Everyone is Still in Seventh Grade

Apr 21, 2022 | Leadership

Over the course of any given week, we get to connect with and support senior leaders across a number of organizations. And one of the things that consistently fascinates us is how, regardless of the level of seniority of a leader, or how far up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we presume that people would be, deep down everyone is still in seventh grade.

People don’t like to have their feelings hurt. 

And it doesn’t matter if they are fresh out of school, or a Senior Vice President on your leadership team. Mojo matters. Helping to build others’ mojo is a core responsibility of every leader. Because when people are feeling both confident and competent, they bring a level of energy and sharpness to their jobs every day that becomes contagious. Both for themselves, and for those around them.

Here is one example of how a leader helped to manufacture mojo for one of his team members.

The CEO of a company we serve simply gave modest praise to one of their senior leaders at one of their leadership team meetings recently. Not a big deal. But they wanted to give that person a shout-out for having advanced, ever so slightly, a key organizational priority.

After the meeting, the CEO got an email from that person they had acknowledged. They were effervescent in their delight and thankfulness for having received those six seconds of praise. I was a bit surprised to hear the story because it cost nothing, and one wouldn’t think that would be a big deal. And yet it was.

Every one of us, every day, are not stagnant in our moods and competencies. We are either on an upward trajectory, or a downward trajectory. Statis does not exist. So, as a leader, remember the power of those little moments. Saying thank you. Authentically and meaningfully praising and giving credit where credit is due. And remembering how important it is to acknowledge those whom one would not think need acknowledgment.

Another vignette: I remember once attending a leadership team meeting where I had drafted some of the speaking notes for the leader of an organization. Inadvertently, that leader had specifically praised every member of their vice presidents, except for one. And again, one might think that someone at that echelon of life experience and success would either not notice or care about such a thing.

Yet after the speech that person was in tears. In tears, because they were the only one that didn’t get a shout-out from their leader in a public forum.

The leader meant no slight, nor did they intend to cause anything other than positivity. Yet it was noticed. And a downward spiral for that particular vice president ensued, resulting in the need for damage control.

Praise and recognition are inexpensive. When done properly, they can help people to gain that confidence, which in turn increases their competency, which in turn improves their competence.

An upward spiral is created.

So in the month ahead, remember the deep down we’re all that same grade seven kid that we once were. Awkward, gawky, insecure, and trying to figure out our way in the world. And help your leaders and team members continue that lifelong journey of growing their confidence and competence.

 

 

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