By Steve Moran
I am currently reading an old book, “Never Eat Alone, And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. It is one of the best books on networking and growing a book of business on the market.
Fundamental to the book are three premises:
- Be generous
- Be strategic
- Be bold
When we think generosity we tend to think money or presents with monetary value or big relationship connections. Those could be a part of the equation, but they are not things that really can be used or done every day . . . because of cost, logistics, and appropriateness. And even worse they have very little lasting value.
Ferrazzi talks about empowerment as being a powerful way to be generous. I agree.
If you are a regular reader, you know every Saturday I spend about an hour teaching a group of 5th & 6th-grade kids. It is something I am really passionate about and really good at. When we were meeting face to face I got lots of affirmation from kids, parents, and church leadership.
When the pandemic hit and we quit having church services, I was the first one to move to Zoom and have taught every single week via Zoom for about four months.
The problem I faced was that no one, particularly leadership, seemed to notice or care. I felt super unsupported and I said something about it, via text (this leader’s preferred way of communicating). The initial response I got back was disturbingly discouraging and unsatisfying.
I ended the conversation by saying, “Nevermind, I am sorry I said anything and I will never complain again.” As a result, I mentally readjusted my internal picture of this leader and my expectations about the leadership of this church organization.
This is Where the Story Get’s Good
In my case, I am really committed to the kids and serving them well. I won’t quit, and I won’t slack on how I teach. But in work environments (and mostly in volunteer environments) dismissive unappreciative leaders will 98% of the time discourage their best workers to the point of their either quitting or becoming mediocre or bad team members.
What made it really bad is that this leader thought my complaint was unreasonable, because they felt that they were doing enough to show appreciation.
There are critical learning lessons here:
- Whether a leader thinks they are showing appreciation and affirming enough means nothing (and yes, I recognize there are a few people out there who are a bottomless pit). The only thing that counts is whether or not the person being led feels appreciated.
- You almost cannot give too much appreciation to the people you lead. The more appreciation you give the more you and your organization will get.
Then Something Huge
I have no idea what happened between my text conversation and the leader, but something huge happened. As I do almost every Saturday as soon as I am done teaching, I load up my dog and head for the mountains to do some serious day hiking. It was past dark when I got back into cell phone coverage and my phone was blowing up with text messages. When I saw the count I thought it was some kind of SPAM bomb.
What this church leader did was to reach out to a bunch of families of kids I either have taught or am currently teaching, asking them to send me a bit of love. Most were text messages but a couple of kids sent videos.
This young lady actually moved to another state and continues to join us by Zoom.
It was perfect affirmation, perfect Empowerment.
One of the easiest ways to give affirmation is to empower people. Empowered people are happier team members and more productive team members. Empowerment can be big or small. Most often it starts like this . . .
- Thanks for taking the initiative and taking care of . . .
- You did such an amazing job at . . .
- This task needs doing, can you just go do it, in whatever way seems best to you (though I am not talking about thankless tasks like cleaning toilets or taking out the trash).
So here is my question.
No here is my challenge to you: Go empower someone this week:
- A friend
- A coworker
- Someone who reports to you
- Someone you report to
- A competitor
Who has empowered you this week?