Follow the Leader
It never ceases to amaze me how powerful we are. We can lift someone’s spirits, make someone’s day, fuel someone’s belief in themselves with a simple phrase or action that says, “I see you and I appreciate you.”
Being able to communicate that you “really see” and appreciate the people around you, is an important leadership skill. I’m reminded of an interview I read recently in the NY Times of Career Education Corporation’s (former – this was originally written in 2009) CEO, Gary McCullough. When Gary was a platoon leader, the commanding general of the division came around to interview some of the platoons in the field. It was a cold, rainy February, and the weather had been bad for several weeks. The commanding general stopped and asked one of the drivers what he thought of the exercises they were doing and the young driver responded, “Sir, there are some people who think this weather is perfect for infantry operations, but I personally think that 75 and sunny would be better.” The commanding general then asked, “How can I make it better for you?” to which the private replied, “Sir, I could sure use a Snickers bar.” Several days later, a box of 39 Snickers bars showed up with a note that said, “I can’t do anything about the weather, but I hope this makes your day a bit brighter. And please share these with your buddies.” And Gary said in the interview, “on that day, at that time, that entire platoon would have followed that general anywhere”.
And isn’t that the goal of great leadership? That people would want to follow?
This general’s small personal gesture that said “I see you”, his act of appreciation, made all the difference. By simply appreciating the contributions, talents, and positive attributes of the people around you, and taking personal action to communicate your appreciation, you can experience richer relationships, better service, loyal clients, and dedicated and passionate employees.
My three rules for appreciation are:
· Look for the positive in the people around you and personally acknowledge it. We all want and deserve to be “seen”. Our friends, family, co-workers, clients, suppliers, employees. The “big boss”. The woman at the grocery check-out counter. Your child’s teacher….. The list goes on. It’s important to appreciate others, and it’s in the communication of your appreciation where the dividends lie. What can you do to show your appreciation? It doesn’t have to be big to make a difference.
· Make it real and specific. A false compliment doesn’t count. Appreciation needs to be genuine or it can actually have the opposite effect. And the action you take needs to be person-specific. Identifying something unique about them, acknowledging a specific behavior or action, or recalling a specific conversation (the Snickers). Something that says, “I see or hear YOU”.
· Practice, practice, practice! When you’re busy and stressed out it is easy forget to appreciate the very people who make your world work. The ironic thing is, the very act of showing appreciation can defuse the stress and strengthen your relationship. The important thing is to continue to ask yourself the questions, “What do I appreciate about this person? What can I do to let them know?” Don’t wait for the mood to strike. Practice making it a practice.
As a leader, you are tremendously influential. A simple act of appreciation can make an enormous difference in the lives of the people around you, in your experience of yourself, and in your results.
What act of appreciation can you take today, that would lead people to want to follow you anywhere?
©OnStage Leadership, 2009 (re-posted in 2014)
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!
Want to be a leader others want to follow? Join us at our upcoming session of OnStage Leadership: Dallas, TX – July 24; NYC, Fall 2014 (date tbd).