Investing in Individuals First

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“Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. Parents work to offer their children a good life and a good education and to teach them the lessons that will help them grow up to be happy, confident and able to use all the talents they were blessed with. Those parents then hand their children over to a company with the hope the leaders of that company will exercise the same love and care as they have.” Simon Sinek

With the focus on “collaboration” in many organizations being the forefront in what they do, we often forget that each team that exists within an organization is made up of individual people.  People are often asked to sacrifice for the “good of the team”, but this does not happen unless a safe culture is created by its leaders.

If you are spending a third of your day working with others, we have to realize how important each person is and how much we need to care for these individuals.  Simply saying, “we are a team”, does not make it so.  In fact, that constant push for collaboration without caring for individuals often pulls teams apart and creates an “every person for themselves” mentality.  The “greater good” does not happen without individuals and when people are asked to work long hours and sacrifice, they are more likely to do it when they know they are valued as people first, and employees second.

When I have worked for people that have taken the time to care for me personally, my loyalty to them is unwavering and sacrifice is simple.  Those moments that we simply “check-in” with one another builds that trust daily, and often forges the team.  This does not happen without great leadership constantly building trust with individuals to create a strong team.

One thing that I have seen from great leaders that has made a huge difference is how they are truly in the moment with you.

Every educator is busy; how many have you met that don’t know what to do with the abundance of time that they have left over?  “Busy” is a given that we do not really need to share in every conversation.  What I have seen some of the best leaders do when they talk to people is not share how they only have a “few moments” to talk when their colleagues come talk to them, but they make them feel welcome and are glad to have the conversation in the first place.

Yes, you are probably busy, but the time a leader takes to really talk to someone when they have the chance, often comes back in spades from people who will go above and beyond for someone who makes them feel valued, as opposed to simply watching a clock for those that seemingly do not care.  Just like with our students, when we take time to build relationships with our colleagues there is an initial time investment that is made at the beginning that pays off greatly later on.  That’s why it is called an “investment”.

Now that many people are going back to school, it is easy to talk about the bigger “we”, but remember that your team are made up of individuals.  We need to cherish each person and their strengths AND weaknesses before we can do something great together.

“We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings. As leaders, it is our sole responsibility to protect our people and, in turn, our people will protect each other and advance the organization together.” Simon Sinek

P.S.  This post was inspired from reading the new Simon Sinek book , “Leaders Eat Last”, that was suggested from my recent visit to Richland Two School District in South Carolina.  It has been fantastic so far!


  1. Nathalie said:

    A teacher comes in your office and ask: “Are you busy?” what would be a good way to answer?

    August 14, 2014
  2. Bill Galbreath said:

    It depends on whether you are or not! 🙂
    This happens to me all the time. I smile and tell them the truth.

    If I am crunched at the end of a deadline, I ask if it an emergency and let them know I will see them as soon as I can.

    If I am in the middle of an email I say, without looking at them, “Just let me finish this sentence.” Then turn to them and ask how I can help.

    I try to be available and transparent as possible, and also let them know when I can’t and have to ask them to wait.

    When times just get so busy that they don’t have access to me for a while, I schedule a group meeting to take care of burning issues.

    Hope this helps!

    August 14, 2014
  3. Rajashree Narendra said:

    When people are asked to work long hours and sacrifice, they are more likely to do it when they know they are valued as people first, and employees second- I totally believe in this statement as a team member and more so as a team leader. I have practiced this philosophy as a team leader for 8 years and it has done great wonders to the team spirit. The entire article is great and I agree to each word you have stated because I have practiced them and the job I do as Professor and Head of the department of Telecommunication Engineering in Engineering Institute has brought me great satisfaction.

    February 5, 2015

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