If there was a time in my life, where I look back and cringe at my behavior, it is for certain the period of time when I was in high school. I was an athlete. I was a self-important athlete.
And then there was the debate coach at my high school, who didn’t think my self-important athleticism was the only thing on which I should hang my self-important hat.
He asked me to try out for the debate team.
This is where I cringe upon reflection, because in response to his request, I said something like, ‘Do you know who I am? I can’t be bothered with debating; I’m an athlete.’
Yet, he pursued me relentlessly and looking back, I have no idea why. Of course I was a kid, so I can’t be too hard on myself.
The real reason I share this story is to highlight the great leadership influence of my debate coach. He influenced me to explore abilities I didn’t know I even had.
My high school debate coach changed the course of my life forever, not because of what he did for me (though he set me on a life path to pursue my innate talent), but because of what I learned from him.
I learned the importance and leadership influence of meeting people where they are, in a way meaningful to them, instead of expecting them to be where you are already.
It changed me and my understanding of leadership because his example of meeting people where they are, instead expecting them to be where you are, showed me how you can change someone’s life for the better. You can leave an indelible mark on their life and potentially change their life trajectory.
How does meeting people where they are apply to you as a leader, or a business owner, or even just the leader of your family?
You don’t want those around you, those looking to you for leadership and guidance, to be robots. You want engaged, empowered, happy people who in turn engage, empower, and delight your customers, your community, or other members of your family.
To engage and empower people you have to meet them where they are.
Here are two things to consider on how to meet people where they are:
1. Consider physically meeting people where they are. If you’re trying to lead someone, influence them, inspire them to change their behavior, or get them in the right place in your company, consider going to where they are. Don’t ask them to come to your office; that’s easy, that is expected, that is the status quo. Instead, meet them at their office, out in the sales field, on the factory floor. Meet them on their turf.
2. See things from their perspective to understand what they need from you. In a leadership position you may have a much bigger and wider vantage point. However, for your vantage point to be accurate, you need the perspective of your people. Instead of clinging to your own self-important, ivory tower perspective, take an opportunity to consider the perspectives of your people. You may indeed end up being right, but as a leader you need your people to help you create a complete perspective.
Meet people where they are instead of expecting them to be where you are, fosters trust in you as a leader, creates buy-in to your overall vision, and you as a leader can actually influence people instead of just managing them.
Explore ways to meet people where they are today.
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