I’m almost ashamed at how long it took me to realize the enormous value and importance of lifting other people up as a leader. Obviously, it was valuable and important but I didn’t embrace that this was the core until later in my leadership journey. Luckily, I’ve have had amazing people in my life that constantly challenged me to grow. So naturally, when I became a leader, I tried to repeat this behavior as much as possible.
Ray Arell recently wrote a tribute to David Hussman. One of the parts that I loved the most was “Unlike others in our industry, he really did not seem to be trying to build his brand higher than others. In fact, he seemed to be more focused on helping to build up others by getting them speaking gigs and other work.” Personally, I couldn’t begin to count the number of people that he introduced to me that I look forward to hearing more from…Jeremey, Rhea, Chris…the list just goes on and on. David exemplified what it meant to lift people up.
I think back to my early days of leading and realize that I did lift people up but not as intentionally as I try these days. I’ve also realized that little gestures sometimes are as valuable as full mentor relationships. So here’s a variety of ways that helped lift me up and/or how I’ve lifted others up:
- Simple encouragements: One of my frequent sentiments to people that are a little nervous is “you got this.” and I mean it 100%. Sometimes just knowing someone believes you can is enough to quiet those inner self critics.
- Appreciations: I was super sad this year at Agile2019 that two people spoke for the first time at the conference but I had other responsibilities that prevented my ability to attend (I was speaking at the same time). So not only did I try to deliver simple encouragements beforehand, I reached out afterwards to hear how they thought it went, to say congrats…”You did it!” Not it would be even better if I could have been there and given direct feedback of their awesomeness but taking time to congratulate new milestones is always valuable.
- Check in periodically: Having someone occasionally inquire on my growth, current challenges, etc created an environment where I knew that I would be asked again – did I want to have something to share the next time? Suddenly, I found myself taking action that I might have otherwise ignored/dismissed/avoided.
- Being available: I know I’ve had moments when the thought “they are too busy to help” becomes so loud that I accept this as fact. Yet, sometimes I really can’t be available right then…so I make sure to express when I can be available and follow through.
- Make introductions: Being the extrovert that I am, I didn’t fully realize how much introductions helped me develop connections in the community. The reality is when someone is introducing you and saying “she rocks”, the first impression gets a big assist with new people. I remember Arlo Belshee introducing me to James Shore – I was a fan (attending a number of his conference sessions) – no way would I have talked to him without that introduction. Who can you be introducing?
- Creating space: One of the benefits of conference organization is that I can create space for new voices to be heard. For example, the Leadership Summit…I had four speaking slots each time. Two were dedicated to experienced coaches/trainers/speakers. Two were dedicated to new practitioner voices. People that I knew had something to share but were not trying to be circuit speakers. We constantly need new voices – so are we creating space for them to learn to share their thoughts?
- Doing the unexpected: Recently, I received a text from someone that I had met over a year ago but only recently in the last couple of months have begun interacting with a little more. The text was this super sweet offer of condolences. What lifted me up so much was that it was completely unexpected, which made it absolutely amazing. Suddenly, I felt extra special and supported. That there are lots of people capable of lifting people up – especially when you least expect it.
How do you lift people up?