Eight months into my retirement, my former assistant sent me a message reminding me of a critical day in someone else’s life that she thought I might want to acknowledge.
No, she doesn’t work for me anymore and she did not have to make that effort. She did so because she is the kind of team member who is always looking for opportunities to add value. Not only that, she values other people. Staff who consistently add value and value others are very valuable to an organization.
How do we as leaders value others?
People are beating hearts and breathing souls. They are not an employee number, a dollar amount, a number on a scale, an age, a student identification number or a Social Security number. They are not defined by their SAT score, grade point average or how many hours billed to the firm. No, none of these identifications or measures are the sum of a person.
Here are 5 ways to demonstrate value to those you lead:
1. Speak encouraging words.
Value others by telling them how special they are. Identify their unique gifts and talents and offer authentic praise when they use those gifts. Do not assume those you lead know that you appreciate them. No one tires of hearing their leader’s praise for contributing to the organization’s success.
I once had a leader who, every Thanksgiving Day, sent me a note to tell me that he was grateful for me. I was always impressed that he took time on his holiday to show gratitude to his team.
2. Notice the details.
While achieving results is critical for an organization, notice the little details of the methodology as well. Compliment extra effort that goes above and beyond expectations. As a high school basketball player, I needed to work on my speed. Every day after practice, I would run extra sprints alone after everyone else had left to shower. I thought no one noticed, until my coach recognized me for it at the end-of-season banquet.
3. Afford opportunities not usually available.
As a leader, you have lots of opportunities for special privileges. Share them with others. Recently, one of the leaders at my son’s company had an extra pair of tickets to an NBA game and he gave them to my son. He immediately translated the kind gesture into confirmation that his company valued him.
4. Reward fairly.
When a staff member helps you become successful, help her achieve her goals and reward her contributions. There is certainly a time for team recognition, but the talent on your team wants to be rewarded for individual contributions, too. Leaders who value individuals by rewarding results fairly and frequently often garner loyalty uncommon in today’s marketplace. Most importantly, understand what motivates each member of your team and match the reward to the individual.
Not long ago, there was a member on my team whose greatest motivator was both flexibility and added responsibility. I looked for opportunities for him to be able to achieve his goals with less structure and at the same time earn opportunities for more responsibility.
5. Serve those who serve you.
Perhaps, the most important way we demonstrate how much we value others is to serve them. Great leaders know that serving is crucial to success as a leader. Don’t ask others to do things that you are not willing to do and that you have not demonstrated. Serve humbly by waiting in the back of the line, eating last and choosing the back seat. When vulnerability is required, go first and set the example. A leader’s greatest moment of influence is when he is serving.
When I first began my career, I was on a chartered company flight, and even though I was very junior in the organization, my assigned seat was in first class. Soon after I was seated, the owner of the company walked past me and took his seat in the economy cabin on the plane. That small act made an impression that I have carried with me all of my career.
When you value the members on your team, then they will value those whom your organization serves. When those you serve feel cared for and valued, then they will return again and again to the place where they are appreciated. The circle becomes complete because customers who feel valued will treat your team respectfully and kindly.
Leading from the heart and valuing others creates a culture that captures the commitment of your team and the heart of your customer.