In my last post, I introduced you to H.U.M.A.N. Strategies™, my dynamic approach to personal and professional leadership, communication, and effective decision-making skills — and the foundation of my work as a speaker, facilitator and Coach. If you’re not familiar with the framework, definitely check out that post since it provides more context for what I’m sharing here.

As a reminder, H.U.M.A.N. Strategies is designed to put humanity back into organizations.

The five core principles of H.U.M.A.N. Strategies are:

  • Honor the person
  • Understand perspectives
  • Manage reactions
  • Attract desired results
  • Negotiate solutions

Today, I’d like to take a deep-dive into the first two elements of H.U.M.A.N. Strategies:

  1. Honor the person
  2. Understand perspectives

Honor the Person

The first element of H.U.M.A.N. Strategies is honor the person

On its face, this might sound like a simplistic message. But here’s what makes it deceptively profound: in all my years of doing this work, I’ve discovered that most people don’t need to be right, they want to be validated. It’s not that we have to be right, it’s that we don’t want to be thrown under the bus, called an idiot, mocked, humiliated, made fun of, or dismissed. That’s what we want. 

When you talk to people who are in a state of discontent with their work — unfulfilled, unhappy, stressed, anxious — something essential is missing. That missing piece is the root of their negative experience, and if they had it, their experience would likely be a positive one. Have you guessed it?

That missing piece is almost always a sense of contribution. I want to know I’m not just a cog in someone else’s wheel. That I’m actually making a contribution. That my presence, and what I offer makes the circumstance, the company, the product, the relationship with our customers, the [fill in the blank] better. Because of ME. 

We want to have our contributions and our worthiness validated. When we talk about honoring the person, we’re talking about that.

So, how do you honor people with a sincere, meaningful sense of validation? 

First, let’s talk about what validation is NOT. 

Validation is not pretending they’re right when they’re not. It’s not giving them lipservice and inflating their ego. It’s not accepting a bad idea of theirs and implementing it simply because you’re worried about offending them. 

Those sorts of actions are misrepresentative; they’re lies. And I’m not advocating that. 

Here’s what truthful, honest validation IS.

It might be telling that same person, “You know, that’s an awesome suggestion, and I love it. But it’s not the right choice for us at the moment.” It’s true and fair, and it gives the person a sense of contribution. It lifts them up. This is key.

Someone wiser than me once said that every bad idea has at least 10% of good. It’s our job to look for how that 10% of good can contribute, instead of saying, “That’s a stupid idea” or “If I wanted your opinion, I’d have asked for it” (which is the experience that a lot of us have had, explicitly or implicitly). 

Sincere validation of a person’s contributions makes them feel like they’re an important part of the larger story, that their contribution adds to the whole. It signals to them that they aren’t just another tool in someone’s toolbox, a spoke in someone else’s wheel. 

Because I know that if I’m those things, I’m expendable. And if I’m expendable, I don’t count. 

It’s our job to counter that with a sense of honoring.

Understand Perspectives

Next, in order to honor the person, you need to understand them.

What is their perspective of the problem? How does the position they’re in give them a perspective that is unique and totally different from mine?

Many organizations still subscribe to the management philosophy that says, “If you don’t have a solution, don’t bring me the problem.” 

The absurdity of that is profound. 

Because the people who are most often qualified to identify a problem and recognize that it’s a problem are usually not the people with the authority or insight to fix it. They recognize that something is broken because they interface with the product itself or with the customers using the product. 

But they aren’t the engineers; they can’t unpack it and figure out why that widget isn’t working. And they aren’t in upper management with the ability to look at how resources can be allocated or reallocated — or how they might shift gears to solve the problem.

What we really want is to assure people, without a doubt, that they will be honored and validated so that they feel safe enough to say, “Hey, there’s a problem here. Can I give you my insight? Maybe it will help you figure out a solution.” 

Our job is to respect that. It’s on us to understand that from where we’re sitting, we don’t have that perspective, and it’s valuable

So here’s the strategy: honor people through this ability to truly understand them. Be insatiably curious about people, what they see, how they see it, why they see it, why they think and feel the things that they do. That’s the beauty of engagement.

What gets in the way of that? Reactions.

We live in a culture that moves faster than we physically can think, so we tend to react. There’s an important distinction between a response and a reaction. Reactions are things we do without conscious choice in the process. If a ball rolls under your car, you hit your brakes, knowing that there are probably kids playing nearby. That’s not a response, it’s a reaction. Your brain didn’t think about it; you just did it. It’s not well-considered. 

A response, on the other hand, is something we choose, we calculate, based on data we take in. We decide how we’re going to respond. 

And in order to honor people and understand perspectives, we have to manage those reactions. 

Stay tuned for more on that next week!


Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash