Written by Kevan McBeth - Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting
I have been a very lucky person over the years to have met some amazing people who have mold me into a better person and a better leader.
One of my brushes with greatness came as a chance to meet Former President Bill Clinton when he passed through Regina in 2006. I had written his foundation a letter about the work that I was doing at the time to engage and inspire vulnerable youth, and was shocked when his people actually called and invited us to bring some of the students to his event and meet him prior to the show. It was an amazing experience and we got a chance to get up close and personal with the man (I even shared a brief chat at the urinal with him, but that’s a whole other story!). The one thing that I have always remembered from the presentation he gave was a story about treating others with dignity and respect.
Three amazing words: I. See. You.
His closing remarks that day were about the work that he was doing in Southern and Northern Afirca through the Clinton Foundation. He spoke of how the African people were always so happy, yet had so little. He explained that he learned a social nuance about the people in Northern Africa that amazed him. In Northern Africa, people passing each other in the mountains acknowledge each other, not by saying “how are you” or "hello" as we might. Instead, they say “I See You”.
“Think about that for a second,” said Clinton. “It confers dignity. Think about all the people you never see. The people that turned on the lights here, arrange the sound equipment- those who will clean this place up after we walk out. Just think about it.” He paused and then went on to explain “I am convinced that if we truly see each other the way we now only do in a moment of common understanding over heartbreak, if we could do that on a daily basis, the 21st Century will be far more peaceful and prosperous than the last one was, and these young people will grow up in the most exciting time in human history.”
I didn’t know it then, but those words would stick with me for the next ten years (really- it’s been 10 years since this happened?!), and shape the way that I think about leading others. Although President Clinton was speaking far more globally about world issues, I internalized his words and tried to connect them to my ability to contribute and “see people” in my community and workplace.
How "I see you" changed the way I lead others
Over the next ten years, I built my leadership style around the need to “see” the people around me and acknowledge their hard work. I invested more time in listening to others, working to find different solutions to issues rather than saying “can’t be done”. I even helped people transition out of the workplace for the good of themselves as well of the organization in a dignified way, because their role didn’t match the goals they had for themselves. I aimed to bring a more authentic, human approach to work and home, and I truly believe it’s made me a better leader. I learned to lead with empathy, passion and kindness for others.
Let's try to see each other more often
Let’s all make sure we take the time to see the people in our lives more often, and acknowledge them for their contributions as often as possible. Together, we can strive to make our workplaces, homes and communities more dignified and receptive to each other’s skills and abilities. Let's strive to create an understanding that we all have a role to play and we all matter. Let’s change the way that our organization’s think about our people and their ability to contribute, and create more engaging and meaningful work environments.
Let’s invest time and energy into better supporting our team members so they are able to contribute to our organizational success, and let’s just “see” where this takes us…..