Everyone Wants to Feel Worthwhile

Everyone wants to feel worthwhile. There is little doubt about that fact. Everyone knows that. I suppose there is someone who might be surprised by that but they must live in some alternate universe. 

Leaders know that their people want to feel as if they matter. Great leaders know that it goes beyond a want, it is in fact a basic human need. 

But knowing that and doing something about it are two very different things. Knowing your people need to feel worthwhile is useless unless you use that knowledge to actually take specific actions that help them feel worthwhile. 

Specific actions. Strategic actions. Intentional actions. Consistent actions. 

Showing your people that they matter, that what they do makes a difference, is not a once a year, or once in a while activity. Ensuring that your people know that they are worthwhile and demonstrating exactly how they are worthwhile, requires a high level of intentionality. 

I literally recommend that leaders put a reminder in their calendar to stop whatever it is they are doing and at least once a day connect with one or more members of their team to show them how they are worthwhile to the team. To explain to them how their skills and abilities add value to the organization. Human beings need to know that they matter. They need to know that they, and what they do are worthwhile. 

I think almost everyone reading this knows that, the question is what are you as a leader doing about it? 

I’ve spoken about this often enough in front of groups and with individual leaders to know that there is actually some hesitation with revealing a person’s true value to an organization. I’ve had “leaders” tell me that if my people know how much they are really valued by the company they will want to be paid more or they may leave. 

Yep, that’s possible. Here’s what else is possible, actually more than possible, it’s even likely that if your people don’t think they matter, if they don’t know that they are valued, they WILL leave. Often, they will leave for less money. 

But here’s the real reason for helping your people feel worthwhile: it’s the right thing to do. 

If you need a more compelling reason for helping people feel better about themselves and what they do then this isn’t the blog you should be reading. But I wish you luck in your leadership endeavors, you’ll just find them much more challenging than they need to be. 

 

People Matter

If you lead people then you undoubtedly know that people matter. What you may not know is how much they need to know that you know they matter. We humans need to know we matter almost as much as we need air to breath. If we don’t see, without a doubt that we matter then doubt is what we will do. We’ll wonder if we really do matter…to anyone.

You can tell people everyday that they matter and still leave some doubt. If you really want them to know that you know they matter then don’t just tell them, show them.

Showing that someone matters doesn’t take one bit of extra effort, it merely requires a little thoughtfulness and effort that you should already be putting forth.

It’s unlikely that any true leader would intentionally tell their people that they don’t matter, but it happens unintentionally all too often.

For instance, nothing says “you don’t matter” more than picking up a call or texting while you’re talking with someone else.  You know how you feel when someone does that to you…well guess what, most everybody feels that way too. Ignore your cell phone or put it away completely. If you absolutely have to take a call, apologize, explain why and make it quick. 

Be present with whoever it is you’re talking with. Make them feel as if they are the most important person in your world, because in that very moment, they actually are.

Never forget the value of appreciation. Think about a time when you did something nice for someone and they never even acknowledged it with a simple thanks. There are many many times during an average day to recognize someone with a thank you. Many leaders actually think it’s a sign of weakness to thank a person who works for them. It is not, as a matter of fact, Authentic Servant Leaders seldom miss an opportunity to show their appreciation for a job well done. Don’t overlook the power of those two words and how they recognize a person.

Honor every commitment. Everybody knows undependable people. They say they will meet us and they never show. They are constantly canceling lunch plans at the last minute or not confirming their plans to attend until the very last second. The message they send is that their schedule is far more important than yours. If that by chance describes you then you need to change that habit. Show the other person they matter by honoring all commitments that you make in the time frame that you make them. Doing anything else is telling the person that they don’t truly matter.

You will never meet a person who doesn’t matter. It takes only a little forethought to let them know that you know, without a doubt, that they matter to you.

How to Feed Your Ego

Do you have an ego? If you’re reading this then it’s likely you have a pulse and if you have a pulse then you most certainly have an ego. 

That’s not a problem, the problem comes from not understanding that having an ego is as normal as breathing. 

As a leader you must remember that your people have egos and their ego needs to be fed with recognition and feedback. Hungry egos lead to unproductive, disengaged followers and no leader can afford that. Consider feeding your people’s egos to be an investment in them and your organization.

While feeding your people’s ego you must also remember that you have an ego too. Just like everyone else’s it must be fed. You may be working for a limited leader who doesn’t offer recognition or feedback. Maybe you’re leading from the middle of the organization where your efforts are largely hidden. 

In either case, it may be necessary for you to feed your own ego. Having a hungry ego does not make you weak, it doesn’t make you selfish and it doesn’t make you an egomaniac. It simply makes you human.

Here are a few ideas on how you may feed your own ego.

Discover satisfaction wherever and whenever you can. Be satisfied knowing the real reason for the success of your team or the success of a project. If you know the reason it’s a safe bet others do as well, whether they acknowledge it or not. 

Accept the compliments, wherever they come from. You may not be receiving compliments from your boss or leader but hey, a compliment is a compliment. Accept them graciously because if you’re hungry enough it doesn’t really matter where the food is coming from.

Understand the value of what you do. Oftentimes people aren’t appreciated until they are gone. That happens when their value isn’t understood. Whether others understand the value that you bring to the organization or not you always have the ability to understand it yourself.

Now… a couple of caveats. 

A healthy ego is a lean ego. Your ego needs to be fed but it doesn’t need to be stuffed. Never eat more ego food than you need to be healthy. While having an ego is not a problem having a great big fat ego certainly is!

Make sure what you’re ego is eating is actually ego food and not waste from a bull. If you lie to yourself about the value you bring to the organization or your accomplishments then your ego begins to smell like the bull. That’s no way to lead!

Keep your ego well fed and your career and relationships will be healthy too.

The Importance of Recognition

People crave recognition. They crave recognition almost as much as they crave air to breath or water to drink. In fact people NEED recognition to carry them through the difficult times that all humans will eventually face.

Needing recognition is not a weakness, it is just a part of life.

I know lots of people who say they don’t need recognition. They are “self-fulfilled.” Well they may need a bit less recognition than other people but they are kidding themselves if they don’t think they need any recognition from anyone ever. 

Humans have this thing known as an ego. If you have a pulse then you have an ego. It’s not bad to have an ego so long as you keep it under control but it is a problem when we fail to recognize that everyone else has an ego too. 

What many people forget is that an ego sometimes needs to be fed in order to stay healthy. One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to feed the ego of their people. Just like with a real human diet, small consistent “feedings” are far more healthy than binge feeding once in a great while and then starving for nourishment in between. 

Those small consistent feedings are called compliments, feedback, and coaching. If you’re a leader who starves your people of ego food then you are missing a big piece of leading. 

None of this is new for experienced leaders; they know their people need recognition and feedback. The mistake they make is believing they can provide that recognition and feedback when “they have an extra moment” or in their “free time.” 

Look at your calendar, go ahead, look right now. Exactly when is that “extra moment” or “free time” on your calendar?

Most leaders don’t have extra time or free time in their day. That means the time required to provide recognition and feedback must be baked into their schedule. It must be planned and intentional. It needs to be more than “once in a while” because a “while” can be a very long time when you’re a busy leader.

If you really desire to grow your people then you need to give them the recognition they NEED in order to  grow. When was the last time you purposely stopped what you were doing to give well deserved recognition or feedback. If you don’t know the date and time then I would submit to you that it’s been too long. 

Your team’s collective ego is hungry… feed them!  

Do Your People Know?

I’m sure your people know what they’re doing. The question is: do your people know that what they are doing matters? Do they know that they do important work? Do they know that they are valued? 

As a leader, you need to be certain that they do. Knowing that what they do matters will make a big difference in how well they do it. When they know their role impacts others they become better team players and will “out perform” their own expectations.

Never critique or criticize your people without also telling them why it matters that they perform at a higher level, how their efforts “fit” into the big picture. Don’t wear out your leadership by constantly pushing your people – let them know they and their job matters and they will push themselves a bit too.

Your people need many things to perform up to their potential and none of those “things” is more important than recognition. Consistent, intentional, meaningful, and sincere recognition. If you’re a leader and you can’t find a reason to regularly recognize your team members then you must have the wrong people in the wrong positions. 

By the way, “nice job” is a cliche, not recognition. Recognition is specific, it offers evidence to support why the recognition is being given. It requires sincere thoughtfulness to provide genuine recognition. Don’t just recognize, invest the time to recognize correctly. 

Telling yourself that your people don’t need recognition or don’t deserve recognition is the excuse of a lazy leader. If you’re not giving your people their due then YOU need to step it up and actually lead.

I know you’re up to it, you know you’re up to it. You know how important it is. You know it’s the right thing to do. 

The only question is…. will you do it? 

Recognizing the Power of Recognition

People need to know that they matter. They need to know that what they do is noticed. They need to know their efforts, whatever they are, are not in vain. 

Authentic leaders seldom miss the opportunity to recognize their people. When there is no opportunity to recognize their people then they create one. For authentic leaders recognizing others is not a part time job, it is not something to “fit-in” or something to do in their “free-time.”

Authentic leaders are intentional and strategic with their recognition practices. They use recognition to reward, coach, and motivate their people. They know that true recognition goes deeper than the basic “nice job” and that it requires thoughtfulness and meaning.

Authentic leaders provide authentic recognition. Authentic recognition comes in two parts: the “what” or action being recognized and the “why” or how the “what” has made a difference.

Lazy leaders might toss out a nice job while crossing paths with a team member but an authentic leader will invest the time to make the recognition meaningful and lasting. They are very specific as to “what” was a nice job, why it was noticed and how it made a difference. This requires that an authentic leader put thought into the recognition of others. 

Leaders who seldom provide recognition to their people are missing an essential trait of leadership and that is almost certainly being reflected in the commitment level of their followers. Many factors can affect the compensation and benefit levels a leader can offer their people. Still more factors can affect the work environment a leader is able to provide. There are just any number of factors that a leader cannot control. That is why authentic leaders don’t let the controllable become uncontrollable.

Recognizing your people is completely within your control. You can choose daily to affirm their importance or simply let them wonder if they really matter or not. 

When you choose affirmation you choose authentic leadership. You choose to build people and you choose to build your organization. Making an intentional effort to recognize your people encourages them to push themselves. They know what they do matters and that the more they do the more it will matter. 

Authentic leaders know that there is a direct link between recognizing success and the amount of success available to recognize.

Recognize your people today and they will ensure that there is even more success to recognize tomorrow.