Leadership Lessons: Appreciation

There are plenty of lists, books and seminars out there that tell you how to be a leader, a good leader, even a great leader. But the real measure over time is how others view you in a leadership role. How did you treat each person? Are they individuals or resources? Are they people or employees?

I wasn’t always a leader. And I’m not always a good leader. I have my good days and my bad days. There are days when I’m confident in my skills and my decisions. And there are days when I question myself, what I’ve said and how I’ve acted. Did I treat someone poorly? Did I let my frustration turn into anger? Was I a jerk?

Sometimes I just need a confidence boost like any other person.

And today, I found it.

I was finally doing some cleaning in my home office. It seems that I’ve worked in a lot of different places and I’m not always good about tossing out the junk when I clean out my office desk. Of course, I don’t take it to the new office — I just let it pile up in random boxes at my house.

Today, I decided to consolidate, trash and otherwise clean it up.

I saved a handful of my business cards showing all the different roles (15) I’ve had since 1989 when I started as a newspaper reporter right out of college (actually before I graduated). But I tossed away every other business card that I had saved from meetings over the years.

As I was making my way through my fifth or sixth box, though, I found a “going away” card that I received from one my teams about seven years ago. It was buried deep under a pile of receipts and other junk.

It said “We’ll Miss You” on the front; and I opened it up to see what job it was from — I wasn’t sure. Inside were more than dozen notes with personal messages and signatures.

  • “Thank you for taking a chance on hiring me, Twice! I appreciate the encouragement to work harder towards larger goals.”
  • “Thank you for the opportunity you provided when you took a chance and got an independent developer.”
  • “Thank you for your guidance and support over the five years we worked together.”
  • “I’ll never forget that you noticed and complimented my pocket square during my interview. I knew I was making the right choice!”
  • “Thank you for the support you provided me during the past year.”
  • “You took a chance on a fresh grad with little experience. I will always appreciate & remember!”
  • “Thanks for bringing me on board. I’ve learned and grown a lot since then.”
  • “I will always appreciate and be grateful that you believed in me enough to hire me and support me these past couple of years.”

What a shot in the arm that gave me! I needed it. I have to admit that my eyes got a little watery. I’m not posting this because I want you to think I’m great. There are two main reasons.

First, to all the people who work with a leader — if they inspire you, guide you, help you, let them know it. Don’t wait for them to the leave the organization, tell them. People in leadership roles need reassurance, just like you do.

Second, for all the leaders out there — my goal is to make you think about how you are interacting with your team and others. Do you notice the little things? Are you giving people a chance to prove themselves? Are you inspiring them and recognizing their good works? How do you react to failures? People on your team need your attention and reassurance, just like you do.

When I read through that list of good-byes, I saw a few themes: opportunity, growth, support and appreciation.

A couple of folks said I took a chance when I hired them. If that’s true, then they took a chance by accepting the job offer. Either one of us could have failed. Did I create an atmosphere for them to succeed? Did they seize that opportunity?

A couple of them said they saw growth in themselves over the years we worked together. Wow! I saw it, too! I still see it — especially when they get a new job or are promoted at their new companies.

And so many of them expressed appreciation, which makes my heart swell.

The reality is that I grew a lot in those years, too. And I put the blame squarely on them — my team members. Each one of them gave me a chance. They all provided me with support and guidance. They taught me so much.

Simply put, they made me a better person and a better leader. Thank you, all. I really appreciate it — and I miss you all, too.

Tom Rouillard

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