One Useful Strategy for Becoming More Useful
Peter Drucker encouraged leaders to ask, “How do we make ourselves useful?”
Daniel Pink’s research indicates three drives motivate us.
- Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed.
- Mastery: the urge to get better at stuff.
- Purpose: making a contribution.
Combining Drucker and Pink:
Leaders are useful when they honor the contribution of others.
- Explain the positive impact others make.
- Highlight the positive qualities others have.
Explaining positive impact is good. But, highlighting the positive qualities that got the job done is exponentially better. For example …
Saying, “I’m impressed with your creativity when you solved our production problem.” is better than, “Thanks for helping us meet our production targets.”
People get lost behind production pressures; we make them cogs in the machine. Overcome “cog mentality” by refocusing on people.
Refocus on people by honoring them more than production.
Leaders who say, “It’s all about the people.” and honor production over people are inconsistent hypocrites. I’m not suggestion you stop honoring production. But if it’s all about the people, then focus on the people.
If you honor them, they will produce.
When you honor the talents and skills of others, they will honor your wisdom with loyalty.
It’s impossible to honor positive qualities too much as long as you always connect honor with current, specific examples of performance. Always include performance. Excluding performance lowers honor to a compliment. Compliments are good, but honor is better.
You get what you honor.
What are some useful ways to honor people?
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This seems like such a simple answer, but if it is as simple as it seems, why is it such a difficult concept to practice?
Your comment reminds me of business leaders who ask the same thing. Rather than digging into why honoring others is difficult, I suggest they just begin by honoring one person a day… practice makes perfect. 🙂
Thanks for jumping into the conversation. Cheers
Dan, you put your finger on something that’s an artifact of the industrial age: our tendency to manage people like things. Machines are assets, people are expenses, at least in the ledger. The truth is, you can manage equipment and money, but people need to be led. I blogged on this a few days ago.
I think one of the key ways you honor people is by valuing who they are. When you don’t want to know about people’s lives outside of work, that communicates that you find them uninteresting, or unimportant outside of what they can do for you at work. If you show interest in them as people, you value them as individuals. Not only will you find ways to personalize their work (honoring them further) but you will have better relationships. The alternative is to make them feel anonymous, like the only important things about them are the things you taught.
Again, invest in the relationship.
Absolutely Greg, it is the Interactions among people that count, not the Actions at people. Nurture the Interactions and the Actions will take care of themselves.
I recall my mentor Russ Ackoff once said to a HR manager, “Think of your people as Assets instead of Resources. You take care of your assets, you use your resources.”
Hi Jim, just a quick note: Love the sentence, “Think of your people as assets instead of resources…”
Human assets rather than human resources.
…although even the word ‘asset’ can be quite emotive: as someone considering being an employee after a number of years of working for myself, my greatest fear is exactly that I will loose all my independence and ‘belong’ to a boss!!
Wonderful comment. You nailed some key ideas. Your focus on relationships reminds me of Jeremie Kubicek’s statement: “Relationship before Opportunity.”
Love your post “Carrots and Sticks are for Donkeys” http://hippocketleader.blogspot.com/2011/11/carrots-and-sticks-are-for-donkeys.html
An example; Today is Veteran’s Day ! Have you “honored the Veterans in your tribe !”
Thank you Larry. Great idea.
Useful ways to honor people: Like Greg says, when you get to know people you find out what drives them and you learn about who they are at their core. I would say that in addition to finding their skills and talents, find out what core character qualities (Integrity, trustworthiness, etc.) they possess and tie that into the conversation as well.
Powerful addition to the conversation. Thank you.
Marlene wrote: Stop Workplace Drama. It’s a personal development book that will help you take responsibility for your life. http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Workplace-Drama-Complaints-Excuses/dp/0470885734/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321023635&sr=1-1
Your great question reminds me of the 5 major ‘threats’ that undermine leaders being: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. This is according to David Rock in his book ‘Your Brain at Work’ (Wiley). Given that challenges to any of these have the potential for adverse reactions, it makes sense to me that honoring these aspects of the human condition would apply to your discussion to-day. That is, by doing/sayng things to support and not undermine a person’s status (identity), the need for certainty, etc.
Love this angle on our useful conversation. Honoring people from multiple directions makes perfect sense.
And thanks for you book Cinnie. I’ve scanned it and it’s on my pile of books to read. I’m looking forward to it.
“Conflict Management Coaching” by Cinnie Noble
This is such a good reminder. Sometimes we all get so busy and focused on performance and getting things done, that people get lost. I would add that honoring needs to be authentic. Compliments that are insincere, fluffy, or used to make up for something else that is missing are almost worse than no recognition at all. Has that ever happened to you?
Dan, I love your blog and read it everyday. Plan on sharing it at a Santa Fe Leadership Center conference this week!
What a great post! It’s about people, not things. Right on! About our Veterans, I purposed this morning before I came to work to thank the veterans in my workplace. As a Veterans myself, it feels good when someone says “thank you for your service.” So, I want to say again for those Veterans that are reading this, THANK YOU so much! Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
I really like the concept of people as assets instead of as resources. Emotional intent and investment is necessary to truly honor those people who are important to production. Compliments are hollow if you don’t really know what sounds honoring to the person you pay the compliment. In order to say what needs to be heard, an authentic relationship must be in place, and that takes energy and time. MMF
The following was just came across in my information flow that I think is worthy of your time. The piece is entitled “Leadership is a Gift Given by Those Who Follow”. It was presented on Harvardbusiness.org.
Leadership Is a Gift Given by Those Who Follow
by Grant McCracken
Here is General Mark Welsh, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, speaking after lunch at the Air Force Academy a few days ago.
The video is 50 minutes long, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing. It may be the finest piece of public speaking you will hear this year. The general is everything we want a speaker to be — companionable, funny, illuminating, truth-telling, and spellbinding.
He’s also emotionally forthcoming. A new age warrior? Or have soldiers always talked like this? If General Welsh doesn’t move you to tears several times, it may be time to check with your cardiologist.
But this is more than public speaking. It is an act of leadership. The general goes beyond Hollywood heroism. He is brutally candid about war and completely unforgiving in what he demands of his audience. Does the senior manager still level with his or her audience in this way?
Welsh’s biggest theme? Leadership as an act of service. As the General says, “Leadership is a gift. It’s given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.”
Words for every leader to live by.
Larry Coppenath – I know for some people reading this will see words like military, warrior, 50 minute video; and immediately write it off. Don’t Do It, trust me this is one of the most enlightening, inspiring talks about what “Leadership” really means that you might ever see. I highly encourage you to watch it to the end. You will come away with an understanding Leadership you might never get otherwise. Thank You Grant McCracken for sharing this with us.
Dan, great contrast of honor vs. compliment. For those who know the importance of complimenting, you’ve opened the door to take it further and turn it into honoring someone.
I also like your definition of usefulness.
I recently read a blog post by Jeff Sauro about Measuring Usability (measuringusability.com/blog/usefulness.php), where he nicely contrasted the difference of ‘usefulness’ vs. ‘ease-of-use’. Translate that from things to people, and I think all leaders can learn to value the usefulness of people vs. trying to make them easier-to-use.
Hi Dan. Human capital is always the most valuable asset any corporation has and the most difficult to amass, sustain and keep. The challenge exists because too often we focus on production and the bottom line and forget the “invisible” forces that perform and execute. My favorite line from Camelot “Worship the King but love the man” rings true and underscores the need to not only recognize people but love them for who they are. In our fast paced world rushing to get ahead we must pause and take time to listen to the footsteps all around us and discover how blessed we are to work with friends. As Ben Zander says, “look into their eyes and see their smiles”
That was wonderful! We are people who have coined “pairs of hands, no. of jaws, eyeballs” seperating the body parts from the body and the person does not even come into the picture:)
Someone once told me to give “strength-centered compliments”. It takes a bit more thought but, like you said, it’s a much better way to battle “cog pressure”.
My apologies ! Here is the real link to General Mark Welsh’s talk at the Air Force Academy.
Larry, thank you so much for sharing this incredible speech, one I will keep and revisit frequently especially on gloomy days when I may feel lost and confused. I watched this with a group of friends (my staff) and there was not a dry eye in the room. His many messages all resonated with us. We are each other’s gift and we know each other’s story. The gift of leadership cradles awesome responsibility and we are fortunate to have a flag to embrace and a nation to love.
We live in such a fast pace technology driven world, that lends itself to cold and gray, impersonal communication and recognition. The only way to add color to our ever graying world is to put your heart into messages with specific info on small accomplishments. Then tie these into your organizations larger goals. This works in my classroom, especially with previously unmotivated students. It also works on the gridiron with football players who don’t get recognition through the media. The offensive lineman (true cogs behind the face of the team) live for this type of recognition. The key to effective leadership is to use all tools in your belt, and honoring contributions publicly and privately re-energizes players, and the team as a whole.
This reminds me of something I constantly come back too, “people work for people, not money.” A few summers ago I took my family to the Eagle’s training camp at Lehigh University and found myself watching the “hurt” group of athletes condition themselves. This “hurt” group of athletes was made up of some big name players like Brian Westbrook, Macho Harris, etc… I started watching them performing their rehabilitative exercises and they were majorly slacking off, I mean not even giving half effort. They were just going through the motions while the instructor was leading them. Then the big boss started walking across the field, not Andy Reid, but had to be somebody to be somebody higher up then him. Then all of the sudden the athletes started performing like million dollar athletes, conducting their exercises flawlessly. This led me to the conclusion that “people work for people, not money.” It doesn’t matter how much you pay your employees, could be a million dollars a year, they are still going to perform the same.
People work for people for two reason, respect or fear. Obviously in this case it was out of fear because if they really respected him, they would have been doing what they were supposed to do even when he wasn’t watching. Is this true?
You asked, “What are some ways you honor people?” Borrowing from some months spent in an elementary school, I now regularly ask the high school faculty with whom I work to offer “appreciations.” We have been doing this now for five years at the end (or sometimes beginning of faculty meetings, and it has changed the tenor of our communication, relationships and meetings. We no longer focus solely on the aspects of our work that are not working and we recognize and acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of our colleagues. It is not a panacea but it is a useful step in creating a more productive and positive climate.