“If I see you as hurting, I’ll try to heal you. If I see you as broken, I’ll try to fix you. But if I see you as valuable, I’ll serve you.”—John C. Maxwell
Do we view others with a mindset to fix them? To improve them? To make them more like us? Do we see them as projects? Or, instead, do we approach others with a mindset to add value to them?
It takes effort to develop a relationship—regardless of whether it’s with a coworker, family member, friend or acquaintance. We become closer to these people in increments, through multiple conversations in which we delve deeper to discover the other person’s values, gifts, talents and dreams. With each discovery about how they are uniquely wired, we discover more of the one-of-a-kind creation they are. This empowers us to value them even more effectively. So, how do we develop a leadership mindset that empowers us to pursue others, get to know them and truly add value to them?
GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY
First, valuing people requires that we step out of the limelight in our own lives. It’s often put this way: Think of yourself less and think about others more. While so many leadership voices and cultures revolve around pushing to be the best—to get the win—real leadership is being intentional to help others win. It’s using what influence you have to help others succeed.
Sometimes, our own insecurity is what’s holding us back from prioritizing others. When this is the case, comparison is often the culprit. It’s time to stop comparing yourself to others. Just as they are uniquely designed, there has never been anyone else like you. Once you rest securely in your own identity, you’ll have the space and confidence to start championing others. This is where relationships really begin to flourish.
However, when we refuse to get out of the way, we won’t add value to people—how can we, when we don’t truly value them? Instead, we may manipulate them for our own purposes or goals or try to conform them to our own image. We definitely won’t serve or respect them!
Mother Teresa put it this way: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Doesn’t that sound like a coworker, boss or friend you’d treasure? You’ve likely experienced kindness like this at some time in your life. You felt truly valued, because the other person valued you and added value to you. Likewise, this is the kind of leader each of us should aspire to be.
It’s possible to have a heart and mindset change toward people. It takes consistent choices to choose to value others. We must have positive concern and care for others if we want to make a positive impact on people—we cannot dislike, despise or discredit them. As Les Giblin says, “You can’t make someone feel important in your presence if you secretly feel they are a nobody.”
BRASS TACKS: HOW TO ADD VALUE
So, we truly value others and want to add value to them…even though it will cost us effort and intention. Now, how do we go about this on a daily, practical basis?
The truth is that anyone can do it. All it takes is the discipline of spending a little time each day planning for the interactions you’ll have with others. Be intentional and think about specific ways you can show others that you value them. Do this beforehand because, as John Wooden says, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” We have to think about it ahead of time in order to maximize the potential.
Part of the value you add can stem from your own strengths—what skills and talents do you possess that can be used to benefit others? Maybe you fill a role in your organization or on your ministry team that carries specific influence. How can you leverage your experience and influence to raise others up? How can you create experiences for others that will leave them feeling seen, heard and celebrated?
Here are some practical examples:
Ask questions and give them a safe space to answer. The return on investment will be a more trusting, developed relationship.
Plan ahead to be present in conversation. Silence your phone, purpose not to be distracted and give the other person your undivided attention.
Put your pain aside to serve someone else. Your problems may not be fixed, but serving others while processing our own pain gives us a larger context within which to learn. It also allows us to powerfully empathize with others who are struggling. That’s following the leadership example of Jesus. Every person fights their private battles, but they also desire to be seen, valued and known.
Don’t aim to fix or save everyone. Parker Palmer said, “Our real freedom comes from being aware that we do not have to save the world, we must merely make a difference in the place where we live.” If our goal is to save the world, we won’t have time for anyone individually. If our goal, however, is to make a difference where we are, then the people around us will become our ultimate priority.
Look at your calendar each day—where you’ll go, who you’ll meet with, who you’ll call. What do these people need? What can you do to improve their lives? What are you learning that you can share with them? When you’re together, look for a time to say what you’ve thought about earlier. Share something they said or did that positively impacted you.
Use your senses. Get creative with how you bless others by incorporating the five senses.
Sight: Smile with your face and your eyes. Don’t look around while they’re talking. Check to make sure that your expression looks the same in reality as it feels to you.
Touch: Proceed with a healthy dose of wisdom and caution. Different relationships will require different restraint here. But offer a hug, hand on a shoulder, and so on. Connect with people, and let them know you’re happy to be with them.
Sound: Ensure your voice and tone convey care and concern—and, when appropriate, enthusiasm, kindness, gentleness and fun.
Smell: This may seem like the odd man out, but scent connects us with memories in a powerful way. Making sure our breath smells good, that our perfume or cologne is non-imposing, and that we’re working in a pleasant space goes a long way toward building confidence and comfort in those we serve.
Taste: Offer mints or gum to those you meet with; bring a coffee or a drink if you’re meeting someone outside of the office. It can brighten their entire day. Bonus points if you know a special treat they especially enjoy.
Speak encouragement—it’s that simple. You may be the only person they come into contact with who encourages them. What a gift, to be that person.
‘QUIET ON THE SET!’
On a film set, when you hear the director call this out, you know it’s time: Everything the cast and crew have rehearsed is about to happen. Everyone knows the part they need to play to make it a success.
Then, you hear, “Rolling!” Then, “Action!” Everything’s streamlined, with verbal cues and a clear progression.
If only real life were like that—if only we had clear signals for when to take our places and take action in adding value to others. In reality, when or if we take action is entirely up to us. Maybe you’re more of an action-oriented person, and this comes naturally to you. Or perhaps you’re an information-gatherer who struggles to take that first step. In either case, preparation has to be put into action in order for that preparation to be worth anything.
People with incredible giftings often fail to act because they keep gathering information perpetually. They remain frozen, waiting for the perfect timing that never comes. Don’t get stuck in a loop of “getting ready to get ready.” Free yourself from the cycle of continual preparation and step onto the track of action. Remember, this is about adding value to those you truly see value in. As John Maxwell says, “Effective leadership attracts and brokers the talents of others.” It’s all about developing others to reach their full potential.
You became a leader in order to light the candle of another person—to pass along the passion that you have without relinquishing your own. We can determine to use every opportunity to make things better for the people we meet. Whether we’re young and starting out or a little more seasoned in our leadership journey.
Your relationships need you to step forward and add value to them—not in a perfect way, but in a way that makes progress. Don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll see your relationships start to thrive when you get out of the way, truly value others and make intentional plans to practically show them that value.
The tape is rolling.
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