Value-Add Leadership

I have learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel…”  Maya Angelou.

I have spoken to leaders who do not see the relevance of acknowledging the whole person in the workplace. They seem to agree with Henry Ford who said Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” Are you one of them? I am not asking this question to judge you, I am using it so that we can both look deep and reflect, and hopefully you come can out the other side with two sets of decisions: 1. to identify what you have done well to acknowledge the whole person, and to repeat it for great outcomes; and 2, to see what you have not done well, and to choose to Stop or to Start doing certain things to achieve Value-Add Leadership.

I would like to share a scenario that unfolded with one of my clients as a case study for us to explore what choosing only hands” looks like:

The gentleman was travelling back after a weekend, back to his home in JHB after spending the weekend with his wife and child. At the taxi rank he was robbed and stabbed several times. Like a real man, he was angered by the fact that he had given the robbers what they wanted without resistance, and they still decided to stab him. He, without thinking, decided to go after them, driven by adrenaline rush. He was able to retrieve his luggage, but lost his wallet and his phone. Unfortunately in the process he lost a lot of blood. The last thing he remembers before losing consciousness was him lying on the ground, looking at all the people who were just watching him. His last thoughts were that he was dying, and nobody cared. He got to the hospital and is alive.

This experience has left him feeling betrayed by people in general. His injuries included a severed nerve so his one finger is not working and this man is a programmer. He needs all his fingers to work.

He gets back to work, and he experiences it again. All his manager wants to know is how he is going to make up for lost time. So, please bring your hands, I do not care about your emotional and psychological state, I do not care that people have betrayed you and did not care if you died or not”. In Henry Ford’s words, Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached? So what happens is that we now have an employee who for the first time sees his bosses as heartless, and that they do not care. In his own words, I come here because I have children to feed. Every moment of the day I just feel like taking my staff and leaving.”

What is wrong with this picture? The fact is that we have become so fixed on bottom line, that we hardly ever stop to look someone in the eye and ask How are you?” and really mean it. This is a culture that is justified by utterances like leave your problems at home/at the gate”, this is not a kindergarten, I am not here to babysit people, I am here to get work done, and I pay you.”

Why am I sharing this? I believe that you may be a leader reading this article, or someone aspiring to be one. In your Leadership ToolBox, please make sure that one of the tools you never leave at home, or indeed at the bottom of the Toolbox, is your choice to care. Make everybody feel acknowledged by you. In who you are BEING, and what you do/say, why you do/say and how, say to everybody around you:

  • I see you
  • I hear you
  • I get you
  • You matter.

Say it and believe it, because only then will your audience also believe it. If we speak it yet we do not BE it, the message that we send out is I am false. I am not trustworthy.”

The truth is we do not set out to be false. In our busyness we get preoccupied. We have to therefore find ways of reminding ourselves to stop, connect with people, and say I see you.”

The greatest value from this genuine gesture is what Stephen Covey refers to as the Emotional Bank Account. Each time we add value to another by acknowledging them, we deposit into the emotional bank account which will be of mutual benefit to our relationship. A strong relationship at work is becoming a Big Deal!” because it the best place for COLLABORATION to happen.

I see you” is a great Value-add Leadership Tool.

Queen Ramotsehoa.
Leadership Coach – Tsheto Leadership and Coaching academy.


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