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My mother-in-law Katie just celebrated her ninetieth birthday. Over the
years, she’s blessed us with a wealth of items she’s knitted, sewn, crafted, or quilted – each prized because each is unique, one-of-a-kind and made by Katie’s hands.

Organizations spend millions of dollars annually to test and assess for individual uniqueness. Thousands of hours are spent studying and discussing the importance of appreciating, valuing and making use of differences.

Unfortunately, most people only give lip service to uniqueness. Genuine appreciation of differences typically only lasts until behavior fails to conform to someone ‘s personal preferences.

Katie made us a hand-quilted bedspread, a Dresden plate pattern in hues of purple and lavender. Eventually, it will be passed down to others. No matter how lovingly I care for that bedspread, I know that one day it will be frayed and faded and someone will be tempted to retire it to the refuse bin. They’ll not see the value it holds. They’ll not know or consider how each piece was selected and pieced together with care or how the entire bedspread was quilted, stitch by stitch, as an expression of loving kindness by Katie Sheehan-Wieringa. They’ll not appreciate that its value never came from its utility, but rather from Katie who lovingly crafted it.

No one is mass produced or cut from a template. No one can be replaced or replicated. Even identical twins, split from the same egg, have a unique set of fingerprints. No two babies have the same uterine experience because each reacts to the womb environment in its own unique way.

From day one, if all employees were truly treated as special, as one-of-a-kind, as unique and irreplaceable, I can only fathom what that organization might be capable of producing. Rather than spending time and money in an attempt to “fix” people, leaders would be busy identifying the unique qualities individuals contribute to the organization, and they’d be communicating that information clearly and often. Every employee would know what makes him or her special. They’d get a glimpse of what they were capable of producing and begin to believe they could accomplish it. There would be no doubt about how they could best contribute, and, as a result, they’d be motivated to perform at peak levels.

As a leader, coach yourself by asking these questions:

  • Am I aware of the qualities and skills that are unique and/or valuable in each of my employees?
  • Do I frequently communicate to my employees the specific value each brings to the organization?
  • Am I doing all I can to program a winning mindset in each employee?