Every human being that works has to know that what they do matters to another human being. – Patrick Lencioni
I’ve shared this story before, but when I was first elected to the city council in my hometown, I thought I was a pretty big deal. One day, my grandfather pulled me aside and sat me down on the porch swing of our family home, where 6 generations have lived. As a side note: one of my favorite things about that house is the porch swing because when you look up, there are probably 25 holes on each side of the chain where, over the years, the motion and friction of the swing has made the bolts come loose and our family has had to reattach the chains into different holes. My family history can really be told through those holes…
But back to the story, when my grandfather pulled me aside and sat me down on the porch swing, I knew an important conversation was coming. This time he said, “Let me ask you a question. If the guy who picks up the trash doesn’t do his job for two weeks and you don’t do yours for two weeks, who do you think people are going to notice first?”
It was meant as a rhetorical question – obviously people weren’t going to notice me, because in reality I wasn’t that big of a deal, despite what I wanted to believe. He continued by saying, “Always be conscious that you are lifting up people who are doing the real work. That is your most important job, and the one that will surely be missed if you stop doing it.”
And of course, he was right; leaders have to be really conscious about recognizing others and stop worrying about lifting themselves up. So many people on our teams today are motivated by simple acts of recognition, meaning no matter what you’re doing now, you can always afford to get better at this. Frankly, it doesn’t have to cost much; the most important thing is that the recognition – in whatever form – is meaningful. And, by doing this well, it will undoubtedly pay dividends back to your own leadership.
A leader in the Southwest Michigan community who does this really well is Jim Heath, who leads as the president of Stryker Instruments. Over the last decade of living here, I have met hundreds of people who’ve worked for Stryker Instruments. I love to ask them what their favorite part of their job is. Almost invariably, they reply with something along the lines of, “Jim Heath knows my name.” That is a powerful testament of Jim’s leadership and is a function of simple appreciation. It is a function of a great leader taking the time to say, “You are important to me and to this organization.” It costs absolutely nothing, but time and effort. And you couldn’t pay for the amount of engagement it creates.
Genuine, authentic appreciation is the greatest incentive, form of care and love that you can give someone. Most leaders that I know who are truly appreciative of others get just as much energy and fulfillment out of those simple acts of kindness as the recipient.
Question: What simple forms of recognition could you adopt into your practices to step up your leadership this week?