Who is the most important person in your organization? Is it the Chairman of the Board, the CEO, a Senior Vice President, or someone else?
But more importantly, why is this question so extremely important?
Knowing the Importance of Importance
When I was doing my doctoral work, I took a course on leadership that required me to interview several leaders in my community and then write a paper about what I learned.
This assignment was one of the most memorable and educational experiences of all 18 years of my formal schooling.
One of the people I interviewed was Stirling Pack, Jr., PhD, of Cypress, Texas. Pack is a former Senior Vice President of a major energy corporation in Houston, Texas. In the course of interviewing Stirling, he shared a story that deeply resonated with me – a story I have shared many times with audiences for which I have done leadership and management training.
The story went like this…
Shortly before Stirling retired, a man entered his office to present him with a gift. The man said: “Stirling, you were the only corporate officer who ever treated me like a human being. I appreciate it, and upon your retirement, want you to have this gift as a token of appreciation.” After presenting his gift – a bronze Bear and Bull statue by I. J. Bonheur – he turned around and walked out.
Stirling expressed to me his surprise at this unexpected and expensive gift, and explained to me that he was having difficulty recalling the name of this man. After thinking about it for a while, he remembered that it was “Nick,” one of the graphic artist technicians, “one of the tech guys,” who had assisted him in setting up his audio/visual equipment for some of his executive presentations; that was the only association he had ever had with the man.
Stirling did not tell me what he had said or done to make such an impression on Nick to make him feel so valued. I doubt he remembered himself. What matters is that he did make him feel important and valued, and it left an indelible impression on the man to be treated with the kindness, respect, and dignity that Stirling showed him.
Senior Vice President or not, millionaire or not, frequent flier on corporate jets or not, Stirling understood the vital truth that no one is a “just-a…”
You know what I mean…
- just-a tech guy
- just-a receptionist
- just-a custodian
Every person in an organization has an important role to play. No one is a second-class citizen in the organizational body, which represents an interdependent ecosystem where the hand is no greater than the foot, nor is the head any more important than the heart.
This Little Piggy
But, you may say, “I’m just a toe in my organization. There are ten of us, and nothing would change if they did away with me.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? You could spare a toe, couldn’t you? I mean, it is true that you do have 10 of them.
Did you know that the loss of a single toe affects the balance of the entire body? While you may be able to balance sufficiently to get around with the loss of a toe or two, you may never be the same again, and the difference will be felt.
Great leaders understand that no one is a “just-a.”
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
Human Being or Human Resource?
No matter how high you rise in the organizational hierarchy, remember the example of Stirling Pack, Jr., PhD, and never forget that no one is a “just-a.” Truly GREAT leaders are the ones who recognize and remember this – no matter how high they rise.
- When was the last time a supervisor or colleague treated you like a mere “resource” instead of a human being?
- When was the last time you treated someone else like a mere “resource” instead of a human being?
While you cannot automatically change your supervisors and colleagues, you can make an automatic change in yourself. What will you do beginning today to re-humanize your personal interactions at work and at home?
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