“A superior leader is a person who can bring ordinary people together to achieve extraordinary results.” Many years ago, an entrepreneur told me that. He was right.
But this isn’t just true of leaders. It’s true of all human beings.
I’ve come to believe that the most valuable talent is being able to recognize hidden skills that others possess. Why? There’s only one you, and you only have so much time. But if you can bring out the best in others, you gain remarkable leverage.
So very hard…
I’m not just talking about recognizing talent. I’m talking about being able to recognize a look in someone’s eyes that tells you something valuable is burning inside that person.
I’m talking about realizing that if you take Jake’s drive, mix it with Julie’s intelligence and Dave’s creativity, then you will transform three mildly effective people into a spectacular team.
I’m talking about looking past what’s “wrong” with others, and instead seeing what’s special about them in very pragmatic and actionable terms.
How do you do this?
Here’s a short list of ways you can bring out the best in others:
1.) Let your gaze – and your attention – linger. Instead of rushing past a person, or barely acknowledging their existence, you could choose to stop and really look into their eyes. Look at their body language. Consider what they are NOT saying and NOT doing. Ask yourself why.
Consider two possibilities. One is that they have more value to add, but are unwilling (yet) to show greater initiative. Another is that they lack the confidence to utilize their “hidden” talents in a public fashion. Then look for ways to offer motivation and support.
2.) Magnify the quietest voices. Money, power, and influence often flow towards the loudest voices in an organization – but sometimes the quietest voices possess the best answers. Can you think of a way to magnify the quiet voices?
For example, I once visited an organization and was greeted by dozens of outgoing, warm people. But one young woman sat quietly in a corner, studying a book. It turned out she had recently moved from China, and did not yet have a strong mastery of English. But she was a genius, had performed at Carnegie Hall as a teenager, and had both a broader and deeper perspective than virtually everyone in the room.
Think about ways you can identify and encourage these quiet gems.
3.) Mix things up. Watch for opportunities to create non-intuitive combinations of people, ideas and circumstances. You can do this through social events, discussion groups, or even a carefully orchestrated meeting. You can do this by introducing people via email, and giving them a reason to interact.
Many times, we make the mistake of waiting for others to initiate change. You might be thinking: this isn’t my job, I’m not head of the department/division/company. Anyone can do this, and no matter who does it, that person is cultivating the amazing skill of bringing out the best in others.
4.) Look past your own biases. Most of us are drawn to certain types of people. They might be like us, or they might simply be people who like us.
If all you do is to follow your natural instincts, then you will be blind to most of the talent on Earth. You need to cultivate an appreciation for people who think, act, and feel differently than you. This is a tremendously difficult challenge.
One way to start is to make others feel important by listening, really hard – with 100% of your attention – to what they have to say. Then repeat back what they told you, so that they know you understood. It’s a small step, but an important one in the right direction.
If you only interact with people who are within your comfort zone, you will seldom achieve anything great. Almost by definition, spectacular progress requires disparate ideas and talents to come together in unprecedented ways.
Become one who cultivates talent in others. It will enrich your life and supercharge your career.
Thanks for reading this.
About Bruce: For nearly two decades, Bruce Kasanoff has advocated the idea that companies should help individuals – both customers and employees – get what they want and need. He is the co-author with Michael Hinshaw of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies and author of Making It Personal. You can download his free ebooks at Kasanoff.com.
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