Now back to Andre for just a moment on compassion, there’s a little bit more to the story I’d like to share with you. After that third month the second time around when he had excelled and turned his life around and had affected so many others by believing in them, his parents came into my office. I had absolutely no idea why they were there, but I invited them in and asked them to take a seat. As they began to talk to me I understood why they were there, you see all they wanted to do was tell me thank you. And within the first two or three minutes they began to thank me and let me know they had been praying for their son for years, and this was the first time they saw results in his life and a turn around. Tears welled up in their eyes and began streaming down their faces. Here was a completely changed individual. Did I know that was going to happen? No, I did not. However, the results to this day still have left a fresh impression on my heart.
Next we’re going to move on to a review of the things that we’ve talked about. I’m going to start off with vision. With a quote out of my favorite book, “Without vision, the people perish”. That’s the best way to put it. I can begin to tell you example after example in personal and professional lives of people who didn’t have a vision and felt lost. Often times it’s knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and where you’re supposed to be heading that can make the difference.
Now I share this talk most of the time in a large group of people and get a lot of interaction with some exercises I do, but I’m going to use an analogy today. I want you to imagine an NFL football game where we are going to bring in the best of the best, the top players from all over the nation. We are going to put them in an arena with all of the spectators that we could possibly invite in the football field. Then we will ask them to play the best game they’ve ever had and we are going to go ahead and just let them go. Now here’s the problem, we haven’t given them a vision or plan of any kind. They are all going to be operating according to their own vision or their own plan. What do you think the game is going to look like? It’s going to end up being chaos. This is what I see oftentimes in organizations.
I consulted an organization recently and I asked them “What is your vision?” and he said “Well I don’t really know without looking it up, but we do have a vision written.”
“Oh ok, great. Where is it?”
“Oh, well it’s in the employee manual.”
“Oh alright, well do your employees know what it is?”
“No not really… you know they get it when they first start and then they probably just don’t even think of it.”
So here’s a case where they don’t even really know which direction they are supposed to be going in. But if those football players are all moving in the same direction towards the same goal with the same vision, how much more can they accomplish and how much more organized can they appear? That’s how critical and key vision is to your organization, and the fact that the people understand what it is.
The next portion of this is engagement. We’ve talked about engagement quite a bit. Having people be involved and offer solutions. You know, our people know a lot more than we give them credit for. Even the lowest rung (and I hate to use the term “lowest rung” because honestly I see people as parallel and all of us partners in the same endeavor), but just for the sake of example, the ones on the lowest rung can offer us insight and ideas that we may never know if we don’t ask them. They may have solutions that we’ve been looking for weeks, months, even possibly years. I’ve seen that happen as well believe it or not. We have to give them the opportunity. Whether we do that through collaborative team training, one-on-one situations, or employee surveys… whatever it takes to find out from them the solutions. Allow them to be a part of the answers.
The next one is encouragement. I know that there is a lot of people that need more strokes than others. We’re all different in that way, but if you go months or even years without ever saying thank you, good job, a pat on the back, high five, fist bump, whatever... you will see a difference in the way that people function. So take the time to do that, take the time to empower them, to encourage them, to enlighten them.
Then excitement. When I was in the 7th grade I joined the 7th grade basketball team. I have no idea why I did this because honestly I suck at sports, but I joined the basketball team and when I do something I do it. So I attended every single game, I attended every practice, and I became a professional bench sitter. I was very good at high fiving, cheering on the team and encouraging them, and being there on the side lines. I was very content to be there. The reason I ended up there was because I couldn’t make a basket to save my life. I just wasn’t any good at it.
So I got through the entire season, and in the last game and the last five minutes of the game, one of our star players twisted her ankle. Guess who they put in the game? Yep, yours truly. I took a deep breath, I stood up and started running back and forth across the court, but in the whole time I’m doing that I’m thinking to myself ‘please don’t throw me the ball… please don’t throw me the ball’. As luck would have it they did not throw me the ball, but they did score the winning point! You know what happened was they caught me up into the win in such a way that I felt like I was just as much a winner as the rest of the team. As those that had scored the baskets. There was this amazing victory celebration happening and I was in the middle of it feeling like a winner. Something happened on the inside of me in that moment and I decided I was going to be determined to get in the game and participate a bit more.
Do you have people in your organization who are sitting on the sidelines who are not getting involved and you’d like them to be more involved? Sometimes adding a little excitement and creating situations where everyone feels like a winner can make all the difference. So to finish my story, I did ask a gal to mentor me that summer and she agreed. She mentored me the whole summer and I ended up making some baskets and doing much better the next year. No, I never became a basketball superstar and I’m good with that. The point to this entire story is that when you give people the opportunity to be a part of a win in some way shape or form, and build some excitement in your organization, you will notice a difference with many of those who don’t seem to participate at this time.
So the last one is empowerment. We’ve already talked about that somewhat, but that’s a little bit different than engagement. As a matter of fact I think it’s quite different, because when I think about empowerment I think of not only getting behind people and supporting them, providing them the tools, but 100% allowing them opportunities to shine. Generally this would be applied to leadership. In the organization that I was building from the ground up and was there for 7 years, I ended up with about 6 support leaders, 50 volunteers, and 50 employees on a pretty consistent basis. So when I say empowerment I would get behind my team members and my support managers and I would give them all the tools they needed, all the support they needed, and the 100% that I would be there no matter what they did. Whether they passed or failed in the endeavors that they were given. So that’s what empowerment is.
I’m going to give you some specific and tangible ways in which you can engage your team. What I would encourage you to do at this point is to jot a few notes about how you can engage, encourage, excite, and empower your people, about how you could create vision for your people. Get your mind and your wheels turning a little bit on this and start thinking about ways in which you can make that happen for your team.