Leadership is Everything in Businesses
Have You Unlocked Your Potential?
Who Holds the Key?
EVERYONE OWNS A BUNCH OF KEYS
While bouncing along the road of life, we pick up many things along the way. Experiences, knowledge, wisdom, skills, understandings and empathy are some of the beneficial 'keys' we accumulate. Some of us have more keys than others. Many of us are unaware we even have any 'keys.' As we attempt to use some keys, they don't seem to work. I remember on occasion having to have keys cut. Either I had lost a key, or I needed a copy to give to a family member. When I tried the copied key in the lock it usually worked, but sometimes it didn't, and I had to take it back to the key cutter. Sometimes, all he had to do was buff off the rough edges around the teeth, but at other times he had to cut a new key.
WHAT DO THE KEYS UNLOCK
Have you ever found spare keys in funny places around the house and you had no idea of their origin? You tried all the locks you could find but without success, none of them fitted. Maybe, like me, you have found padlocks that had no keys. Keys are meant to unlock or lock things, and they are useless if the matching key and lock don't come together. There is a dual purpose in locking things, to keep things in, and to keep other things out. Just so, we unlock things to let things out or to let things in.
Do you remember the 'keys' mentioned in the first paragraph, experiences, knowledge, wisdom, skills, understandings and empathy? There are many more attributes that are represented by keys. In the social context, we can use our 'keys' to unlock someone's potential or their shyness, courage, friendship and confidence. Each of us has a unique set of 'keys' and are therefore able to connect with different sets of people. You may be the only one in a large company that can unlock the future for someone who needs your particular set of 'keys'. Of course, if we are self-focused and keep our 'keys' ourselves others may not get the encouragement and friendship they need.
FINE-TUNING THE KEYS
No one has perfectly fitting 'keys'. Sometimes 'keys' need some modifications to suit a particular 'lock'. The businesses etc. environment is an ideal place to obtain more 'keys', to modify old 'keys' and to find opportunities to try them out. The more 'keys' are used, the more easily they will slip into the 'lock', i.e. the more natural it would be to be on the lookout for those who need a 'locksmith'. Strangely, the 'keys' we use to help others are often the 'keys' that unlock our potential.
It is not only those in positions of authority that have the responsibility for encouraging and supporting others. Supervisors, heads of departments, managers and even CEOs also need the response from others that say, 'I respect you. I care about you. I appreciate you. I'm concerned about your welfare.' You could imagine what an organisation would be like if nearly everyone had 'keys' that were almost worn out from frequent use.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
There were times in my teaching career when schools, just before Christmas time, decided to do a 'Secret Santa'. This activity involves selecting a staff member's name out of a hat and buying them a present and a card to be given out at a small staff Christmas party. Teachers were to keep secret the name of the person they selected. It was good fun. Often when we give presents, we expect one in return, hopefully, one that was more expensive than the one we bought the other person.
If you want to make someone's day, try a 'Random Act of Kindness'. Keep acts of kindness secret, the as for 'Secret Santa.' Think of something to do for a colleague, family member etc. that says I am thinking of you. Here are a few suggestions that might get your creativity 'unlocked':
Leave a note under your manager's windscreen wiper saying, 'I appreciate working for your company.
From time to time leave notes for colleagues to find e.g. 'I think you are the best _____ in the workshop.'; 'I appreciate the funny stories you tell.'; 'I noticed you took Sam's extra shift when his kids were sick. That was kind.'; 'If I owned a factory, I would want you as the storeman.'; 'I admired you when you said nothing when the boss chewed you out for no reason.'; 'I like your smile and cheery, Hi everyone, every morning. It lifts my spirits. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and I need that.'
Leave a five dollar note in an envelope with a note that says, 'I know you are worth a lot more than this, but I didn't happen to have a million dollars on me today.' Put the envelope marked, 'Urgent' in a colleague's in-tray.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD POINTS
There are always people who appear to be antisocial, cranky, depressed or aggressive. Nearly all of those people probably have a good reason to be out of sorts. These are people who mainly need encouragement and kindness. Everyone has some good aspects to their character. However, emotional or physical problems in people's lives may overshadow some of their good points. You can befriend people by just saying, 'Hi.' each day and finding time to have short conversations with them, only a couple of sentences or so, not being overly happy nor sad. Be flexible, follow their lead but don't stay long, just long enough to show respect. Don't let them control you. Keep your tone matter of fact. If they start talking about their problems be a good listener and empathise with them. Don't give advice. Remember you only hear one side of the story. Don't try to counsel them. There is a whole lot more you need to know. Many well-meaning people have done more damage than good. Leave counselling to the well trained.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND COMMENDATION
When encouraging and commending your colleagues, be honest and sincere. Often it is best if you do it privately or others might think you are big-noting yourself (showing off). Share your encouragement around, don't play favourites. There are people you will be naturally closer to but don't ignore the others. If someone encourages you don't brush it off with a, 'No, I'm not good at that.' Instead, accept the compliment and say something like, 'Thank you, I appreciate that.'
If you live in a family environment, work on making the family home a happy place. If you don't live with a family make the place you live a happy one, even if it is greeting the neighbours with a smile on your face and wishing them a happy day. If you see someone that needs help, give them a hand. Help older people in with their groceries or out with their garbage. Leave little greeting cards under their doors, smile and wave every time you see them. Often, all it needs is someone to start it off, and the neighbours will start doing it to each other. When the day at home starts happily, it is surprising how much of the happiness you take to your workday to 'infect' everyone there as well.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Nearly everywhere you go you meet people, and that provides you with opportunities to brighten people's day. Don't say 'Hello' to everyone you see, especially if there are a lot of people around. I make it a rule to look at people casually, not everyone, and if they look at me, I smile or say 'Hi' or 'Hello' or 'Lovely day', but not if it's a lousy day. Here are some other points to consider:
- Thank people when they do something for you, no matter how insignificant it is. Make sure you look them in the eye, smile and say it sincerely. Add more than 'Thanks'. Add a little extra like, 'Thank you. I appreciate that.'
- If someone looks out a window at you, wave your hand and smile.
- Nodding once and smiling is sometimes appropriate, like when you have your mouth full, or there is a lot of noise around.
- Little gestures are appreciated, like picking things up for people who drop them, letting someone go first, stepping out of the way when someone needs room, offering help to someone who looks lost, sharing with others or helping others.
- Have a sense of humour; smile or laugh with others if they say something funny.
- Give up your seat on a bus, train or boat to someone who may need it.
- Look the other way when something happens to make someone embarrassed.
- Leave home with an attitude of kindness, respect, compassion and tolerance.