What Great Leaders Understand About Significance


It’s ironic that we often overlook the importance of a word that literally means the quality of being important.

For leaders, there’s power in a word like significance—it’s borderline magical. Once people on our teams feel significant, they become a new person, capable of doing more.

They regain the confidence they once had but have temporarily lost.

When they are confident, they lean into their full potential.

They transform into the absolute best version of themselves.

At its very core, leadership is simply about bringing out the best in others. The best leaders show their appreciation, recognize great attitude and effort, and encourage people every chance they get.

At SGEi, we believe leadership means inspiring the hearts and minds of other people to become the very best they can be. To inspire hearts and minds, leaders must ensure that their people feeling significant is at the top of their to-do lists.

Managers focus first on the tasks at hand. However, leaders focus first on the people they expect to complete tasks.

An O.C. Tanner Learning Group study recently revealed that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite “lack of appreciation” as the reason for leaving. O.C. Tanner also found that nothing inspires employees to be their best like simple recognition from their leaders does.

All people want to be noticed and known. When the boss notices us, we can all agree that it’s extra special.

Great leaders make sure everyone on the team understands their value, their strengths, and why they were chosen in the first place. Teaching necessary job skills, imparting wisdom, and transferring knowledge will help inspire the mind. However, the real culture change begins when employees genuinely feel in their hearts just how much they’re valued.

We recommend recognizing people in the same way they prefer to learn. Thanks to Walter Burke Barbe, we have a simplistic model for understanding the three ways people prefer to learn or process information. Barbe’s VAK Model teaches us that people prefer to process information in one of three ways: visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically. As such, we can recognize our people either by saying, writing, or doing something for them so that they appreciate the recognition we provide.

Here are three simple channels through which leaders at all levels of organizations can provide meaningful recognition to their teams:

1. Say: Verbally recognize those who process information auditorily:

  • One-on-one as part of informal feedback or a meeting
  • In a team update in front of a small group
  • In a meeting or team celebration in front of a large group

2. Write: Use the written word to recognize those who process information visually:

  • A personal, handwritten note or card
  • An email or text message
  • A post on social media or an in-house online employee portal

3. Do: Use actions or gestures for those who process information kinesthetically:

  • Give a high five or way-to-go gesture
  • Work alongside employees
  • Eat lunch or spend time with employees away from their work area
  • Sit down and have a one-on-one conversation to talk about their career

The best leaders take pride in making people feel significant. They know that when people feel significant, they make significant contributions.

I’m convinced that if people feel significant, they can do anything. Our job, as leaders, is to believe in them, encourage them, and invite them to be great.

They can, and they will, just because of how significant we make them feel.


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