As our company grows, I am continually reminded of our most vital asset – our people. Recognizing that each team member is a person with human strengths and weaknesses, instead of as a collective staff object, or another business asset, has transformed my mind as a leader. When a business leader engages in a leadership style that reduces team members to the status of business assets, that leader leads from a perspective of control – the king or queen on their throne, overlooking the minions who cannot think for themselves.  Of course, this leadership style is very dangerous because it inevitably results in a low-trust culture, with the inherent high turnover and the frustrations that go along with that.

Each and every team member is a uniquely real person with strengths, perspectives, and amazing gifts to offer. While we all have shortcomings and idiosyncrasies, we are also emotional human beings. The job of a leader is to treat team members with respect, dignity, and reverence – to understand – not to manipulate or control. This is sacred territory and is deeply enriching and energizing.

Carl Rogers said, “One of the most satisfying feelings I know comes from my appreciating an individual in the same way that I appreciate a sunset.  People are just as wonderful as sunsets if I can let them be. In fact, perhaps the reason we can truly appreciate a sunset is that we cannot control it.  When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a little on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color.’ I don’t do that.  I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch in awe as it unfolds.”

I have discovered a practical way of consistently applying this approach to effective leadership – treating team members as people instead of business assets or “things” –  is to simply ask, “How can I help you?”  Ask with sincerity, without motives, and without an intent to manipulate.  

If you understand that a team is only as good or effective as the sum of its parts – and that each “part” is a thinking, feeling human being with many strengths and talents to offer – they must feel that they are genuinely respected, heard and understood in order to contribute their very best selves to the mission and purpose of the organization.  

How can I help you?

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