Why Leaders Go The Extra Mile

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By Jas Singh

“Thanks for coming over at late notice Jas. Flying back today?”

“Yes Oleg” I replied, “Plane leaves at 3pm. Really need to get going. Can I order a cab from reception?”.

“Leave it with me. You can use one of our drivers. And Jas…please send me your expenses, we’ll cover the flight.”

“No, honestly it’s OK Oleg…” I began to reply.

“Please. I Insist. It’s the least we can do. I’ve really got to shoot, but have a safe flight. I’ll get the driver to pick you up from reception and make sure HR follows up with you next week. Speak soon.”

Wow I thought. What a guy. Top class.

I had been in Copenhagen for the day. The company I had come to see was about to launch a search for a CFO and effectively I had been pitching for the business. We’d never worked with them before – it was the first meeting with a brand new client.

Oleg was the Chairman of the business and had met me personally in reception. He’d had a very nice lunch ready for me later that day. I travel a fair bit to meet new prospects and it’s pretty common for us to cover the cost of the initial trip at least. After all, I was the one trying to win the business.

But this was a first. Literally, the man had ensured that  everything was taken care off. And I’d only known him two hours.

He’d gone the extra mile.

Don’t get me wrong, £500 for plane ticket is small change for a company of their size. But nevertheless, it was the gesture – I’ve worked with some of the largest companies in the world, and never had I felt so well looked after.

Not only was I impressed. I was inspired. Inspired to help Oleg, to return the favour, to go the extra mile when working on this search…I wanted him to feel special.

Great leaders in all callings don’t just do what’s required. That is what most leaders do. No, great leaders go beyond expectations – they go the extra mile.

Here are some reasons why great leaders insist on going the extra mile.

It makes them stand out

In today’s competitive world, good is not good enough. Sometimes even great won’t get the job done. To stand out, to outperform, you have to be outstanding.

Technology and globalisation is raising the expected standard. As consumers we have endless choice, with the opportunity to move to another provider quicker than ever before. Functionality, price and track record is no longer enough – what really counts is customer service.

Leaders who want to stand out understand this. They realise that the better they look after their partners – whether these be vendors, existing workers, shareholders and customers – the more loyal they will be.

Taking the call outside working hours. Checking in to see how things are going for no reason. Helping another even if it isn’t your direct responsibility.

Going the extra mile is the ultimate competitive edge.

You get what you give

When I started working on the CFO search, man did I want to show my appreciation to Oleg. I ensured we had our best researchers on the project. We worked twice as hard to screen harder and get the search completed quicker. We were even as flexible as possible around terms.

You see, he’d made me feel special. By going the extra mile for me, I wanted to – in fact really wanted to – go even further for him.

Great leaders understand that whatever you give, you receive. Although Oleg had genuinely wanted to help me of his own accord – not so that he could get something in return – the fact is that reciprocity is a fundamental part of human nature. Studies have even proved it. It’s one of the rare traits that is unique to humanity.

Go the extra mile for others, and they’ll go twice as far for you.

Provided…(and this is the difficult part)…..you do it genuinely…

It inspires other’s around them

Generosity is infectious. When someone helps you, not only do you want to return the favour but often it inspires you to help others for no good reason other than to continue the habit. That’s why charities often end up hiring those who were once homeless themselves – through receiving help, people are often inspired to give back to others.

By far the most powerful aspect of going the extra mile is the knock on affect it has on others. Leaders who go the extra mile empower everyone around them. It creates a culture of doing more that what is required, of continuously improving and making sure that everyone is kept as happy as possible.

For leaders setting a good example by going the extra mile themselves is much more effective than any set of targets, guidelines or training sessions.

Great leaders inspire others to be great.

Conclusion

Going the extra mile takes more effort – but the results are always worth it.

Hiring managers should ensure that in hiring the leaders of the future they focus on those who go the extra mile. Who just go that little bit further.

Next time you’re doing something, will you go the extra mile?

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