I recently facilitated an end-of-year meeting with one of my clients. I allocated time for each person to share what they appreciated about every one of their colleagues. We were meeting virtually, and each person was invited to put their affirmations in a group chat so that the recipient could go back to it later and reread it. As the facilitator, this was about them, not me, so I wasn’t even thinking about asking for their feedback.
But just before we ended the meeting, someone said, “What about Priscilla?” Then they all began to type in their appreciation for me. I must admit that when I read it, I got a little emotional. I didn’t realize the impact that my consulting had on them over the past two years. It also motivated me to dig deeper, continue growing personally and pour into the leaders and organizations that I’m honored to serve. It energized me, tapped into my strengths and reinforced where I can add value.
Think about when someone shared with you the positive impact your work had on them and gave you a sincere and transparent compliment on a job well done. How did it make you feel? Maybe you knew you performed well, but the way they framed it took your emotions to a whole new level. Or maybe you took your role for granted, and they re-grounded you on how you made a difference in their personal and professional lives. Either way, it was like filling up your tank with gas, giving you a jolt of electricity and providing the motivation to keep at it. It brought a new level of self-awareness of your gifts and abilities.
In a world where self-criticism and pressure to perform are common, it’s easy for us to get stuck in a swirl of negative thoughts flooding our minds. It takes focus to be positive with ourselves and with others. And as leaders, we can easily fall prey to focusing on the performance gaps in our team members.
Instead, the opportunity is for us to focus on what they do well. This means leaning in to observe where they make the strongest contribution to the team or organization and affirming that. Use affirmations to let them know that we see their gifts and talents. This isn’t a step reserved just for performance check-ins or only with direct reports, but should be done with anyone, on-the-spot when something happens. It inspires confidence in them to “boldly go” and to be the best they can be.
As leaders, you will also observe team members struggling in some areas of their work. Recognize that we all get distracted by beautiful trails veering off the path we’re on. We glimpse lush scenery in the distance and feel tempted to explore it. This can look like the potential for bigger roles, more money or greater power—but that may not be our pathway.
If we instead focus on finding the road we’re supposed to be on, the one where our talents shine, we’ll find that it takes us to the place we’re supposed to be. This means leaning into purpose, spaces that are aligned with our gifts. Your role as a leader is to help others tap into and value their abilities and to support them in discovering their purpose.
Invest in growth
I recently read an article in a national newspaper about a former colleague. She’s held C-suite roles in two Fortune 100 companies and is now the CEO of a billion-dollar company. She credited several leaders who she worked with in the past for recognizing her gifts, promoting her and giving her new experiences to further develop them. They had an exponential impact on her success. Absent their influence she would have been good, but not great.
Leaders who see the value in others and recognize their capabilities build engagement and relationships. I’ll never forget the people who believed in and took a chance on me during my career. Organizations that are trying to build connections, particularly in a hybrid work world, must remember the importance of leaders getting to know their people deeply. Know their desires and help them to polish their gifts. Help them to also recognize the paths that will be too rocky for them, that may have a steep cliff beyond the beautiful greenery or even a dead end around the curve.
Most importantly, let others see your belief in them. This public transference of trust will model the importance of valuing others’ contributions and encourage team members to gravitate to the roles where they perform best. And by now, you should realize that this transfers to bottom-line results for the company. Affirmations of others’ strengths are investments in their growth. This 2023, make it your goal to see and acknowledge the value in others.
Read our interview with Amy Spurling on The New Way to Support Your Employees and Build Success.