Posted on March 6, 2018


The most important people rarely focus their energy and attention on their own importance. Instead, they work to add value to their organization and the people around them.


The need to feel important

As an executive coach, I often see the result insecurity has on leaders. Insecure leaders need a lot of approval and validation from the people around them. They also feel the innate need to prove themselves. Consequently, they waste energy trying to figure out how to improve their status or the way people see them – by taking actions that draw attention to themselves that don’t contribute directly to the mission, by shrinking back from taking risk due to a fear of perceived failure or by working themselves into the ground at the expense of boundaries and health. 

These actions compete with the advancement of high level organizational goals, decrease productivity, create sideways energy and cause relational disconnects on a team.

What it takes to be helpful

Leaders who have gone through the process of becoming secure within themselves make better decisions than those who don’t. They are emotionally free to “do the right thing” instead of having to “be right.” They see more objectively, have closer connections with their coworkers and are better able to motivate the people they lead. They are able to focus more energy on actions that matter to their team and the high level objectives of the organization. 

Why? They are better at making it about others. They focus on helping the team succeed even if they never get recognition for the contributions they make. They are secure enough to do so. They give more credit than is do and take less credit than is earned resulting in a high level of trust. Disciplining yourself to be helpful instead of important will make you one of the most important leaders on the team!

Leaders drain energy when they worry about their own importance. They multiply energy when they think about how to help others succeed and reach their potential.

Two ways to be helpful instead of important this week

1 – Focus your thoughts

Immature leaders wonder, “How do you feel about me?” Mature leaders wonder, “How do you feel about yourself?” – Dan Rockwell

In an upcoming meeting observe the people on your team – their successes, discouragements and frustrations. You may need to ask them to share these things.

Next, ask yourself, “What is something I can do to help each of my teammates achieve their goals and feel more successful?

Maybe you can encourage them, make a connection/introduction to someone who can help them, finish that analysis you have been dragging your feet on, etc. 

2 – Reject attention

Take to heart the famous quote by C. S. Lewis “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” 

Think about who you like to talk to the most. Is it people who mainly talk about themselves or people who want to hear about you? You like people who take an interest in you and your success.

The next time you are in a group environment, intentionally focus more of your time on asking people questions about themselves than you do managing their perception of you. Think, “ask more, tell less” 

I guarantee they will feel more positive about you afterwards than if you had shared your proudest accomplishment.

Complete a quick self-assessment

On a scale of 1-10 rate yourself on how good of a job you do focusing on how to add value to others verses focusing on managing their perception of you.

1 = Spend all my time thinking about what others think about me; 10 = Spend all my time thinking about how to add value to others.

The higher the number the more effective you will be.

Finally, ask yourself “what can I do now to increase my number?”


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