Picture this. We are in Portland, Ore., over the weekend for the wedding of my wife’s niece. More than 30 family members are in town for the event. Among them are three of Mary Kay’s nephews—one is a police officer from Las Vegas, one is a career Navy man who is also one of only 90 master divers in the U.S. Navy. The third of my wife’s nephews is 15 years old. Also in the group are 12-year-old twins—sons of the diver.
Next to the hotel is the Clackamas River. A 35 to 40-foot bluff overlooking the river is a local favorite for the kids to jump in. A lifeguard overlooks the favorite jumping spot.
The three younger kids can’t wait for “Uncle Bryce” (the police officer) to jump off the bluff with them. Before Bryce gets there, the kids have jumped off the part of the ledge that is 25-feet high. Once he gets there, though, he urges them to go off the highest part of the ledge. He cheered, encouraged, and motivated each one to make the jump while we cheered from the other side of the river. One by one they jumped—then he did.
What happened next is the crux of this week’s message. Bryce had to leave and get ready for the wedding as he was a groomsman. The three young boys climbed back up on the rocks and ascended to the part where they had jumped just 30 minutes before. None of them jumped, though.
We could see that the area they jumped from was about 35-feet above the water … while the area they were afraid to jump from, without Uncle Bryce there cheering them on, was about 36-feet above the water. A one foot difference.
I started thinking about leadership and how leaders need to encourage their people to do things that seem beyond their ability. Our people need encouragement. They need to do things that seem ‘beyond their abilities” if our businesses are going to grow.
Often employees are like kids. I saw it up close and personal yesterday. Intimidation wouldn’t have gotten the job done. It was encouragement. Cheering. Praising. Being next to them.
The final point is what didn’t happen. After Bryce left there was another young teen on the rocks with our kids who were jumping. He didn’t know us. He was afraid to jump off the 36-foot ledge although he walked to the edge of the ledge … and looked down several times. Finally he walked down to the 25- foot high area and jumped off. He didn’t know our family well enough to trust us.
Motivation also means a leader understands that they need to build a level of trust with who they are trying to motivate. Trust needs to be earned. Watching this young man, who really wanted to jump off the top ledge but just couldn’t bring himself to do it, would have had a different result if there was someone with him—who he knew and trusted. We saw that with our teens.
Each week life gives me new lessons. Each week I keep learning how to be a better leader because of “life” situations. Life is good!