Let me start this off by saying that I love to read. Finding the time can be difficult with the current workload but I love the feeling of learning. Books are something that I will always find valuable beyond measure. I think the unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning more is something I hope to never lose. My current favorite reads (besides Harry Potter of course) have all been leadership, management, and similar themed related literature. It’s almost a level of childlike joy and eagerness that with the next turn of the page the secret to being a leader or supervisor or manager or teammate is lying there waiting to unfurl itself from the pages before me. Whether its “Drive” by Daniel Pink, “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, “Leaders Eat Last” or “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, or even “Tribes”by Seth Godin they all seem to utilize the narrative of exemplary leadership to instil within their readership not necessarily the “tools” to become a great leader or great person but more so the approachability of the concept. The reader fulfills the ultimate question of “am I capable of this greatness?” that they are searching for answers to questions within. If you have great book recommendations please feel free to pass them my way!
In working with college students as my current job, I have the opportunity to be amazed by the things they say, do, or accomplish. One story that I will tell over and over again is a particular chapter president for a fraternity that worked to create some sort of change within the community (and his peers) around him. During a speech he gave he said that as a leader of his peers, they were continually looking to him to answer three questions hourly/ daily/weekly/monthly/ yearly. These questions are: “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?”.
Let me say them again.
- “Do YOU as my friend or ally or person that I look to for support or guidance or leadership SEE little ole me?”. As in, “does my humanity take up some sort of residence within your (in a literal sense) line of sight or am I invisible to you (potentially also) in such a way that I am not even worth being acknowledged as a person.”
- “Do YOU as my supervisor or chapter president or significant other HEAR me?”. As in, “In what ways does my voice resonate with your mind and heart so that you recognize our commonalities or differences as people? Do you recognize when my voice shakes? Do you detect the tone, timber, and way my fears or hopes resonate throughout this room or off these walls?”.
- “Do I, a person on this spinning marble who also hates Mondays or can’t stop hitting the snooze button or would love to always have a perpetual queso fountain as well, MATTER to YOU , a fellow compadre on this weird and wonderful journey that is life?
**Pause: Please bear with me, I know that this is ableist language. I think that there are plenty of our friends who do not have the ability to hear or see who need to ultimately know whether or not they matter. Ultimately, how are we showing others that their humanity and sheer existence in our own bubble or world actually matters to us and the rest of the world, even if just for a brief and fleeting moment of interacting? **
I think both the leadership literature and this life moment with a student a mutually connected. I think that great leadership means taking the moment to let someone know that they matter to you, even at the sacrifice of either your own mattering or perhaps of your most valuable resource: your time. I think that leadership relies upon the utmost care of another persons humanity and the respect of mattering to another human being. Is it a project they have been working tirelessly on? Is it a risk they took in a meeting to stand up for marginalized persons or challenge systemic rooted issues? What bravery have they exemplified and have we honored it? Is it giving them credit where credit is due for an amazing and/or groundbreaking idea? Whatever it may be, we (as leaders or supervisors or managers or friends) need to be open to knowing that we matter to others, to be open to answering the 3 questions.
In talking with a close friend from work, I discussed this concept of “mattering marbles”that each person gets either through daily interactions or work they receive. Each person is a jar, a glass and fragile jar. Throughout each day, your sense of mattering is either taking or putting a marble in the jar. Either through your own personal actions or the actions of others. Eventually, either in a relationship or in the workplace or what have you, you start to assess if all its doing is taking your “mattering marbles” out, you’ll get to a point where you’re burned out and question everything, perhaps even yourself. “Do I even matter?” is a common woe I hear of many people who work in a variety of fields. Selfish as it may potentially sound, who wants to work for hours on end or spend years in a relationship to find out that they maybe wasted their time? That they ultimately dont matter to the person(s) around them and were just…well…used? What if you spent years of life working for a company, sacrificing time with friends, family, loved ones…sacrificing potentially even your health and well-being for one more meeting…one more late night program…one more impromptu phone call for an “emergency” only to find out that you didnt matter to those around you?
What if you are operating in an assumption that you think you are showing another person that you see them, you hear them, and that they matter but how do you really know? What if you’re doing the opposite?
I know what you might be thinking…”But I show these people how much they matter by______” and that might very well be sufficient. But let me as you this, have you asked them how you can show them that they matter to you? Or are you just going by an assumption? What if you are operating in an assumption that you think you are showing another person that you see them, you hear them, and that they matter but how do you really know? What if you aren’t event accomplishing what you think you are or even worse, potentially harming their sense of mattering even further (aka taking mattering marbles out). Yes, some of this is rooted in Love Languages and overall expressing appreciation for others. In what ways as leaders do we assume we know what makes people feel like they matter? Whether it’s some sort of “staff appreciation” gift or verbal acknowledgement, its important to have the sensitivity to know in what ways your words (or absence of them) can make a world of a difference to the person sitting across from you.
I even think some of this progresses further than just leadership and management of others. I think that these 3 questions embody some (if not most) of the root of social justice initiatives or concerns. Does this person and some (if not all) facets of their identity…matter to you? Does this individual or a group of persons humanity exist? Do you see it enough to care or intervene or say something?
How do you show the people you lead that they matter? Supervisees- what makes you feel like you matter? Feel free to let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.
Until next reflection,