Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Makes You So Awesome?

What makes you so awesome? This is not a sarcastic question, and it is not "tongue in cheek." I am choosing to assume that you are awesome.  (Clearly, you are committed to getting better at what you do because you are taking time to read this in the middle of your summer. That's a little bit of awesomeness right there!)  What we choose to assume about people matters.

What if you asked your colleagues what makes them so awesome?  When you ask this in all sincerity, what would your question communicate to them? What might their answer communicate to you? What might it communicate to any staff members who were listening?

Many organizations approach the improvement process by identifying weaknesses or areas of need and then working on those.  I remember learning about another theory in graduate school.  It's called "appreciative inquiry", and it represents a very different approach to the process. With this model, the strategy is to identify areas of strength and then work to capitalize on them.  Celebrate what is already awesome, and figure out how to replicate it. I think this approach always resonated with me because it taps into what motivates people: PRIDE.  When people feel good about who they are and what they do, they are much more likely to work harder.  Increased job satisfaction usually translates into increased job performance.

You have colleagues who are awesome, but they are reserved, and they go below the radar. They certainly don't walk around tooting their own horn.  We need to create opportunities for these folks to share their talents and passion.  You have other colleagues who don't have much confidence, and they don't view themselves as awesome.  We need to build them up. If we validate them relentlessly, over time, they will begin to view themselves differently -- and act differently.  Moreover, I've learned that when you assume good things about your colleagues, it serves to strengthen relationships.  It reinforces a culture of trust and cultivates mutual respect.  It characterizes the type of staff of which I want to be a part.

Try embracing this mindset as you are interacting with others on a daily basis.  Each staff member adds value; each staff member has something to offer; and each staff member makes the organization stronger because of their contribution.

Michael Jordan was a great basketball player in the 80's -- even winning an MVP award. But his team didn't start winning championships until the 90's.  That is when he started making the players around him better.  As we work each day to make a difference in our organization, we remind ourselves that the adults in the building are our most important resource.  We identify what makes those adults awesome; we validate that "awesomeness" at every turn... and we let them shine.  We're not interested in individual MVP awards; we're interested in team championships!

And if I run into you at a conference, I would love to hear what makes you awesome.