If you are open to it, you’ll find amazing people anywhere. It’s really quite wonderful to notice people who have the power to inspire and humble you.
Last week, I had a couple of days of travel that one could call frustrating – at least the “planes, trains and automobiles” parts. I had started my travels the day after the big snowstorm in the plains – lots of delays – so you can understand the melancholy mindset I was in as I boarded the plan on my way home.
I sat next to a woman who works in a public school in a small town in Wyoming. She teaches grade school children in a school system that has a diverse population of third grade children.
Her career spanned decades, and teaching was her calling. I knew she was amazing because:
…she spoke of struggling to pay her bills in an area where real estate (and other things) were too costly, and her paychecks didn’t fully cover her modest living style. Yet she took on a second job and continued to teach.
…she worked hard improve her skills to be able to deal with the changing population of the school. When many others might just “cruise”, it was important to her to get better at what she did.
… I heard her speak of the children who had grown up and contacted her to tell her about the difference she made in their lives. She was too humble to put it that way, but I listened, and I could tell.
…she was interested in what I did and she listened to me too. I didn’t get her name. If I were hiring teachers, she would be a great asset to my team.
Far too often, we meet people and don’t look beyond their surface. Yet it can be an inspiration to hear their stories. Amazing people may be right in front of you if you make the effort to stay open and hear their stories. Look for them on your team, amongst your peers, or anywhere else in your organization.
I have a theory on why we may not recognize amazing people who are right in front of us. We need to slow down more, talk less, and listen deeply.
I once worked with a dysfunctional team that had worked together for more than a decade with hatred and disdain. Yet when we sat together with the intention of listening to each other, the stories they told about themselves were amazing, and each of them was shocked and astonished at what they heard from the others. After ten years, it was the beginning of understanding and respect.
Your leadership depends on your ability to slow down and listen to others. Finding things that amaze and inspire you in their stories is not just the beginning of understanding, it’s also the beginning of your ability to remain humble.
Slow down. Talk less. Listen deeply.