how we conduct ourselves in business or social environments. Home is where we create the habits that represent the foundation of every other aspect of life. If my home is untidy, most of the rest of my life is too. And so on.
Leaving a trail of selfishness behind me at home just tells my family that I don’t care enough about them to even clean up after myself. I’m outrageously busy, but I make time because it’s important. I’ve made a habit out of it. And that habit says, “I care”. That’s important, in all aspects of life.
I treat business relationships the same way. Steve Jobs was one of the greatest innovators and artists of our lifetime. But he left a wake of broken relationships and crushed coworkers along the way. That’s cheap, lazy and selfish. And it represents a distorted value system. That’s disappointing.
Things don’t always work out, but I handle relationships with grace and respect no matter the circumstances or outcomes. I don’t burn bridges and I always show respect, no matter if it’s the CEO or the delivery guy. I value them the same.
So what does your trail look like? Is it full of respectful, meaningful relationships? Is it tidy or messy? Are you proud of your trail? Is it something you would use as an example to your children, friends, employees or colleges and feel good about? If you are in leadership of any kind, you are leading by example whether you intend to or not.
Your trail is your most telling reflection. It’s the story of who you truly are, not just who you say you are or pretend to be. Take time to be deliberate about it. If you’re not proud of your trail, change it. Start now.
People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Click here for the full Steve Jobs article in Wired that was the impetus for this post.