This piece was written for ALL Leaders and Aspiring Leaders in and outside the workplace. It was inspired by two conversations, on the same day, with two very different leaders: the most respected and talented CEO I’ve known and, a lovely couple who were brand new parents.
Offered following the story below, is the quickest and most simple thing you can do as a leader to make the lives of your people better!
Very Different Stories: Same Approach
I was on a plane travelling for a coaching session with the CEO mentioned in this story; sitting beside an excited couple with a beautiful baby girl. Our conversation led to my being a coach, a father and in a “past life” a clinician for thousands of families, children and youth. It wasn’t long before both parents were excited to chat about their hopes, dreams, but mostly the 100 plus fears they had for their child. I listened. And just before the plane landed they asked, “If you can give us one piece of advice as parents, what would it be?”
There was no thinking required for my response, at all – I looked at both parents with a gentle and very serious disposition. I said, “The one thing? Never let her forget or, ever have-to guess whether she is valued or valuable. No matter what you’re worried about or what happens in her life; that is within your control.” Both parents let out what seemed to be the biggest sigh of relief, smiled, sat back in their chairs and right then, placed their hands on her beautiful sleepy head.
Flash forward 7 hours to a professional coaching session with one of the most talented and respected CEOs I’ve known. He was worried about his leadership team; wondering if he was “taking good care of them”. He began to guess whether they knew how valuable they were to him, the company and their clients. I simply said, “Don’t guess. Tell them.”
He responded immediately by listing the challenges and barriers to doing this and why it was difficult; the work; the optics; the time; being so busy, etc., I respectfully and gently interrupted. I said, “Please stop. Did you know that in the time you listed the reasons for not telling your people that they are valued and valuable, you could have done what you’re saying you don’t have the time for”?
He was surprised at the simplicity of this idea. He turned to his computer and sent a message to all his leaders, thanking them for their commitments and their efforts. As a matter of fact, he took the opportunity to send a mass e-mail to more than a thousand employees. It said, “Hello everyone. I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate you, your commitment and your hard work. It means a great deal to me, your leaders, the company and the important people we serve. Thank you, so much.” Both messages took him approximately 1 minute to write and send.
Several weeks later, I was consulting in one of the company’s satellite offices – could you guess what the hype around the office was? Apparently, the CEO sent out an amazing e-mail appreciating all their hard work. Wow! The impact was huge and they were still “buzzing” after 2 weeks!
Being Valued – Research and Your Own Experience
Millions of articles support the powerful and profound impacts that positive reinforcement, appreciation, acknowledgement, validation and recognition have on ALL human beings!
Regular messages conveying that we are valued and our efforts valuable improve feelings of self-worth, confidence and contribute to a sense of self-efficacy. In addition to this, such communications enhance social, emotional and mental functioning and overall health and well-being. Affirming experiences these messages create, improve performance and strengthen individual and group resiliencies for current and future stressors at work and in life.
As a human being, you don’t need research to tell you about the astounding effects of being affirmed, acknowledged, appreciated, validated and/or recognized.
The Sad News
Unfortunately, as humans, you also know what it’s like to not feel valued or valuable; hopefully it wasn’t for too long. The negative effects of this experience are also profound, but in a very different direction.
Not feeling valued or valuable can lead to self-doubt, confusion, stress, loneliness, anxiety, isolation and yes, even serious depression; which can have negative and sometimes detrimental effects on health, well-being and overall performance.
A stark reality today is, that by the millions humans indicate that one of the biggest things impacting them, their work and their life is a lack of appreciation and/or recognition. Why is this sad? Because the negative implications are massive and, what makes it even more sad is that whether someone feels valued or valuable by their leader, is 100% within the leaders control.
The Great News
Hope resides in two important facts. First, we already know that as a leader or aspiring leader, you want the best for the people you are responsible for. Second, whether those people know or feel valued or valuable by you, is within your control.
The people we are responsible for should never have to guess, or wonder, “Am I valued?” or “Is what I do valuable?”
The One Simple Thing You Can Do Now!
The great thing about acknowledging, affirming, validating, appreciating, recognizing or reinforcing someone or someone’s efforts and accomplishments is that there are hundreds of ways to do this.
Future articles will provide more than 100 practical strategies for leaders; however, for now let’s start with just one; possibly the simplest, with the greatest impact.
Take a moment right now, directly or in a message, to tell someone you are responsible for, that you value: a) them b) something about them c) their efforts d) one or more of their accomplishments e) all of a, b c and d. You choose.
Just to let you know, I stopped writing this article following the last sentence, to send out text messages to 9 people. I let them know that I appreciate and value them and all the great work they do with me. I used voice-to-text – it took 1 minute and 30 seconds.
A Tip to Ensure Success
Unfortunately, many of us were not taught how to do what seems in theory, so simple. Therefore, if it seems more difficult than it sounds, that’s ok. It gets easier with practice.
If you are not sure how to demonstrate or communicate what is being encouraged in this article, consider this:
Ask your people. Yes! Just ask them.
You can’t go wrong with telling the people you are responsible for that you want the best for them, for their development and for their work and life. You can follow that affirming message up by asking, “Are there ways or things that I am doing or can do, that would help you know and feel that I value you and/or the things that you do”?
Be patient, because this might be new or strange for some people. Many may say, “nothing, everything is fine.”. However, when they know for sure that the request is genuine and that their response will be honoured, they will share what they need from us.