1. Genuinely care about others.
Don and I were scheduled to deliver a program together when my dad ended up in the hospital and I made an unexpected trip out of town. We got the session rescheduled with the customer to a later date. A couple of weeks later, I was at Greystone, our executive retreat center, with a customer group, when Don arrived for his time with them. I saw him pull up and headed down the hall to greet him. As we met in that hallway, we said hello to each other, I got my usual hug around the shoulder, and then he repositioned himself so that he was a little farther away and looking me squarely in the eyes. And he said, “How’s you dad?” I was amazed. Here was this very busy and very important man who had so many irons in the fire, so many demands on his time, so many people vying for his attention. And he cared about me and about my dad, whom he had never met. He listened as I told him that my dad had made a full recovery and was home doing very well. He told me he was glad, and I knew that he really was.
2. Be a lifelong learner.
I was in the Learning Center at Greystone one afternoon while the Milestone participants were out on the ropes course. Don arrived early for his dinner and discussion time. As was his custom, he inquired about the group and what they had been talking about. I told him we had introduced a new video into the program and the participants really liked it and had some good conversation after they watched it. He asked me how long the video was and then, of course, how long I thought it would be before the group returned from base camp. Since the timing looked promising, he sat down in a chair facing the screen and asked if I would please play the video for him. He loved it and added a quote from it into his vast catalog of insights.
3. Accept and use feedback so you always improve.
Given his willingness to constantly learn and to try new methods, Don changed things up on a regular basis. One change that he had made and appeared to be sticking with seemed to me not to be working as well. I debated whether or not to say anything to him. I mean, after all, this is Don Soderquist! I decided that he would want me to. So, one day when I was in his office, I cautiously asked if he would be willing to hear a piece of feedback from me. Of course, he said yes, and he listened intently. He thanked me, and I left. A few weeks later, I introduced him to a group of participants and noticed during his session that he had taken my suggestion to heart. As he was leaving, he asked me, “How was that?” Not in a flippant sort of way, but in a tone that said he really wanted my opinion. Wow, what an amazing example of humility and continuous improvement.
4. Put action behind your concern for others.
During one particular evening session at Greystone, a participant's question caused the discussion to enter an area that was a bit sensitive for a couple of people in the group. A few remarks that were made could easily have left those people feeling discouraged. Later that evening, I got a call from Don. “Sandy, I need to come back out and talk with [those two people]. What time does the session start in the morning? I’ll come before it. I don’t need long, and I don’t want to distract from the program. But I need to come out and encourage them.” He met with them in the Learning Center while the rest of the group finished their breakfast in the Morning Room. He could have had a relaxing breakfast at home, thinking “I hope they’re OK”. But that wasn’t Don. He was concerned, so he took action.