To CEOs: You Matter, Too.
You’re probably thinking that telling you, as the CEO, how much you matter is the last thing you need to hear. Of course, you matter. As the leader of your organization, I would imagine you believe you matter a great deal. If you are a member of a CEO Peer Advisory Group, where you convene with other CEOs, you may not always see it as clearly, though. Here’s a look at why that matters.
Coming off the holidays, many of you may have watched (again) the Frank Capra film; It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Jimmy Stewart played the part of George Bailey, a man who dreamed of seeing the world, only to live his life in his hometown of Bedford Falls, which for various reasons kept calling him back. George made a difference in the lives of everyone he touched in that community, yet as he travailed through the ups and downs of life, George didn’t always see it that way.
When George uttered the words, “I wish I’d never been born,” his guardian angel gave him a glimpse of how Bedford Falls, and the lives of so many, would have been impacted had that been the case. The guardian angel took George to Bailey Park (as it would have existed had he never been born), which had no houses because George wasn’t there to build them. His brother Harry, who would have died at the age of 9, survived falling through the ice, only because George was there to save him. As a result of George’s heroics, Harry lived and would later save countless lives during the war – an act for which Harry received the Congressional Medal of Honor. George learned how much he mattered.
Of course, most of us will never know how life on this earth may have been different had we never been born, but during a peer advisory group meeting one day, one CEO received a rare look from his fellow members about what’s lost when he is not there to contribute.
Let me share this excerpt from my latest book, Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-Performing Teams. To set the stage, I conduct workshops for CEO Peer Advisory Groups that help them maximize the investment of their group experience and transfer what they learn to cross-functional and department work teams back at their companies. Here is a story from one of those workshops:
“Interestingly enough, there was a gentleman in the room (I’ll call him Richard) who had less-than-stellar attendance when it came to his monthly group meeting. I noticed that the more I talked about the importance of being there every month, the more it appeared to annoy him. Evidently, the conversation went on too long for his liking, so he let everyone know in no uncertain terms that he’s the member and pays his dues, so if he chooses not to attend, then that’s his prerogative. He threw down the gauntlet and said, ‘If I don’t show up to the meetings, it’s my loss, no one else’s.’
“He looked up at me in front of the room as if to say, ‘Okay, now what?’ What he didn’t realize was by telling everyone that when he can’t make the meeting, he is the only one who loses, it gave me an opening. I waited a second or two and directed a question to one of the other members.
“I asked, ‘Would you mind taking one minute to tell the group what’s missing from the conversation when Richard is not here?’ I asked a second member and then a third. They all spoke directly to Richard and explained what was lost from the conversation when he wasn’t in attendance. They told him how he brings a perspective that no other member provides and that his presence in the room matters a great deal. I turned back to Richard to find him welling up with tears. Richard knew full well how much he mattered as the CEO back at his organization, but he had no idea what his participation meant to his fellow members.
“I assured Richard that I didn’t do that to show him up. I looked at the group and said, ‘The fact is, I could have asked the same question about any one of you and received a similar response. Think of it as a jazz ensemble. You can’t remove an instrument and expect the ensemble to produce the same sound. Everybody matters.’
“Richard turned to his members and said he had no idea how much his poor attendance was impacting the people in the room. He went on to vow that he would do his best never to miss another meeting.”
Assuming you’re not in the room or a Zoom to fill a seat but to make a difference, then owning up to how much you matter is an essential first step. Even if you’re not the leader OF the group, it’s no excuse not to be a leader IN the group – to bring your unique experiences and gifts to benefit others as often as you can. In the words of my friend Angela Maiers, “Choose to Matter.” By modeling that example for everyone you lead in your organization, they’ll begin to understand how much they matter, too.
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