‘I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’ – Maya Angelou
This quote by Maya Angelou instantly struck a chord with me, so much so that I’ve begun to try to figure out why it had moved me so deeply:
Have you ever walked away from a meeting or a visit with a friend feeling worse than beforehand? I have! I can remember how, years ago when I was 7 months pregnant, I was about to leave from work at 6 PM, looking forward to attending my Lamaze class later that evening. At that exact moment, my boss called me back into his office and asked me if I would take care of some urgent business for him. Pointing at the clock, I explained to him that I had to leave so that I would not miss my class an hour later, but reassured him that I would start on it first thing the next morning.
His response: “It does not matter as long as it is finished before tomorrow morning at 8:30.” Suffice it to say, hearing his request made me feel uneasy. I was angry, could not understand what would motivate him to act in such a way, and wondered if he truly had my best interests at heart. Even now, years later, I can still remember this feeling. Ultimately, it was not really what he had asked that bothered me, but rather how.
Have you ever felt that way too? Perhaps after you had visited a friend who tried to put you on a guilt trip? Or when you left the office of a colleague with a seeming hidden agenda? Or when your boss gave you the idea that your colleague is his/ her* favorite employee? How did you feel as you left? Which emotions did this trigger?
3 IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
Let us turn this situation around and look at ourselves. Imagine you are a manager. Do people feel better after they have been around you? Have you done or said anything which makes them feel stronger after they leave your office? Ask yourself the following three questions:
- Have I given them confidence?
“Do not forget to inform X.” “Have you thought about Y?” What are you implying when you ask such questions? Exactly, that you are afraid that your employee has not thought matters through, that you do not trust he can get the job done. This lack of trust might have a negative side-effect: by not putting your trust in him, you could make him lazy: why would he bother to go that extra mile or check his own work when he knows you are going to be checking it anyway?
There is nothing more motivating than when someone has faith in you.
You have probably experienced this phenomenon too: that one teacher who believed in you, or perhaps the manager who trusted you with an important task? If someone has confidence in you, won’t you work even harder to live up to his expectations? Employees who feel trusted, who do not feel micromanaged, tend to direct themselves; they want to live up to the trust you have bestowed upon them. They take that extra step. Having confidence in people empowers them. Plus, you strengthen your own leadership qualities.
In order to give confidence
- you have to be both courageous and empathic in equal measure. à You need courage to speak your mind, reveal your feelings and to dare to give feedback. You need empathy though to be able to take other people’s thoughts and feelings into account.
- good intentions are necessary. à Do you want to empower people, to help them grow? (Or do you only want to expose their weaknesses?)
- you need to understand/ know people. à Who can handle this job; who has the right knowledge and experience? It is important to know if the person you want to empower, can do that task ànd wants to do the task. In other words, you have to learn to trust wisely.
- you need to be able to manage expectations. If you have clearly agreed upon the goal, the conditions, the means and the consequences of a task, plus in which form and how often the employee must give an update, then you can leave him to his own devices. He knows what he needs to do. In this way, people will manage themselves based on mutually shared expectations.
So…do you empower?
Do your employees get enough chances to show their skills, make recommendations and implement plans?
Do you trust that your colleagues are working on what needs to be accomplished, with the right intentions?
- Do they feel valued?
“The celebration of one success launches a thousand more” – Adrian Gostick and Chestor Elton
I have been doing professional coaching work now for more than 18 years and have noticed that feeling appreciated is a key motivation for most people. Those who do not feel valued become frustrated and feel sad or redundant. As a result, these employees will not try as hard, only do what is asked, and therefore not make the most of their talents. They might even detach themselves from their work, or in extreme cases, burn out.
Appreciation works in 2 ways. People truly want to contribute; employees sincerely want to do their best work for both you and the company. It is essential then to value their contributions and to be clear about what you expect from them. After all, if you do not unambiguously state what goals they should try to achieve or which actions you are expecting from them, how can they fulfill your expectations and do the task well?
You can show your appreciation for them in several ways: compliment and encourage them, take their input into account, consider their ideas when decisions must be made and by taking their questions, ideas and concerns seriously. How do you do that?
Have you empowered them?
Imagine you have a good idea. You go to your boss and tell him your idea. He reacts with interest and asks you to write a business case. You sense danger because you have gone through this same process before, but you begin working on it anyway. As you write, you become increasingly enthusiastic; it is undeniably a good idea. After two weeks, you proudly turn in your business case to your boss…only to hear nothing more about it.
Much of how employees experience our leadership depends on which feelings we inspire in them. Therefore, we do not always need to hold their hands; actually, it is better not to micromanage! People-oriented leadership is about empowerment. Helping people reach their full potential, sharing information, teaching them how to take risks and make their own decisions, trusting them with challenging work, et cetera. All the while, you support and facilitate them from the sidelines when necessary. Ultimately, it comes down to how much of your own power you pass on to them. By investing some of your power into them, you are in fact strengthening your own leadership.
How do you invest in your employees?
Sometimes we think that we can do certain things well, but is that necessarily true? Are you curious about how your employees or colleagues regard you and how much they value you? How have you scored on the previous three questions? Try asking your colleagues for feedback. 360° feedback could be a place to start. In this way, their comments will provide you with an accurate reflection of yourself.
Remember: perception is reality.
So… even if you cannot place their comments, you cannot avoid them: other people do perceive you in such a way. So, you must deal with it.
From this feedback, you can devise points of improvement which will make you a more effective leader, whether you have help from a coach or not. Consequently, you will grow even further as a leader.
Are you curious about how you make people feel? Do you want to value and empower your team? ICF certified Coaches are trained professionals who can help you on this journey and empower you to become your best self as a leader.
To find the right coach for you, make sure to use the Find a Coach feature on the ICF United Kingdom chapter website.
If you need support on your organisation’s and leader’s coaching journey, do contact us at ICF and our team of volunteers in the UK will be happy to help.
* Where “he” is written “he / she” should be read
Inspired by the content of Stephen M.R. Covey & Randy Conley