This week I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at the headquarters of a local corporation. As I walked through their state of the art building, there was one area, in particular, that caught my attention. It was a mural. A simple, floor to ceiling mural on one of the main walls. Any visitor entering the room would be certain to notice it as it stretched from floor to ceiling. On it? There were photos of smiling faces, people laughing, and, generally, just sheer joy.
For someone unfamiliar with the company, (like me!), it would have been easy to assume that it was just another feel good opportunity for them to make their building seem like it was an open, welcoming environment for employees. Yet, as I quickly discovered, all of those life size pictures that spanned the long corridor actually WERE the employees and their families! I was so impressed that the company took the time to request pictures from their team members and then have those pictures formatted into a huge mural for everyone to see. How much do you think that it means to those members when they look up on the wall and see their own friends and family looking back at them?
After meeting with some of the leadership of the organization, it was clear that this wasn’t a ploy to make people feel comfortable. The motivation behind it was absolutely sincere. This company is reviving something that is becoming a lost art in the world of business, coaching, education, and even parenting; The Art of Valuing People. In this huge age of technology, speed and efficiency, taking the time to show gratitude or concern for those around us is diminishing. While I talk about this often with athletic coaches, it was so inspirational for me to see a large corporation take a step toward a such a personal and productive model of leadership. What is that model called? Simple. It’s the model of “Actually Giving a Shit.”
That sound so crude, doesn’t it? But, honestly, who has ever felt like their coach, boss, or teacher didn’t really care? How many of you have ever felt like your opinion wasn’t heard, your concerns were minimized, or your ideas were never considered? How many times have you felt invisible or replaceable at work, at school or on a team? It’s not motivating. Nobody is encouraged to show up, day after day, in an environment where they feel undervalued and invisible. Feeling “valued” is a basic human need. The importance of its impact cannot be overstated.
As a coach, manager, leader or teacher – how can you ensure that each member of your team does feel valued? Start with these three simple steps:
#1) If you are a leader, get to know your team. Every one of them. Literally. EVERY. ONE. OF. THEM. Each week I work with 170 athletes and I volunteer to teach speech and communications to another 100 teens at local high schools. I can tell you every single one of their names. For those who have been with me for a year or more, I also know how they learn best, what they like to do in their off time – and, often, a bit about their family life.
How? I work at it. It’s important to me so I make it my mission to learn. When someone becomes a member of my team, I take their picture. I memorize their name. I make a file for them and fill it with small notes that I accumulate when I work with them. If I am not personally coaching them, I ask my instructors for information. Why go through all of the effort? I want them to know that I VALUE them. I don’t do it as cheat sheet to make them think that I care. I do it because I do care and I have committed myself to becoming better at showing that I do. Your relationship with your team is like any relationship – you need to work at it if you want it to grow. Period. It really is just that simplistic.
#2) Be Sincere. Seriously. Just be Real. Stop with the fake platitudes, group holiday texts, or silly pre-printed and labeled birthday cards. I am talking about taking a real moment to inquire about someone’s life. When someone shares something with you, write it down (not in front of them!) as a reminder to follow up later. If someone shares a struggle that they have in life or at home – see if you can ease their burden a bit. At minimum, check in on the situation at a later date. Ask how you can help. Better yet, don’t ask. Just do it. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to do something extraordinary. Just be genuinely thoughtful. For example, find out what type of coffee someone likes and grab some on the way into work one day. If you typically walk past someone at work without saying hello – make an effort to stop and greet them. Ask them questions. Get to know them. Let them know that you notice them. If you know that a team member had a hard week, grab a card the next time you are at the store – or just write a sticky note of encouragement and put it on their desk. Those are just such simple things that can make ALL the difference to someone.
#3) Lastly, if you want to make a genuine effort to ensure that people on your team feel valued, it has to become embedded into the emotional DNA of your group dynamic. Let’s be honest – that doesn’t happen overnight. Establish a clear vision of what you want your team members to feel and how you think you can accomplish that. Be patient. Focus on changing yourself first – and then, slowlllly, begin to push for a change within the team. Expect that some ideas that you try will work, others will not. Change can be hard for people – even if it’s positive. Don’t be discouraged.
Look, the bottom line is super simple: If you want to change the culture of your team, the process cannot be a partial effort. To quote a great friend of mine, “To truly make an impact in this life, you are either all in or you are all out. You can’t pick and choose when you decide to engage because one day is easier than another.” Changing a team or business culture takes effort, courage, energy, commitment, consistency AND it begins at the Top. The good news, though, is when a company or a team can successfully create an environment that is truly inspiring, welcoming and inclusive, they will never be at a loss for folks wanting to be a part of it. People long to be a part of something positive, inspirational and impactful. They do! So – let’s get busy creating it for them!