Today’s Morning Buzz is by Kelly Moore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
When I was three years old, I was the World’s Greatest Gymnast.
At least, that’s what the plaque says.
In reality, I was a super enthusiastic but incredibly clumsy toddler and not anywhere near the top of my class of tumbling toddling peers, much less receiving any sort of international prodigy recognition. But y’all, in the memory I’ve made up for myself about this, I was sparkling and I was absolutely killing it.
As a grown up, when I realized with horror that this put me squarely in “everyone wins a trophy” territory, I called up my Dad to call him out. This award I hadn’t actually won had destined me to be entitled, tone deaf, and selfish. Ill-equipped to understand defeat or rise to the occasion. My Dad just said, “Everyone needs encouragement.”
Everyone. Needs. Encouragement.
And here’s the thing. We have a bunch of super enthusiastic folks that are passionate about making change in our communities— so now— how do we encourage them? How do we lift them up? And how do we develop and champion them to be the best and brightest of local government?
Put people first. We can’t build systems and programs that do what is right by our community if we don’t do right by our people. Leaders have a responsibility to be intentional about the spaces we create for folks to show up to work. So, first and foremost, let’s create a culture that is intentional about caring for the people that show up to work. Let’s build spaces that celebrate difference and let people be authentic and safe. Let’s structure systems and schedules that are as flexible as possible for individual circumstances and needs.
Intentionally seek out perspectives that are different from your own. Does your organization provide opportunities for colleagues to develop mentorship, group mentorship or even reverse-mentorship relationships? Leaders at every level benefit from the opportunity to bounce ideas with people who have lived experiences that are different from their own. It also offers the added benefit of having employees communicating and connecting across departments and functionalities increasing the opportunities for innovation.
Training and development is important— now empower people to use those skills. Thoughtfully designed leadership development programs and strategic succession plans are important, but I’m not sure what we are doing with a room full of talented leaders waiting for a title to open up in our organizations. Their hands are raised right now! What can you plug them into? Is there a cross-sectional project that needs a champion or a program that could be prioritized with new leadership? Have you asked them what they would build in the department or the organization if they had the chance? It is not enough to develop an endless list of heirs apparent if we don’t put them out front and give them a chance to put those leadership skills to work.
Be relentless about celebrating. This is where I’m going to urge you to really hold yourself accountable and make sure you take time to acknowledge every single win. One of the early growth moments of my current department included getting an additional office space and we held a “really tiny ribbon cutting” and invited everyone who helped us make getting that office a reality, ate cupcakes, and cut a small piece of ribbon with a tiny pair of scissors. Was it ridiculous? Yup. It was also a memorable way to celebrate the first of many tiny wins of a brand new team. And almost everyone loves cupcakes. Look for the fun. Always give credit to everyone you can. Anyone who helped deserves to be recognized. And everyone deserves to be celebrated.
Show up for yourself. You show up for others the way you show up for yourself. So, give yourself the same consideration and investment. Be good to yourself. Let yourself off the hook. And, connect with the version of yourself that thought you were killing it in toddler gymnastics and believed you could be anything you wanted. She’s fierce. And she’s still in there.
If you show up as that version of you, other people will believe they can show up as that version of themselves too.
I’m curious. If you made a plaque for yourself, a trophy for your organization, an award for your team, created with the belief that you could do anything, that you could move mountains together, what would you champion and what rose colored glasses achievement would you hold in your hand?
Today, shine that trophy and do something to lift someone else up. Everyone needs encouragement.