E-pinions

It’s Not About You

Fifteen years ago, country singer Toby Keith had a number one hit with his song “I Wanna Talk About Me.” The chorus of the song goes like this:

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, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me
I wanna talk about me

Let’s face it, all too often it’s all about us. Keith tells it like it is when he says we want to talk about what we think, like, know, want, and see.

As a leader, you need to remind yourself that it’s not about you but about those you lead. Instead of focusing on yourself, you need to ask your people what they think. You need to ask them what they like, what they know, and what they see. It’s not about you; it’s about them.

There’s an old saying, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them in proportion.” As the leader, you need to take heed of that message. Often, our instinct is to take control by doing all the talking. You walk into a meeting and immediately take over by dominating the conversation. Soon the others in the room are only responding to your thoughts and ideas. They’re not sharing what they know or think—they’re reacting to what you do. Suddenly you have a consensus surrounding your ideas without anyone else offering up any of their own.

It’s your job as a leader to invest in those around you. It’s your job to get the best out of the people you work with. You can’t do that if you don’t listen. How can you get the best out of people if you don’t stop and listen long enough and often enough to really know what they think, want, like, and know?

Early in my career, I coached high-school football. One year, the most talented player on the team was a wide receiver who had great speed and excellent hands. He was also extremely hard on himself. On the rare occasion that he dropped a pass, he would completely crumble. We would have to take him out of the game and talk to him on the sideline—reassure him, build him back up—so he could get back in the game and help the team. The coaches knew this about our talented player because we knew him. We talked to him and observed him enough to know how he responded in a variety of situations. It was about him.

You need to know your people, and the best way to do that is to listen. Figure out what makes them tick. Learn what they think. Find out what they want. And then invest in their ideas. Help them achieve their goals. See the lack of personal pronouns in this list? It’s not about you!

If you can help others achieve their goals and dreams, not only will you discover that you have an incredibly loyal group of people willing to follow you anywhere, but you also will discover that it’s incredibly rewarding for you as well. Helping others succeed—helping your team achieve its goals—will leave you with a sense of satisfaction that’s second to none. And isn’t that what it’s all about?