Mary Kay Ash says, "Whenever I meet someone, I try to imagine him wearing an invisible sign that says, 'MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT!' I respond to this sign immediately, and it works wonders". She hit the nail right on the head. Leaders often overlook the importance of emphasizing their people over profits and assets. This can create a workplace where people are treated as objects rather than people with potential. If you have ever been treated this way, you know it is not a good feeling.
As a leader, no matter how much you have to do, you simply must take the time to make your people feel important. The fact is, everyone wants to feel important in any organization. They want to be more than just a number on a payroll. The key is: Treat your people special because every person has greatness within them that just shouts to come out. Yet it's often the responsibility of the leader to bring this out of his/her people.
Before you can make your people feel important, first you have to actually believe that every person you lead has the ability and the potential to achieve something great within their lives and your organization. Only when you have this in mind you can begin to validate your team. Often leaders feel it is not their job to make their team feel "good." Which is precisely why every leader needs to understand making their people feel important is what will motivate them.
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, said, "Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish". People do what is expected of them. If you expect your team to perform well, they will. Leaders who appreciate their team and believe in their intentions will get the most from them.
The key here is: Outstanding organizations are composed of outstanding people. Successful organizations are successful because of the people within them. Former General Motors CEO Alfred Sloan said, "Take my assets – but leave me my organization, and in five years, I'll have it all back." Every organization is created with people, and if you remove the people, then you are removing its ability to function effectively and successfully. Ensuring your people feel important and appreciated will not only make your organization more successful it will create loyalty.
Here are three ways you, as a leader, can make your team feel appreciated, valued and important:
Mao Tse-Tung remarked, "We should never pretend to know what we don't know, we should not feel ashamed to ask and learn from people below...Be a pupil before you become a teacher." Listening to your people shows you respect their ideas, their voice, and their opinions. When you don't listen, you lower the other person's self-esteem, and when their self-esteem is reduced, their motivation and productivity deflates.
I can clearly remember a time in my life when someone delegated a particular task to me and I was happy to do it. However, as I was working, the person who gave me the task came in and took over. This made me feel upset and inadequate, like I had nothing to contribute. But this was not true. I had the skills, but I was never given the authority to use them. In other words, responsibility without authority destroys a person's self-esteem. Here's the key: Responsibility with authority makes people feel important.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner surveyed their followers to discover how leaders made a difference in their lives. This is what they found, "…they [their leaders] frequently tell us to believe in ourselves and encourage us to reach beyond our own self-doubts, to realize our own greatest strengths more fully. They treat us in ways that build our self-confidence, making it possible for us to achieve more than we ourselves initially believed possible".
There is not one person who does not have a desire to be appreciated. But we must remember- If you want to be appreciated, you must first express your appreciation of others. For example if you express appreciation for your team arriving on time, whether it is to a meeting, to the office, or an event, you will notice they will rarely ever be late for anything again. Express to your team that you appreciate their integrity, politeness, and neatness. If you look within your team you will find many things you can show appreciation for.
But don't stop there. Tell Them- Don't keep it a secret! Margaret Cousins correctly stated, "Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary". If you are not continuously letting your people know how much you value and appreciate them, you are not doing your job as a leader.
Write a handwritten letter, this makes it more personal. You don't want your team to say things, "We only get feedback from our leaders when things go wrong." When you catch your people doing something right, praise them immediately. Charles Schwab said, "I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among [my team] the greatest asset that I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in [people] by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambition, as criticism from his superiors".
This should be part of your everyday conduct in the workplace as a leader. Make it point of your leadership style to go out of your way to show appreciation for the people you lead. Remember: Organizations are not built with assets, they are built with people. Start praising your people more today!