What are our deepest human cravings?
To feel that we are important. That we have something valuable to contribute. That we matter.
Tony Schwartz summed it up well in an HBR blog post called, The Only Thing that Really Matters.
“How we’re feeling — and most especially whether or not we feel acknowledged and appreciated — influences our behavior, consumes our energy and affects our decisions all day long,” Tony wrote.
“Our core emotional need is to feel valued,” he continued. “Without a stable sense of value, we don’t know who we are and we don’t feel safe in the world.”
That reminds me of a great TED talk by Simon Sinek, called Why good leaders make you feel safe.
(And as an aside, if you want something engaging to do during your commute, get the TED app and listen to a playlist of talks on a subject of interest. Work Smarter, Before Public Speaking and How to be a Great Leader are favorites.)
Back to Simon. He talks about the importance of creating trust among people and fostering a safe environment as a way to build up people and organizations.
The result? “When we feel safe inside the organization,” Sinek says, “we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.”
He describes leadership as a choice, not a title. Looking after your colleagues makes you a leader, Sinek says.
That can sometimes mean acknowledging a hard truth. The principal of my son’s school wrote a poignant email to parents the day that people across the country heard of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook.
“The randomness and unfairness of this event remind us the deeply troubling fact that we can never fully protect our loved ones,” he wrote. He named our unspeakable fear. Which made it just slightly less awful, to be reminded that we can’t, in fact, control everything. Even if, as humans, we would like to. And we strive to.
What does this have to do with communicating effectively with employees? With winning their hearts and minds? With showing people that they matter?
It means listening – to hopes as well as fears. It means building trust. It means showing by your actions that people are important. That they have value. That they are needed. And that they have an opportunity to be part of an inspiring vision that is bigger than themselves.
Two people I know are really good at this.
First is Joe Bosch, DIRECTV’s CHRO and my boss. He gets the HR team together frequently, and a tradition is his presentation of a “Bosch toolbox.” For an individual who’s done something notable, Joe invites them to the front of the room and reads his personal note on the box, which is filled with fun tools.
Second is Andy Bailey, who leads employee recognition on my team, with a focus on our frontline employees. Andy’s mantra to “start every meeting with recognition” is something I’m proud to experience every day as part of our culture at DIRECTV.
When the Myers Briggs personality types came up in conversation yesterday, it reminded me how many thinkers, versus feelers, are in leadership roles (myself among them as an ENTJ). And thinking is good for many important activities – strategy, operations, analytics and metrics, to name a few.
But people have to deliver on those strategies. And they’re more fired up to take that next hill if leaders and colleagues are touching people’s hearts as well as their minds. So people know they are appreciated. That they have value. That they matter.
That you matter.