Valuing and Engaging the Whole Person

Valuing and Engaging the Whole Person

Before kids, I loved naps. In the years since my daughters were born, daytime rest has all but disappeared from my life.

Because of that, I have fond memories of great naps from days gone by.

Here’s one: when I was in college, a close friend and mentor cancelled our regular appointment so we could each return to our dorm rooms and take a nap.

I met with Julie each week as part of a leadership development program. After discussing a list of my strengths and areas for growth, Julie and I created a plan. We made a commitment to meet weekly. Over two years, we never cancelled… except the day of the nap.

Why was the nap day so important that I remember it now, almost twenty years later?

Julie cared about me beyond a program or a to-do list. When we met that day, she could see that I felt very tired. She knew that what I needed REST more than I needed to complete our learning objectives that day.

This was an important lesson for me as a leader. In order to have maximum impact on the lives of those we lead, we need to value and engage them as whole people.

In today’s world of tight deadlines, narrow specialization, high technology, and conflicting demands, it is all too easy to treat people in an organization as if they were little more than job descriptions, as tools.

From Be*Know*Do, Adapted from the Official Army Leadership Manual: Leadership the Army Way

As a leader, valuing and engaging your followers means first knowing them and then interacting with them as whole people.

Knowing People

Getting to know people requires time and paying attention. To get to know your followers, join in casual conversation and ask good questions. As you relate to those you lead, listen carefully, not only to what they say, but also to what they don’t say. If they are sitting down, grab a chair and take a few minutes to talk. Maintain eye contact. Slow down for a moment and give them your undivided attention

Here are some things you might want know about your followers: What interests do they have outside of work? What do they enjoy doing on the weekends? What is their family life like? What are their hopes and dreams for the future? What challenges are they facing? What brings them joy?

It also helps to get a sense of your employees’ work habits: What time of day are they most productive? What projects are they most enthusiastic about? What are their least favorite tasks? What is their dream job?

It also helps to remember other details about people with whom we work closely. What’s their favorite spot for lunch? What is their work-day beverage of choice?

As we get to know those we lead, we can begin to share more than just our work with them. By engaging people beyond their job titles, we show we value them for who they are, not just what they do.

Letting People Know You

Reciprocity is important. As you get to know people, you also need to let them get to know you. Share your interests outside of work. Share struggles and challenges (when appropriate.) Let people know you beyond your position and job description.

Your impact will grow exponentially as your relationships grow. Interactions that may seem insignificant at the time — like Julie’s suggestion that I skip our meeting to take a nap — could become those learning moments that people remember forever.

Join the conversation here!

Have you ever had an unforgettable moment like the one I described? I would love to hear about it.

Also, how have others valued and engaged you as a whole person? In what way do you value and engage those you lead?

I look forward to your responses.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission. 

Filed As:  value, engagement

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • I love this post! I have long touted the fact that the world’s greatest resource are the people we connect with on a deeper level and not just a superficial one.
    This is a great read.

  • Factors of production.
    I remember applying that term to people for the first time in an introductory economics course. It seemed wrong then and seems even more misguided now.
    My story is one of entering an arena where people had been slighted, excluded, and vilified by the previous leader and his faction. One of my BEDROCK values is that “people matter.” The bedrock value of this place had become, “people don’t matter if they disagree with us.”
    My response was to try to care about everyone. After all, people matter. The strange thing was that too many people had bought in to the previous leader’s story that only those who agreed with him mattered. In the end the organization ruptured and a majority of its people left. I know…they quit me, not the organization.
    The people who quit matter, too. I’ve kept in touch with some of them and let them know that they aren’t devalued, except as they refused to value others.
    People aren’t tools. They aren’t factors of production. I see and experience many places where people are still engaged for that limited bit of labor they can provide. I see organizations that don’t care if an employee’s child is sick. I just saw an employee fired after struggling with the death of both parents…for attendance issues.
    People are people. We all need understanding and a bit mercy. Now and then we just need a nap.
    Thanks for telling your story.
    Question: how do you respond in environments / organizations that don’t treat people with consideration?

  • The definition of employee engagement is evolving in the midst of the social media revolution and hence the discussion is relevant and important. We know that face to face and taking time to get to know someone is important, but we seem to require a more focused and intentional approach these days because we are distracted by quick online methods of communication.
    So thanks for the excellent writing and … your piece brought back memories of my quick naps under my desk in between work and night classes!

  • Well, when I was working on my Master’s my major professor would say “Don’t ever let your classes stand in the way of your education.” (It was a quote from someone else but I don’t remember who.) That seemed like a strange thing for a professor to say but the more I thought about it the more I realized what a great gift he was giving us. It was his way of pointing out that learning isn’t about reciting back memorized facts, its about engaging in new thinking, enlarging your world view, challenging your assumptions… By encouraging that he was helping us to be original thinkers. He influenced my life far more than the professors who worried about class attendance.

  • We are inspired daily if we choose to see it. Being in the right frame of mind allows us to hear the words and messages of those who want to make a difference in our lives.
    There are many stories, here is one.
    After graduating from Concordia University in Communication Studies, I felt aimless. I met with a professor who had become my mentor and told him that I signed up for computer programming classes because of my love for multimedia (as it was called 15 years ago).
    Scott listened carefully and said, “Sonia, do you need to be able to look under the hood to fix the car? Or do you have everything you need right now to drive the car with confidence?
    I had everything I needed to drive the car.
    The message I got that day was that I needed to get in the car with everything I had acquired and start my journey. If something happened along the way, all I needed was to understand how to get the car fixed, not fix it myself!
    I dropped the programming classes and starting driving. My journey started in publishing and my first job as a multimedia production manager where I led a team that included programmers.
    Finding my path from his wise words was a true gift. I am glad I was ready to hear and apply the message!
    Thanks for bring back this memory!

  • An SVP I am fortunate to have as a consulting client is the poster child for engaging the whole person. People who work for, with or around him say “I would run into a burning building for Sam.” Why?
    “When I’m with him he makes me feel like I am his only concern.” Sam is an extremely busy Senior VP with global responsibility, yet he creates a mental space to ‘hold’ the person he is with at the moment, and they feel it.
    Becky’s post on engaging the whole person is spot on!
    Anne Perschel aka@bizshrink

  • This is such an important aspect for leaders to talk about. I have seen people who believe all this to be a waste of their time. Others are just plain afraid to show themselves, so do not elicit disclosure from others. The whole person engaged is a thing of beauty. We can work better, smarter, more productively if we find eachother at this level. People only become resources when they are fully with you. And you only become one when you are truly yourself.
    Great post as always, Becky!

  • Good article. And comments too… I envy people who had mentors who could guide in proper ways 🙁
    Yeah, I believe making friends are the only way you can handle people.

  • I have truly believed that the key to great relationships starts with the realization that in a team, we are dealing with living, breathing, emotionally intelligent “human beings” who are much more than “human resources.
    Great post!

  • That’s a wonderful story you share here, Becky, and I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of treating people as humans, of not simply viewing them in terms of their ‘role’ in the company.
    I wrote a piece for my blog last week where I pointed out how absurd it is that companies expect their employees to ‘check themselves at the door’ as this means they’re taking the best part of themselves out of the process – the part where we derive our passion, creativity, and drive.
    An enjoyable post, Becky. Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks so much for all the thoughtful comments today.
    Dean – great distinction you make about knowing people on a deep vs. superficial level. I think people really sense when we are only superficially interested in them.
    J. Michael – You ask a terrific question. What do we do when we work for a company that is only interested in people as commodities or people who agree with the boss? I don’t think there is a quick answer to that question but it certainly something I would like to consider further. One thing we can do: we can lead from where we are, beginning to model care and concern for others, EVEN IF NOONE ELSE IS.
    Nancy – I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to be intentional about developing relationships. Social media can be a distraction,AND it can open up new ways to engage with others.
    Paul – that is a great story. Thanks for sharing it here. Everyone should have a teacher like that!

  • Sonia – Thank you for sharing your story, as well. Your mentor did give you an amazing gift, helping to launch you into your career.
    Anne – The SVP you describe seems to epitomize this concept. I wonder what else we could learn from him. (Sounds like a blog post.) Are there any other qualities that set the SVP apart? Is he able to inspire leaders at other levels in his organization to value their employees also?
    Shabeer – thanks for stopping by. It is never too late to find a good mentor. Even if you can’t find one in real life, you may be able to find someone online who would be
    willing to give you encouragement and direction.
    Tanmay – I agree. Human beings vs. human resources = good distinction.
    Tanveer – Glad you enjoyed the post. I look forward to reading your post on the topic.

  • Monica – Don’t know how I missed you in responding to today’s comments. I think your point about people being afraid to share themselves with others is an interesting one. Seems like the courage to share oneself with others may be a prerequisite to making a difference as a leader. What do you think?

  • What a great post followed by a great discussion! Glad I saw your tweet tonight. Definitely check out the post Tanveer refer’s to above – very synergistic with what you are saying here.
    I love your story Becky. Managers may be able to maximize efficiency without “valuing and engaging the whole person”, but unless you engage the whole person you are not likely to be very effective or much of a leader for that matter!

  • Good post. I’m currently studying coaching models and one of the big elements is disclosure, knowing when to let your followers or clients know about you. Letting people know you can create a incredible bond.

  • Wonderful post, Becky. You nailed the fact that face-to-face leadership is about conversations and conversations are about more than work.

  • Buildings are quite expensive and not everybody is able to buy it. But, personal loans was invented to help people in such kind of cases.

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