Bring out the best in people: Let them be seen, have significance and success

Have you ever wondered how to bring out the best in people? Do you have people who may seem partially engaged and you know they have more to offer? Have you ever been in a work environment and felt disengaged yourself but wanted to show up as your whole self? What do you think is working? Is anything missing? If you want to be a rock star in leadership, your employees need a few basic things to fully connect with you and their work:they want to be seen, they want a feeling of significance, they want to know how they are successful.

I’ll repeat that:

  • They want to be seen.
  • They want a feeling of significance.
  • They want to know how they are successful.

That might sound easy, but it takes a lot of attention, listening, consciousness and being present to our people to be able to deliver on those needs. And it requires much of our own self-awareness and some risk-taking.

After reading this article download this handy tool to keep these needs top of mind!

If you want to be a rock star in leadership, your employees need a few basic things to fully connect with you and their work:they want to be seen, they want a feeling of significance, they want to know how they are successful. Click To Tweet

Let me start with the last one first.

Knowing success

When we deliver our skills, talents, and knowledge at work we like to have a sense of efficacy. Reaching or exceeding a goal, or knowing we are delivering quality helps us with a sense of satisfaction and further motivation. How do your people know that they are being successful or meeting and exceeding expectations? Sometimes leaders assume their employees know what is expected and will just get it done. Sometimes employees have assumptions about their work and role, but it might not match the goals the leader had in mind.

What is the best way to make sure employees and leaders are in alignment around roles and success?

(Crazy idea here.) Talk to each other about it.

As leaders we can foster buy-in and commitment if we understand and let people define what success looks like for them. Too often performance reviews (if they are done at all) take the form of a generic checklist that has little to do with the real job. Beyond being infrequent and irrelevant, performance reviews focus on weaknesses, flaws, and missing the goal posts. Mutual, regular conversations about current and aspirational goals help with clarity, purpose, and success. Together leaders and employees can define goals that demonstrate efficacy and also provide a stretch in growth.

We want people to be able to stretch and grow. We don’t want employees, ourselves, or our businesses or organizations to stagnate. We all need to move out of our comfort zones. But if expectations are misaligned or overreaching, people will not know the satisfaction of success and leaders might become frustrated around missed expectations. If you want to explore a refreshing way to mutually determine goals and success measures read the article on Feedforward by Marshall Goldsmith (link is also below).

Connecting with team members and having them participate in goal setting and success measures will require a degree of letting go, risk-taking, and trust on the part of leaders. Yet it will reap rewards in creativity, ownership,… Click To Tweet

A sense of significance

For most of us, our work is not just a job. We all like to know we are making a difference as well as a living. We might ask ourselves: Am I having an impact on my business, my organization, my community? Can I change the world?

Those are big dreams. Many of us have them and so do our employees!  How do you help provide a sense of significance?

For most of us, our work is not just a job. We all like to know we are making a difference as well as a living. We might ask ourselves: Am I having an impact on my business, my organization, my community? Can I change the world? Click To Tweet

If you made the step of including your people in defining success, you made progress! Shared goals, shared ownership, and shared success is a key. As Bolman and Deal (2011) explained, significance comes from working with others, to do something worthwhile, to improve the world. Plus, for employees to feel significant the organization needs to be “ours” not “mine” or “theirs”.

Have you had deep conversations with your people about the impact of your work? What are your mutual values? How do your people find meaning? Do you slow down enough to collectively reflect on this – and – then celebrate?

A sense of significance is often an internal dimension fostered by us or our higher power – or collectively if we are lucky enough to connect with others in a healthy workplace, or home or community. The external dimension of significance can show up when we notice reasons to celebrate and have pride in our work and difference-making. Can you find rituals of recognition and celebration?  Even if (and especially if) working remotely, we should deliberately look for ways to foster the sense of significance we all need.

“The gift of significance lets people find meaning in work, faith in themselves, confidence in the value of their lives, and hope for the future. Work becomes more joy than drudgery, an opportunity to make a difference as well as a living” (Bolman and Deal, 2011).

When you foster significance in your workplace you give people a spark of possibility that they can carry with them. You create significance when you assume that people are ready to contribute, they want to be inspired and can be an inspiration to others (Zander, P. 125) and that will have ripple effects.

(If you are interested, in previous articles I wrote about Spiritual Intelligence as a contributor to business success. Providing and inhabiting a sense of significance is both a by-product of and contributor to SQ. It is all interconnected.)

When you foster significance in your workplace you give people a spark of possibility that they can carry with them. You create significance when you assume that people are ready to contribute, they want to be inspired and can be… Click To Tweet

Being seen – whole selves

As for being seen, what do you notice in employees when their spark is lit or when you see only dying embers? Do you know what is going on in their lives, or families? What do they enjoy? What do they care about? How well do you know them and see them?

Really see them.

Do you see them not just as employees, service deliverers, or widget makers but really notice who they are? Do you create conditions of safety so people can bring their whole selves to work? For years western culture has taught us to compartmentalize ourselves, so we have one work self, one home self, one family self, one spiritual self.

Society expects us to keep parts of our lives separate from others but doing that causes injury to ourselves and doesn’t allow us to bring our entire best selves to work. But, honestly, sometimes it just is not safe. I know. I have worked in an unsafe workplace for a passive aggressive (and sometimes overt) bully.  It kills the soul.  It is why I am motivated to help leaders and teams create safe cultures where they can be alive at work with their true selves.

But hey – leaders – here is the kicker. You need to go first. You take the risk of being real first. Ron Short wrote about the need to first risk in order to create trust (1998, p. 9).

Backwards, right?

I thought so too. But someone needs to go first to help set the tone and culture. If a culture of safety, being real, truth-telling does not exist, you likely are not getting the best out of everyone.

It’s not that it can’t start somewhere else.  Some others may have the courage to “lead from any chair” (Zander, p. 179) and when you make room for that you are creating success, significance, and a way for people to be seen.  Yet we as leaders have a huge responsibility to create a culture of safety that will allow for risk-taking and innovation.

Do you slow down enough as a leader to be a noticer of people? So often we race through life playing whack-a-mole with our to do lists and we miss seeing important things. Our people.

So often we race through life playing whack-a-mole with our to do lists and we miss seeing important things. Our people. Click To Tweet

Take a risk today by showing up with real honest authenticity. Please do not intentionally or accidentally create cultures where people feel they need to leave their soul in the glove box when they walk in to work (or in a bedroom drawer before they “commute” 20 steps to the home office).

I would love to support you and your teams in creating spaces for success, significance and being seen.

Reach out to me here for ideas on leading for success and significance.   If you want to explore inner dimensions that can support fostering a soulful interconnected workplace, check out my work in spiritual intelligence here.

Don’t forget! Download the free worksheet here on the things people need at work to help you reflect and act on those needs.

References and further reading:

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2011). Leading with soul: An uncommon journey of spirit (3rd ed.).

San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

https://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/try-feedforward-instead-feedback/

https://www.tablegroup.com/reimagining-work-for-a-community-in-crisis/

Short, R. R. (2000). Learning in relationship: Foundation for personal and professional success. Washington, DC: Learning in Action Technologies.

Zander, R. S. (2000). The art of possibility. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

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