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On why so many leadership trainings fail
published by , on 17/01/2018

Door Nathalie Arteel (Arteel)

As a recognition expert trying to help companies build a positive culture through appreciation and encouragement, I never used to understand why it turns out to be so difficult for leaders and managers to truly recognize their staff, and to connect with their workforce from heart to heart.

Because whenever I share my story on why recognition is so important for building a great company culture, it is always greeted with great enthusiasm.

And yet, when push comes to shove, almost no one seems to dare to implement a formal recognition program. Instead, I see a lot of companies investing a lot of money in expensive leadership trainings and in launching ad hoc initiatives, even though very few of these initiatives end up generating sustainable results. Meanwhile, when it comes to recognition, most managers still prefer simply paying their workforce more cash, rather than trying to authentically appreciate them in a human way. And this despite the fact that they know that appreciation is one of the main ingredients of a more productive and engaged workforce, and thus key to achieving great financial results.

Why? What is going on here?

It took me many years to figure out what lies at the root of this paradox, but then suddenly, one day, everything became crystal clear to me.

You can only become a good leader if you first manage to value and lead yourself.

As such, working on your self-worth is one of your most important duties if you want to become a good leader – or a good partner, or a good mother or father, for that matter.  Because the truth is that you can’t give what you don’t posses: if you don’t value yourself, if you don’t invest in yourself to achieve a state of both mental and physical balance, if you are not able to generate more energy than the average person, then you will simply not be able to give to others. Let alone stand out from the crowd, or be a good leader.

But how many people manage this? How many people truly value themselves? How many people prioritise investing in themselves? How many people treasure and leverage the gifts they were given at birth so that they can really ‘give’ something back to their environment?

We all unquestionably value what we pay money for, but somehow don’t manage to value in the same way what comes to us for free – like our mind, our body, our soul, our health, our ambitions, our dreams, our family, our friends, … And yet it is exactly these that we should be treasuring the most, and that we should first and foremost be investing in, just in exactly the same way in which we invest in money-related matters.

Because this is the only way to enable ourselves to truly see the value in others. We need to invest in ourselves on both a mental and a physical level. We need to challenge our own status quo. We need to come out of our comfort zone. We need to guard against our own underperformance.

And of course there is no question that it takes discipline and persistence to achieve this and to master yourself. That it is difficult to make the most of your physical, mental and spiritual health. That it is much easier to simply attend a leadership course, than it is to commit to eating healthily or getting up at five every morning to start your day in a sporty way.

But that is exactly the point. Life is not meant to be easy; neither is leadership. If we fail to value ourselves, chances are that we start pleasing or devaluing others merely to increase our own sense of self-worth.

Take social media as a prominent example. People post on Facebook. All. The. Time.  The big question, however, is whether these posts are truly intended to give something back to our “Facebook Friends”. Do we post to make others happy and help them grow? Or do we post to raise our own sense of self-worth? After all, we are treated to a free dopamine-shot for every “like” we get…

Or to broaden the question: are we using short-cuts to raise our self-esteem and self-worth on the backs of others, instead of making the effort ourselves?

It is an important question to ask, bearing in mind that it is only when we invest in ourselves on a primary level that we will be able to become a good and balanced leader. It is only then that we will be able to appreciate other people in a sincere way. It is only then that we will be able to connect with them from heart to heart, and help them grow. It is only then that we will be able to truly ‘give’.

William James, one of the most important philosophers in American history, once said: “If any organism fails to fulfil its potentialities, it becomes sick.” And nothing is more true: if we fail to explore and invest in the gifts we were born with, we become ill – both mentally and physically.

So what about you? Are you truly fulfilling your potentialities? Or are you instead investing in all kinds of leadership trainings that still have nothing to do with building your own sense of self-worth and self-trust?

What if you were to set some new goals for 2017 with regard to your own mental and physical health? What if you were to try to increase your own standards: build a rock-solid character, work on your never-give-up spirit and fulfil your own potential… so that you find yourself in an upward spiral of self-esteem, and become an exemplary leader?

Our society needs you. It is unforgiveable to wait any longer! You have the ability to contribute to our world. You are capable of making a difference, of being bold, of breaking through your own barriers and changing more than you are willing to admit.

And it all starts by valuing yourself and increasing your sense of self-worth.

Will 2017 be the year in which you turn into a successful leader?

(Deze blogpost verscheen initieel op LinkedIn.com)

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