I was home alone with my three year old son, Mikey, and we were having races from the kitchen to the front door of the house. Of course he beat me every time! As I was congratulating him on his speed and strength he was proudly asking me to check out his big muscles and explaining to me that he’s very strong. At this moment Max, my six year old son, came home with my wife. Before they could blink Mikey ran up to them and started boasting about his speed and strength. As you can imagine, Max had to now show off his speed and muscles. He couldn’t understand that just because Mikey is fast, doesn’t mean that he isn’t. I guess that’s ok for a child but what if we acted like that as adults? Or even worse…as leaders?
I used to be so guilty of “pounding my chest” and speaking about the things I accomplished and the deals I won. Even as a young manager it was common practice for me to think that the only reason a sales rep won a deal was because of me! How ridiculous. Looking back at it now, I can’t help but laugh at how immature and insecure I actually was. I thought that by letting everyone know how amazing I was I would get people to need me, when in fact it did the opposite. I realized that people didn’t really care about my success, they only cared about theirs.
Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone where all they did was tell you how awesome they are. How fun was that for you? I’m guessing you wanted to jump out of an airplane without a parachute instead of sitting through another minute of that conversation. Now picture a time where all the focus was on you. The other person was genuinely interested in you, your thoughts, ideas, and stories. How good did you feel after that? It’s probably safe to say that you felt great after something like that.
It may have been the time I heard John C. Maxwell read the Indispensable Man poem by Saxon White Kessinger that really made me think, laugh at myself, and change my ways! If you never heard this poem it goes like this:
“Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego ‘s in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You’re the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you’ll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There’s no indispensable man.”
What a great and humbling poem, isn’t it? As leaders we must remember that our job is to build our people up, give them direction, motivate them, love them, care for them, be curious about them, and make them feel like they’re the most important person at all times who can achieve anything they try. When you’re a leader, one of the best things to do is give your people all the credit for your success and take all the blame for their failures. Your goal as a leader is not to get people to think more highly of you. It’s to get them to think more highly of themselves.
In return, you will have a team of loyal, motivated, individuals, who will be willing to attack hell with a water pistol if you asked them to.
Some of the benefits of having a team like this are:
- Reduction in turnover
- High, positive, energy
- Increase in productivity
- Personal and professional growth
It seems pretty simple but not many people abide by this practice. Why don’t more leaders act this way? I personally believe that all of us become so comfortable with our positions that we turn out to be afraid to lose our jobs. Many people believe that holding on to information is the right thing to do because if no one else knows how to do what they do, no one will ever replace them. The main problem with that mindset is that if you don’t train your people to replace you, they will eventually leave and you’ll stay stuck in the same place without an opportunity for growth. When I was in the Marines, we all had a job to train up the people who followed us; we truly had the “next man up” mentality. In the civilian sector things are much different.
If you’re not getting the results you’d like, I highly recommend thinking about ways you can make your people feel important and better about themselves than they do now. Try to understand what motivates them. What is their family like? What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? If everything went the way they wanted, where would they be in 12, 36, 60 months?
Most people won’t know the answer to where they’d like to be and that’s ok. This is a tremendous opportunity for you! The difference between average leaders and great leaders is that the great leaders help their people figure out where they want to be and then help them get there!
There is a reason you were chosen to lead a team and I believe that you can be the best out there if you put your people first and truly love them because your success depends on their success and a true measure of a leader is his or her followers!
“Live your purpose”
The Goal Guide