Stand By Me: What Your Employees Really Need

One of my all time favorite songs is “Stand By Me.” Whether it’s the original version by Ben E. King or Bono and Springsteen or others, the heartfelt plea of the song never fails to get to me.

Here’s another one: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. Truer words were never put to music:

Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow.
But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.
Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend.
I’ll help you carry on,
for it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need
somebody to lean on.

Whether at work, at home or with friends, it’s not easy to find those who will stand by you. As a former psychotherapist and now as a life coach and executive coach in the corporate arena, I know that what is in short demand are those who will stand up for, stand up with and stand by others–when it’s really needed.

After all, when things are going well, everyone one is willing to stand by you.  As Oprah Winfrey said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You find out who your true friends are when the limo breaks down and you have to take the bus.”

In today’s world of work, it’s rare to find leadership that will “stand by you.” You know as well as I do that when the average company has gotten what they want from you, you are gone. You will be told to gather your stuff up and you will be escorted out by orders from the same leaders who have been telling everyone, “We’re a family.”

Now, I’m not putting it all on leadership. Employees have responsibility as well for standing by their teams, their managers and their companies.

But I will say this and I say it first to leaders: We need to stop talking about employee engagement and start standing by each other and start leaning on each other.

We have to learn how to do this, because it doesn’t happen easily.

To stand by each other and to lean on each other takes courage, trust and getting out of our comfort zones.

It takes open and honest communication for starters–and believe me, we think we’re a lot more open and honest than we are.

If you think I’m being pessimistic or over-stating the case, think again. When I was a psychotherapist, and now as a coach, every family and every company I’ve worked with had at least one “elephant in the room.”

There was something that wasn’t being talked about or dealt with. Why? Because too many people didn’t believe it was safe enough to talk about the “elephant.”

Why are there elephants in the room and why do we avoid the difficult conversations? Because we’re afraid to lean on others and we’re afraid to lean on others because we’re afraid there won’t be someone there standing by us to lean on.

The result is we keep our heads down and do our work. That’s what is meant when someone tells me “We get along okay, but the truth is we’re all working in silos.”

We can talk about culture, trust, collaboration and even happiness at work all day long. But if I don’t believe you will stand by me, I’m not going to risk conflict with you.

I’ll just keep my head down and keep busy doing my work.

The truth is, we can’t lean on each other if we don’t believe deep down in our hearts that those around us won’t stand by us.

Leaders, it’s time to lead. You have to go first.

How are you standing by your people?

If you want them to “lean on you,” to trust you, to follow you, you have to stand by them. Trust doesn’t come easily; it has to be earned. And you earn it by living the words:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me




Categorized in: , , , , , , ,