Friday, April 29, 2022
In my work with clients, at the end of each engagement, we conduct an exercise among the members of a firm’s leadership team wherein each member of the team takes a moment or two to tell each individual in the room what they mean to them personally. It is not uncommon for these sessions to become emotional. One I was a part of this week, in Hot Springs, AR, was particularly so. At one point, a member of the team shared with the business leader that the things he was told had so profoundly moved him that he felt like a new person, ready to take on anything, adding that there was not one thing he wouldn’t do for his boss.
See, the thing about this little exercise is that in it, people say things that they never have and maybe never would have to people that they’ve worked alongside for years – decades in some cases. It puts people in a position to let others know that they care about them, that they are valued, and that they matter; and for many people this is knowledge enough to run through a wall or walk over broken glass for the person who said it. See, people don’t do things for others because they have to; they do things for others because they want to, and almost always because somebody made them feel like they were loved and had value in the world. But people won’t always know these things if their leaders don’t say it out loud. To be certain that people know that we care, we need to tell them.
And that’s the point for the week.
Assuming that others know how we feel is one of the gravest errors we as leaders can make – right behind believing that love has no place at work. Most leaders routinely make both mistakes, and as a result, they sub-optimize in almost everything they do.
Too often, whether at home, at work, or in our communities, we fall prey to the notion that those closest to us, those we spend the most time with, and those we see every day must know how we feel about them, for no other reasons than they are closest to us, spend the most time with us, or see us every day. Surely, we think, they must know how we feel. And besides, we go on, we’re not comfortable with all of this lovey-dovey, soft-skill stuff. We’ll just slip them an Amazon gift card one day next week, we tell ourselves.
But people don’t want Amazon gift cards. They want gifts from the heart – words that say you matter to me, I care for you, and I couldn’t imagine doing this without you. More than anything they want to know that they are loved, and they long to actually hear it said out loud.
Our engagement-ending exercise is so powerful because it is the closest thing most of these organizations will ever get to experiencing love in their workplace. And once experienced, it becomes transformational. People will do almost anything for those they love and will likewise do anything to avoid hurting them or letting them down. Such is the result of simply opening one’s mouth and telling people that they count for something – that they are loved.
Organizations that trade on love are able to accomplish extraordinary things because those in them want extraordinary things for the other human beings that work there. It is no more complicated than that.
And the key to unlocking the extraordinary power of it all is no more difficult than telling people what they mean to you, that you love them, and that you never want them to leave. Because if you do, they won’t.
So, tell them.
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