This past week our family buried our pet and companion, Freddie. After a long and good life, we laid him to rest in the field behind our home where he loved to chase squirrels and gophers and lie in the sun. As part of a little funeral for him we each told stories about what we loved and remembered about him, what he contributed to our family, and the impact he had on our lives.
What I’ve learned from dogs is that, like people, they give back what has been given to them. Good leadership – in families, communities, and workplaces – means ensuring that every person is given respect and a purpose so they will return the same to those around them. Having a meaningful role and a sense of contribution and significance gets people engaged in something worthwhile. By being needed, listened to, and taken seriously, individuals will feel validated and will want to contribute to the best of their ability. While it is up to every employee to understand how they make a difference, good leadership creates a place where people have chance to be their best, to realize their potential, and to be recognized for their achievements and for the impact that their contribution makes.
Three Ways Good Leadership Helps
Here are three ways you can help those you serve realize that they make an impact.
- Don’t wait for a funeral to give a eulogy. Be careful of the natural human tendency to take people – especially your best people – for granted. Make it a habit to express regularly what you appreciate and value about the people around you. It may feel awkward and phony at first, but keep at it until it becomes a part of who you are.
- Ask your employees what they know about the positive impact they make to the organization and team. They may need some coaching to come up with an answer, but know that if they can’t answer this, they are likely not engaged. Helping them affirm, for themselves, the difference they make, will always have a more lasting impact than simply being told.
- Discuss with your employees the difference between chores and contribution. Chores are the items on a job description. They are the daily duties that need doing to make an organization run. Contribution is what makes a difference. Contribution connects chores to the purpose of the organization. While chores provide you with a job, contribution provides a place where you belong.
Leadership only exists when people have the ability and the choice to not follow you. The art of good leadership is getting people to want to do what must be done. The path to get there is through helping people know the difference they make.