Since I was a young child, I was always working toward cultivating a community. I had this drive to pull a group of people together who were about a common cause; whether it was Power Rangers, music or creating a clubhouse in my garage during the summer break (did anyone else do this too?). I liked taking the lead if it would create a space for people having a place to belong and grow together in what they were good at.
This leadership quality in me didn’t fade away either. I was a vocalist in church, singing on a platform at a really young age and was leading my peers whether I was on the platform or off through my day-to-day. Truthfully, I enjoyed being a leader, and I continued on to do so through high school and into my early twenties.
I began volunteering with students, helping them grow in their musicianship. It was a lot of work, but I absolutely loved the season. It quickly grew into a team of fifty, and I loved designing experiences for them. I began delegating ideas their way and watching them run with it. Again, it was a really busy time. Life all around me was asking for so much, and I decided to let students assist me with the tasks I had to do in the office.
I can get really into my role. Once I find my rhythm, it’s really hard to look around and take notice of what is going on.
This is when I learned a really valuable lesson…
A student came to help me out with some filing in the office as I worked on emails and rosters. I had to meet a deadline by the end of the night, so it wasn’t particularly like the other nights we’ve had laughing and making the most of our time together. At the end of her time helping out, she mentioned that she was leaving, I nodded and gave a quick glance and a “see ya later” as she shut the door behind her. Then, focusing on the task as hand, I moved back into rhythm.
My best friend’s mother was in the office that night. She steps toward me, calling my attention and recites words I’ll never forget, “Stephanie, that young girl sacrificed her after school time to be with you and help you. When she finished, all you did was nod as you stayed behind your desk. The least you could’ve done was say ‘thank you’. Please Steph, don’t let another person go unnoticed- she worked very hard for you today. Get up from behind the desk, say ‘thank you’ and acknowledge her work. Honor will nourish your team.”
I stood there completely floored. She was absolutely right. This high school girl sacrificed an afternoon of fun to assist me with my greater responsibility, and though I know she would be back to help again, I couldn’t shake the reality of my lack of honoring.
We live in a culture which fails to acknowledge the efforts of another. If we all started to take notice, the outcome would be more vibrant and our team would be healthier. Their commitment will stand, and our vision to do great things would only be greater.
I hope I never lead with a sense of entitlement, but one of humility, knowing that without my team, our vision cannot grow healthily. THANK YOUs are uplifting, THANK YOUs are visionary, THANK YOUs are generous and compassionate, THANK YOUs make our heart beat.
I don’t know what your job title is. I don’t know if you work in a corporation, if you’re managing a team, if you’re an entrepreneur, a parent or a student- we all have a group we’re paving the way for. Let’s take a look around and say THANK YOU as often as we can. Maybe we’ll all learn something new, maybe we’ll see we’re better off than we think we are, and maybe just maybe we’ll unlock honor in generations to come and truly cultivate a place for people to belong.