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Celebrate your People: My Favorite Leadership Principle

One of my favorite leadership principles, I learned from Phil Pringle. He has led a movement for 40+ years, spanning 400 church plants around the world. Pretty incredible. The wisdom that he has about leadership and culture building, is first class.


I remember sitting at dinner with him one evening in Nairobi with our senior leadership team. He was visiting our team from Australia and he was talking about the importance of how you speak about your team.


He said that as leaders, you should always celebrate your team. You should always have words of affirmation, of positivity, of belief in who they are--readily available on your lips.


Make it a habit to brag about your people.

Always be caught talking good things about them, behind their backs, in closed-door conversations where you think no one is listening. You should both be bragging about your team to others, when they are not there-- behind closed doors, *and* you should make a habit to tell your team how valuable they are --to their face.


It's not just what you say when they are present that matters, it's also what you say when they aren't there that is equally as important.

If they secretly overhead a conversation you were having with another leader about them, would your team feel filled with pride? Or filled with shame, and resentment, and feel super put down by the thing you had to say about them? Hopefully the former.


Steve Backland says "we will never act consistently out of who we don't believe we are".


In other words, our actions stem from our beliefs about ourselves. Who we believe we are at an identity level, determines our actions.

If we believe we are great, are capable of doing great things, and bring brilliant ideas to the table, then we will act in accordance with that belief. The opposite also holds true.


If people believe they are worthless and have nothing to offer the organization or nothing to bring to the table, then their actions will also reflect that. They will show up at work, with an attitude that what they do or don't do doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.



For example, I love that sales is now being taught to align with human behavior, so that sales don't feel slimy and transactional. I learned from some of the greatest sales experts of our time, to use human psychology in sales. Effective sales happen when a transference of belief occurs.



In Sales conversations, the person with the stronger belief wins. For example, an emotional health company had to get prospects to believe that change was possible for them, and that they could achieve the transformation they were looking for-- if they first had the belief that healing comes from uprooting the root cause at a heart level, not just the symptom at a behavior-level. As soon as you got the client to believe this belief, voila! The sale became easy.


What just happened? A transference of belief.


The same is true for leadership. If you truly believe in your people, if you think they are awesome-- if you think their potential is out of this world (even if they don't fully believe it yet for themselves!)-- if your belief in their abilities is stronger then theirs, you can transfer your belief to them, so that it becomes their belief system, their hardwiring as well.



This is why the words you speak over your people, over your teams, matter.


If you are a leader, the words you speak should be celebrating and calling out the best in your people, at all times.

This is not to negate hard conversations, or feedback because those are necessary too in any relationship, especially as a leader. But the principle here is that people will always rise to the standard we call them to.


If you are constantly saying that you "have the best team", "you get to work with the best team", "that your people are the hardest workers and most compassionate human beings you know" that they are some of the "most top-tier people you've ever had the privilege to work with"---then what do you think you will get?


You're going to get a company of people that start to believe they really are the best people, the best team! You get what you say.

They'll start to feel proud of the way they do their jobs. Even if they weren't acting as the best team before. When you call that out consistently and speak to them as if they are, they will rise to the occasion.


So are you speaking words of celebration over your people, that build them up? Or are you using your words to assassinate their potential?


Even if it doesn't feel true when you are speaking it, speak it anyways because your words have power. Your words can either create life or death.


What you are speaking over your team matters, even in private conversations. You can't expect a great, connected, energized team, if you are constantly telling everyone how horrible and awful your team is. The two don't jive together, the equation just doesn't work like that.


The Responsibility of Leadership:

If you are a leader, you are responsible for calling people higher. You are responsible for seeing and believing the best in them, even before they have seen it in themselves. Oftentimes it takes someone else believing in you, before you even believe in your true greatness.


Anyone who has been entrusted to you, to your care as a leader--- anyone who is on your team --a team member, an employee, or a board member, means you are responsible for noticing where they are at now and stewarding their development, helping get them to the next level of who they are as a person.


A primary way to steward that person well and help empower them to step into the next version of themselves, is through the intentionality of your words and deeds.


Are you building them up, into the next-level version of themselves?

The one where they are a rockstar and operating in the fullness of who they were created to be? Or are your words destructive, tearing them down, cutting them off at the knees, and taking them out before they ever even have a chance to develop beyond their current iteration of who they are?


I have a high value for creating a culture of celebration and honor, wherever I go.


Everyone appreciates a culture that calls out and believes in the best in its people.


In a world telling you how much you don't measure up-- people always need of an injection of hope, celebration, faith, and positivity. This is easy enough to do by being intentional with the words you speak over them. Be a person of encouragement, whose feedback and words are intentionally kind, calling people higher.


Choosing to celebrate your people, creates a culture of acknowledgment and recognition where your people can be the best versions of themselves. This is a practice that you must adopt as a leader. It's a practice of choosing to do this. It may take time to practice doing consistently, but it's worth learning how to do.


Choose to celebrate the best in your people, to call out the gold of who they are, to speak life over them, and see what flourishes as a result.


So who does this apply to?


Regardless of what situation you find yourself leading, whether you are a corporate executive leading a 500-person team, a ministry leader leading a small group, or a student leading a Capstone project -- as a leader, make it a point and a habit to constantly and consistently call out the best in your team.


Celebrate them! Believe in them. Champion your people. And see what happens.

Give it 3 months of consistent praise, encouragement, and life-giving words. Watch what happens.


I guarantee you will see a dramatic shift in your team culture, in the way that people show up, the effort given, and the attitude that people have. I guarantee you'll see an increase in connectedness, clearer communication, and higher productivity across the board.



"What you celebrate, you get more of." - Phil Pringle.
So instead of complaining about those who are slacking off, or making an example of those behaving poorly. Celebrate, make a big deal out of the things people are doing right instead! As a result, more people will model those desired behaviors, rather than the undesired ones.

For example, if you've noticed a good portion of your team is always late to set up your events, but there are a few team members who always show up early to get things set up, who go out of their way to anticipate the needs of the event crew, then you would intentionally celebrate those that are demonstrating the values you want the rest of the organization to have.


Highlight them, celebrate them, and do something special to recognize their good behavior. Make it highly visible in the organization. Reinforce "this is who we are".



As you celebrate what people are doing right, others will automatically pick up on the fact that good behavior, behavior that embodies the company values gets recognized and rewarded, incentivizing them to change their actions in the process.


Let's create cultures of celebration, that honor and celebrate the best in our people!


What about you?


Have you worked with a leader or for a leader that was amazing at celebrating their people? How did that impact you? What did they do to build a culture of celebration in their team?


Tell me about it below. I'd love to hear your insights!


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