Everyone that works for us has a sign on his/her chest that says, “Make Me Feel Special.”

The human spirit is amazing. The power that transforms and delivers is sparked by the human spirit. A crushed spirit is devastated. An emboldened and lifted up spirit will soar. Remember when we dreamed with gusto and no strings attached? Who believed in us? Who made a difference for you? We all have an inner voice that wants to be heard, wants to be relevant, and wants to be recognized as special. Sadly, that spirit is not fostered equally among children and young adults as we grow up. One of the great inequities of human existence is the inequity of belief in the child, belief in the young adult, and the presence of a leader/parent/coach that sees it and expects it. By the time we are professionals, we are walking wounded from the gaps of our past. We are flawed, ambitious, hopeful, and in need of good mentoring and coaching. We still have dreams. We want to be told that we are special. So as business leaders, we have a powerful responsibility to foster growth, develop talent, and grow our people. If you want to be an elite company, then develop your people’s spirit and help them feel special.

“If you want to be a leader in these United States of America these days, you better get excited. Nobody wants to follow a dull, disillusioned doggone crybaby!”

For the purposes of this post, let’s please accept a few assumptions. We are assuming the right people are in the right seats. We are assuming our people fit the culture and the core values, and that they are full of tenacity and inner energy to succeed. Let’s set those as given for the remainder of this post.

Here are some ways we can foster our people and make them feel special:

1. Do not accept or exemplify mediocrity. Mediocrity is a cancer. It dulls people to blah. It takes the flavor out of salt. Mediocrity is the death of excellence. Take a clear and simple stand that mediocrity is just not good enough. Your best is what is required. Call it out. Let others call it out when you begin to accept mediocrity. I have always championed a culture whereby mediocrity is just not good enough, here. We will expect and do more. Once you instill this in your culture, it will take root and run wild. People want to be good and win, but they need to be coached to be on a winning team.

Do you want to know a secret? If you help someone get that little bit more from themselves than ever before, then you have honored the sign they wear on their chest. “Make me feel special.”

2. Be excited! Get up and charge hard every day and encourage your coaches and team members to do the same. Why not? What is the alternative? I love Art Williams, and I learned so much from him during my late teens and early twenties. He inspired me. I remember him saying many times over his closed-circuit satellite television channel (pre-Internet), “If you want to be a leader in these United States of America these days, you better get excited. Nobody wants to follow a dull, disillusioned doggone crybaby!”  I just loved listening to Art. He inspired. He coached. He was tough. He brought out the best in people.

3. Your job as a leader and coach is not to be superman or superwoman. You cannot fill a gap in someone else with yourself. You have to structure right. You have to hire right. You have to lead, manage and hold accountable the right way. Given that, you are simply asking for that little bit more from your team. That little bit more effort. That little bit more focus. That little bit more desire. That little bit is how we crush mediocrity. The difference between the highest performers and the good performers is just a little bit more, relentlessly. Almost is not the same as getting it done. So as the coach and leader of your enterprise, you and your leaders are trying to get that little bit more from every person. Do you want to know a secret? If you help someone get that little bit more from themselves than ever before, then you have honored the sign they wear on their chest. “Make me feel special.”

If we have led teams our entire careers, wouldn’t it be the ultimate compliment if our coaches, players and team members said of us, “He/she saw the best in me and helped me achieve it. He/she made me feel special.”

4. Those of us who have built strong and high performing leadership teams know that we must hire our weaknesses. This also applies to all of your managers and leaders. Have you assessed the strengths and weaknesses of every leader in your enterprise? There are so many personality and profiling tools out there that it makes one dizzy. It is not so hard to perform a delegate and elevate exercise on your leaders. It is an EOS tool I am happy to discuss. It works. We need to make sure our people know how to let go of the vine in a winning way for their talents, their role and their goals. Delegation and elevation must be taught and coached. It is not easy.

5. Eradicate passive-aggressive behavior from your leaders and coaching. Be open and honest. Get the issues on the table. We have discussed this in previous blog posts, and it relates to a solid meeting pulse and meeting agenda. When we interact with our team, we need to be vulnerable, honest, human and relatable. We are not infallible. We are successful because we learned how to get leveraged and provide tremendous opportunity to others. We are still broken, ourselves, if truth be known. Do not be afraid to be human. Once we benchmark every one of us as having strong suits yet needing improvement, then we can outrun mediocrity and push each other.

6. Stop your brain and listen. We get so wound up with our energy and focus, that we sometimes walk past our people and half listen. This is a vast opportunity cost. We can all be better at this. Talk to your team. Listen to them. Care. We may not be able to deliver on every want and need. We may not even know how. We can learn to listen better and care more about the person. That is a person sitting there in front of us. This person has dreams. They believe in us, or at least they did at some point prior to now. Do you see the sign they are wearing on their chest? It says, “Make me feel special.”

In closing, this is one of the most exciting components of being a leader. We are shepherds. This may seem contradictory or mutually exclusive to some of the hard ass stands I take on making tough choices, solving the people problems, sticking to best practice, and shooting the cobras. Truth be known, it is the same. Leaders must make the tough decisions to protect the brand, the culture, and the good people. Leaders must foster growth development and successfully deliver the answer to that sign our people wear around their necks. “You are special!” This needs to be our message to our team. You are special and that is why you are here with us. Now let’s go do something great together. We expect a little bit more. We drive you a little bit harder. We hold you accountable a little bit more. Because you are worth it. When we win together in this model, it is so much more meaningful.

If we have led teams our entire careers, wouldn’t it be the ultimate compliment if our coaches, players and team members said of us, “He/she saw the best in me and helped me achieve it. He/she made me feel special.”

Until next week, cheers!

 

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