A few years ago I was on a flight from Bangalore to New York, traveling with Fred, our company’s chief financial officer. Fred is one of the best people I have ever worked with, he is a talented and dedicated leader and I was lucky to have him as my partner. But on that flight, Fred was discouraged and exhausted from all our recent hard work and because he believed that our team was not 100 percent with us and that we were not making enough progress. I empathized with his frustration, but I did not share his point of view. I realized that I had to help Fred. As he slept beside me in the window seat, I wrote six presentation charts about what it meant to be a leader in our company. I highlighted our values as a company, and my personal values as a leader. When Fred woke, I showed him my charts and told him I knew that—together—with the rest of our team, we could achieve amazing things. He smiled and I saw him regain his spark.
The qualities that enable topnotch people to perform at their best can also mask the fact that they are also human beings and they need encouraging too. The folks who perform at extraordinary levels, day after day, always appear to be so self-sufficient, as if they’re running on Energizer Bunny batteries. It did not occur to me, until that moment, that Fred might need encouragement from me. Why didn’t I know this? Didn’t I also need to have people recognize my efforts? Yes, I did. We all do.
This was a great wake-up call for me and I now make a conscious effort to recognize the extraordinary performance from the folks I trust and rely on and to never take them for granted.