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The Four Most Powerful Words of Leadership

Recently at our weekly 7:00 AM veterinarian meeting, we had a discussion on submitting to a process, to an organization, or even to your spouse. And along with it, the process of committing to the same relationships. As I shared in that meeting, I had fully committed to my wife since we had started dating, but I hadn’t fully submitted to her and the greater good of our marriage until about ten years ago. Basically around the same time that our twins were born. When I say “submitted,” I am referring to the sacrifice of personal needs and desires for the greater good of the relationship. But it wasn’t until I started to think of myself less often, or not much at all, and start thinking on the needs of my wife and our household that it became a real, committed (submitted) relationship.

You can look at it very similarly in business. As we bring people on board over the years, you can observe people as they become committed to the organization over their personal desires. Submission to the organization and its purpose can take some time, and much like marriage you will know that it has happened when the person is less concerned about their own needs, desires, and status in the organization and more concerned about pushing forward the mission of the organization. Until that happens, we humans typically carry extra stress and periodic anxiety because our situation may not match our desires or expectations for self-achievement at all times. But once we give in and submit to the process and the greater purpose of the organization, those stresses and anxieties all but go away and we can enjoy the satisfaction of truly working as a team.

At Animal Medical Center, we talk routinely about, “This isn’t about me, this isn’t about you… it’s about AMC.” Our practice is full of purpose (and purposeful people) and this shift in thinking also happened about ten years ago.

Giving Up Control

One of the key ways you get to (and through) the submission process is by “giving up total control” and placing some level of control in your people’s hands, letting them making decisions and empowering them to decide what needs done or what may be most important. The best way to do this as leaders is to ask one very simple yet complicated question with only four words… “What do you think?”

Believe it or not, these are the four most powerful words of leadership and relationship building. These four words tell them you trust them and that you have their back. These four words validate them and their abilities. These four words make control freaks cringe and maybe some go into convulsions (kidding, of course). Which is why control freaks will never optimize any relationship, be it at work or with their spouse. Your people in your team want a say, and at home your spouse wants to give their opinion and be heard as well.

What Can You Gain?

When you ask the question, “What do you think?” it not only validates the person you are asking, but more importantly it will help you fulfill your most important duty as a leader. It will help you unlock someone’s full potential. Giving your people the space to think and contribute to the process, while allowing you to hear other perspectives (that CAN, and often will be, better than our own). This takes full commitment and complete submission to the organization or relationship. It takes a vulnerable humbleness, opening yourself up to a whole other world of potential you may not be familiar with. Your instinct might tell you that the process of submission takes away your power, your leverage, and makes you more weak. But those are mind games that will hold your organization back if you give into them. On the contrary, submission creates a mountainous level of fulfillment and contentment, removing hurricanes of emotions and those dust storms of demons that occur in your justification of your control freak tendencies. Give it up! Give it up! Submit to the greater good and be a real, authentic leader that unlocks your people’s full potential! Ask your people whenever you can, “What do you think?”

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