Oswald Letter

Who is it really all about?

by Dan Oswald

What’s your favorite subject? For many people it’s me. I don’t mean me; I mean them. To them, me is them. Got it?

What I’m trying to say is that often a person’s favorite subject is himself. People want to talk about themselves. People like to think about themselves. People are concerned first with themselves.

Country music singer Toby Keith memorialized this concept in a tongue-in-cheek song titled “I Wanna Talk About Me.” He sets it up perfectly with this line that leads into the chorus: “You know talking about you makes me smile, but every once in a while . . . ”

Then the chorus kicks in:

I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you you you you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me
I wanna talk about me

C’mon, be honest. Do you ever think like that? Do you want to talk about yourself—what you think, what you like, what you know, what you want? We all do. Sometimes we just want it to be all about us. Sometimes we get tired of it being about everyone else.

Beware of the danger surrounding this line of thinking. Putting yourself first can be a dangerous proposition. If you put yourself and your needs above those of others, it could come back to haunt you.

Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Now that’s an interesting concept. Instead of putting yourself first, put others first and help them get what they want. According to Ziglar, the rest will follow.

Consider for a moment your role as a manager. You can put your wants, your needs, your desires above those of the team you manage. Or you can help the team members achieve their dreams, help them to get what they want, and watch what happens to them, the team, and you.

I have a friend who has spent a couple of decades in sales management. He tells me that one of the best motivators he has found for salespeople is allowing them to name their own reward. He provides a cost limit for the incentive, but they can choose anything within that limit. The sales incentive becomes all about the sales rep. He’s helping others get what they want, and it’s the most effective motivator he has found.

Think for a moment about the people in your department. What really drives each of them? What do they hope to achieve? As their manager, what can you do to help them achieve their dreams? If you can tap into what truly drives or inspires them, you’ll change the entire dynamic of your department.

To do this successfully, you must demonstrate a healthy curiosity about those who work for you. You must inquire about their dreams and aspirations. What is it they hope to achieve, personally or professionally? For one, it may be paying for a child’s college education. For another, it may be going back to school herself. For a third, it could be taking a dream vacation. Help your people achieve their dreams, and you’ll be amazed by what will happen.

By looking outside yourself at the dreams and aspirations of other people, you will create an environment in which people are energized and excited to come to work. They will strive for results that you could only imagine before. Instead of it being all about you, make it about them, and you will benefit as well.