Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with some remarkable people. And when I consider them in aggregate and try to identify what it was that made them so remarkable, one trait rises above the rest as the single most significant factor — thoughtfulness. And though it’s not a term commonly used in the corporate lexicon, it’s at the heart of everything I look for in the people I surround myself with.
So, what do I mean by thoughtfulness? It’s not easy to define, but it sure is easy to spot. We all know thoughtfulness when we see it. It’s those unexpected gestures of greatness that produce a positive impact. The source of this thoughtfulness is often someone we admire — or someone who we quickly come to admire after witnessing their impact. Thoughtfulness is a powerful, respected force.
Contrary to popular belief, thoughtfulness isn’t simply being kind. Google a list of synonyms, and you’ll see that there are many facets of thoughtfulness: considerate, caring, attentive, understanding, sympathetic, solicitous, concerned, helpful, obliging, neighborly, unselfish, compassionate, charitable, reflective, contemplative, introspective.
Thoughtfulness is a genuine curiosity and care in decision making and its impact on the people affected. The impact of thoughtfulness within your organization can be lasting and profound. Here’s what I’ve seen with my own eyes:
Thoughtful people don’t simply ideate; they innovate. Thoughtful people think. And because they are often thinking, they are typically not talking. And because they are not talking, they are typically amazing listeners. And because they are amazing listeners, they are highly aware of their surroundings and the dynamics at play in a problem at hand. They have the power to think two steps ahead, which is the difference of simply having an idea (which organizations are never in short supply of) and actually making the idea happen effectively (which is always in short supply).
Thoughtful people grow not just themselves; but the world around them. Living in a perpetual path of curiosity drives a momentum of inevitable growth. I’ve seen amazing young talent who start in administrative roles blossom into the highest ranks of leadership. While their growth is amazing, it’s also admired by those around them. In fact, it often sets a new standard of greatness which everyone strives to meet. Great talent wants to be in an environment of other great talent. One of the single biggest reasons people leave a workplace is when they feel as though they aren’t growing from their environment. Thoughtful people grow, and their growth inspires others to grow.
Thoughtful people deepen the soul of companies. When an inevitable tragedy strikes the heart of those in our workplace, thoughtful people kick into high gear. While there is always a heavy presence of sympathy, it’s the thoughtful among us that move beyond “how can I help?” to a place of “here’s how I’m going to help you.” It’s problem-solving infused with empathy and a self-awareness of what value or gifts you know you can deliver. The collective actions in these moments of need are what define the soul of a company, the people within it, and the bonds that hold it all together.
While we all have the potential to make gestures of thoughtfulness, some just do it better than the rest of us and identifying this trait in potential candidates is no easy task. I look at how candidates interact with all levels of our team during the hiring process and the demeanor in which they do it. I ask broad questions very specifically in an effort to understand the framework in which they view the world and themselves in it.
Thoughtful people make thoughtful companies. I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with some remarkably thoughtful people — both within my company and within the client organizations I’m proud to represent. The best of me is on full display when I’m surrounded by the best of them. So, take a good look around you and the people you surround yourself with today. If you see thoughtfulness, give it a big bear hug and never let it go. Because the moment you notice it is missing, will be the moment you need it most.