Have you ever been the recipient of an unconditional gift you weren’t expecting? Last week during a leadership conference, after my senior leadership team recognized their top performers, I told their employees what each of them have accomplished in addition to doing their job at the bank: Angela is running for Congress and sharing with the community how she has personally made an impact on the business community by adding value through her people; Ash was asked back as an Executive Student Advisor at the University of Washington, where he finished Graduate School of Banking; in this role he will be instrumental in sharing his wisdom with the incoming Freshmen class; Rocky was accepted to Pepperdine’s Doctoral program in Organizational Leadership and is looking forward to bringing back to his team what he learns about culture creation and transformation, and Wayne was asked to be on the Board of Advisors for Woodberry University Business School where he will be making an impact for other entrepreneurs and students. Wayne will also be hosting 30 entrepreneurs from the Entrepreneurs Organization LA, for the purpose of guiding them on how to grow their business. To my surprise, immediately after I finished boasting about my leadership team, they all came up to the podium holding a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses and flowers, recognizing me for setting an example for them as leaders, and sharing with the team some of my own accomplishments in the last month. This was completely unexpected.

During a break, the team came up to me thanking me for sharing with them the accomplishments of their leaders, and how proud they are to be working for such conscientious individuals. Leaders from other departments were clearly wow’d with our team’s accomplishments and felt a sense of pride to be working for this organization, where people not only perform well in their job, but are also encouraged to follow their passion by making a difference for others and bettering themselves in order to offer their very best for their people. My leadership team reinforced for me what it is like to give (and receive) unconditionally.

Our people are watching and learning from our actions. Let’s face it, many people talk about what is truly important to them and few people align their actions accordingly. Like our children learn from our actions, so do our employees learn from watching us handle situations, so we must always be diligent about our behavior toward others. I have always said: “We sneeze, they feel a hurricane.”

If you want to know what is truly important to someone, ask them to tell you the top 5 things they value most, and then go back into their calendar and “tally” the number of times they acted according to each of those five things. This will give you a notion of what is truly important to them. Do this for yourself and you’ll see how others view you, based on your actions.

Today I surround myself with best-in-class professionals who rejoice in making a difference for others; individuals who sincerely care about each other, their clients and their communities. One of the leadership qualities I look for when hiring someone, in addition to their values, experience and competence, is their willingness to go out of their way to make a difference… completely unconditionally. For the mere pleasure of making a significant difference in someone’s business or life.

Not long ago I interviewed Harris Simons, Chairman of our parent company Zions Bancorporation.  One of the personal values he looks for in his team is “Selflessness.” It is important to him that our associates think about “the big picture,” not just themselves. This is how a culture of trust is created; where every associate feels valued and trusted, and it also builds a community of professionals who strive to make a difference for each other, our customers and our community.

Last week I had individual conversations with many of our bankers who serve clients daily through our branch system. Our most successful associates are those who look for ways to add value to their clients continuously, without expecting anything in return. They build relationships of trust with their clients; as a result, our clients call our associates for support in every area of their life, which of course, includes their business. This is where the magic happens. When people around us trust us enough to be themselves with us. This in turn allows our clients to call us to celebrate their wins, and to advise them on their business matters; this results in mutual sustainable success.

Studies show that people leave their managers, not their company. Take inventory of the people you choose to have in your life. Your employees, your family, the people you go on vacation with, your children, and your community. In life we are entrusted with the people around us. They trust us with their careers, their livelihood, their life purpose. We don’t own any of them, yet sometimes we act as if we did. Even our children are given to us on loan, for us to impart as much wisdom as possible on them and prepare them for a life of purpose and values. Not much different is our leadership role; we are entrusted with our associates and our clients. We also don’t own any of them. They trust us with their careers and their future. Our job is to continuously become better, so we can always give our very best to them. Otherwise we become stale as leaders.

As we learn from and celebrate the leaders around us, I invite you to make it a point to surprise those around you by giving away your gifts –– what I call your “genius.” We all have unique talents and abilities, let’s use them to make a difference, one person at a time.

Dr. Betty Uribe is Executive Vice President, Business & Personal Banking for California Bank & Trust. She is also an international best-selling author and values-based leader and speaker.

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