I’ve titled this article after one of my favorite quotes. The quote is about the potential negative repercussions of comparing ourselves to others.
“Don’t blow your candle out because someone else’s is shining brighter.”
It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. Yet it is crazy how often we allow this to steel our joy and motivation. She has a bigger house than mine so suddenly my perfectly nice house seems pathetic. He has a degree from an Ivy League school so suddenly my degree seems insignificant. The business down the road has five times as many employees as mine, so my business isn’t as good.
This phenomenon is important for anyone in a leadership position because it can have a huge impact on your team’s creativity, motivation, and ultimate success. Over the next few weeks, try to keep the candle quote in mind and notice how frequently it impacts behavior. Take note of the quiet employee who may feel intimidated by other members of the team. Pull him or her aside, and listen to their thoughts and ideas. Take note of when your own attitude and words make other’s feel not as smart as you and thus not motivated to offer ideas. Take note of that employee who didn’t receive proper training and now her confidence is going down the drain. You need your entire team to feel motivated and energized and taking note of when and why people are losing that motivation is a first step to fixing the problem. If you notice and react to these situations quickly, the “fix” is a lot easier than if you wait till you have a fully disengaged team.
If you’re in a leadership position, one of the common ways we let our candles fade is when comparing our business to the competition. Sometimes, especially when you’re just starting out or just heading down a new path, this can be discouraging. The competition may have come out with an innovative new product you never thought of. They may be bigger and better established. They may have more clients. Attitude is a choice. We can get discouraged, which will infect your entire team, or focus on what your team does really well. Maybe you can’t produce a new product as fast as that business across town, but perhaps your product is better. Maybe you have 10 employees on your team instead of 500, but you may offer better customer service, and decisions can be made significantly faster. Maybe you have five clients instead of 100, but you offer customized solutions rather than a cookie cutter approach. When you focus on what you do well and the talents of your team, this confidence will shine through to potential clients and customers.
As a business owner or team leader, one of the major secrets to success is finding, hiring, and managing extraordinary people. Keeping everyone’s candles burning bright is key. You can’t control the attitudes of others, but your CAN focus on what your team does and could do well. You CAN encourage and point out when someone blows out their own candle for ridiculous reasons. You CAN give everyone an opportunity to be heard and to find ways to use their talents to achieve business goals. Most importantly, your own positive attitude and belief in your team will be contagious. It’s amazing what a motivated and energized team of people can accomplish, no matter how many candles are shining brightly around them.