Language selection


Video: Leadership Series: The Power and Practice of Mattering at Work


Zach Mercurio is an author, researcher and consultant specializing in purposeful leadership, meaningful work, mattering, and positive organizational development.

Duration: 01:29:08
Published: May 30, 2022

Leadership Series: The Power and Practice of Mattering at Work

Now playing

Leadership Series: The Power and Practice of Mattering at Work

Transcript | Watch on YouTube


Transcript: Leadership Series: The Power and Practice of Mattering at Work

[The CSPS logo appears on screen.]

[Michael Rutherford appears in a video chat panel.]

Michael Rutherford, Canada School of Public Service: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Canada School of Public Service. My name is Michael Rutherford, and I am the director of Leadership

Fundamentals in the transferable skills business line at the school. I'm also our employer champion for psychological health and safety. I'm so pleased that we're gathered to learn together today. As of this morning, we have over 2000 registered participants. We appreciate the strong interest in this event. Before proceeding further, I would like to recognize that since I am broadcasting from Ottawa, I am in the traditional unceded territory of the Anishinaabe people. While participating in this virtual event, let us recognize that we all work in different places and that therefore we each work in different traditional indigenous territories. Please take a moment to reflect on this.

Today's event is part of the school's ongoing leadership series. The leadership series, features learning events for leaders at all levels across the Public Service of Canada. Recent events in the series have focused on human-centred leadership, including topics such as compassionate leadership, emotional intelligence, leading with vulnerability, and character-based leadership. Today's event, the power and practice of mattering at work is another step in this journey. Our goal is for public servants to learn about leadership practices within and outside of the public sector, and how they can incorporate these practices into their day-to-day lives.

A few housekeeping notes now. This is a workshop style event. In a minute I'll introduce our speaker, Zach Mercurio, who will then walk you through a 75 minute course. At times, he will pause and invite you to complete sections in a worksheet. You were provided this document in a reminder email, you may also request a copy of the PowerPoint presentation being shared with you today, in either official language by replying to your reminder email.

We have reserved a little time at the end of the workshop to address your questions. So, throughout the event, feel free to ask questions using the participate button, which is the person with the raised hand on the top, right corner of the purple banner of this broadcasting platform. To optimize your viewing, we recommend you disconnect from your VPN or use a personal device to watch this session when possible. If you're experiencing technical issues, it's recommended that you relaunch the webcast link provided.

Simultaneous translation and cart services are available for participants joining us on the webcast. You may choose the official language of your choice using the video interface. Please note that today's session will be recorded by the school, as it may be re-broadcast to the future date or otherwise support our learning offerings. Now it's my great pleasure to introduce our guest.

[A panel with Zach Mercurio joins the chat.]

Zach Mercurio is an honorary fellow in the department of psychology at Colorado State University. He's the author of "The Invisible Leader. Transform Your Life, Work and Organization with the Power of Authentic Purpose."

In his work with organizations and conference audiences around the world. Zach helps forge purposeful leaders and provides practical tools to cultivate positive organizational and team cultures that enable more meaning, motivation, wellbeing, and performance. We're so pleased he will be sharing some of his insights with us today. Welcome, Zach, and over to you.

Zach Mercurio, Researcher, Adjunct Professor and Strategist: Michael. Thank you, and welcome everybody. I'm so glad that we're here together all 2001 of us on this call today. I want you to think about something. Think about the number of people you'll interact with today. On average, we interact with around 10 to 15 new people a day. Now, you take 10 to 15 people, times 2000 in this room, and the infinite impact of what we're going to talk about today becomes real. Because the ability to create mattering, the experience of feeling significant, of feeling seen, of feeling important, of feeling needed, is accessible right now today.

So, wherever you are in this organization, if you supervise people, if you see people every day with your friends, your families, the communities that you're in and off, this skillset that we're going to talk about is directly accessible. And that's the point. So, what I want to talk about today is how do we make this idea of creating mattering for others common practice in our everyday routine.

I had the opportunity to study what makes work and life meaningful for people in a place called the Centre for Meaning and Purpose at Colorado State University here in the United States. And one of the things that we find is in common with people who experience high levels of purpose and meaningfulness in their lives is that they experience regular moments of mattering in the place where they spend upwards of a third of their lives, in the workplace. And it's that concept of creating moments of mattering that we're going to dive into today. And so, let's jump in.

[Zach speaks, slides show and summarize his key phrases.]

What is mattering? What's this idea of mattering? What does it mean? Mattering is the belief. It's something we believe to be true about ourselves, that we are a significant part of the world around us. That we're noticed that we are affirmed, that we feel important, like we have unique gifts that make a unique impact and that we feel needed by those around us right now. And it's a belief. And what does it mean to say that mattering is a belief? Well, beliefs are reaffirmed through our environment.

And here's what's powerful. Mattering is one of the most powerful forces in creating wellbeing that's also directly dependent upon a community on each other. So, in other words, I can believe that I matter, but if I don't experience regular evidence of my mattering from those around me, if I don't experience the evidence of my own significance from those around me, that belief can be short-lived. So mattering is created through the environment, and it's a belief through repetition in our environment that we come to see ourselves as important as needed, as seen, as humans, and as coworkers, and as family members, and community members, and as members of this country of Canada.

And so, when we think about mattering, there are two dimensions that all of the practices that we're going to go over today are going to cover. The first dimension of mattering is the belief that "I am valued". So, the experience of feeling valued comes from things like, you know my full name. You ask about my life, you know my struggles and notice my struggles and offer an action to help. You remember me. You miss me when I'm gone, you check in on me regularly. That's that feeling that I am valued by the team and the community and the workplace around me.

And then the second component is that I add value. That I have unique gifts that you know, and you can name that make a unique difference. So, you show me how I make a unique difference. And great leaders don't just tell people that they add value, they show people exactly how they add value. And that's a skill that we're going to dig into today. You affirm my unique gifts, you ask for my opinion, you value my voice. You give me real responsibility in that you show me that I'm relied on, that I'm indispensable, that I'm essential.

And you may be looking at that list. And you may be saying to yourself, well, Zach, that sounds like common sense. The big problem with common sense is that it's usually not common practice. For example, if you think you're good at this, do you know your delivery driver's last name? Do you know your coffee barista's family situation? Do you know if they have kids? Do you know who relies on them? Have you checked in on that team member who you know's parent was in the hospital? Have you checked in to see how they're doing or that new employee that you've worked with?

Have you checked in with how that transition's going? Oftentimes what happens is this idea of its common sense to create mattering makes its common practice fall to the back burner. And these little lapses of curiosity of becoming uninterested in each other, is what can erode the experience of mattering and meaningfulness. And just to give you an idea of the data that shows that mattering is not common practice, when we look at research around and across numerous occupations, we find that upwards of 60% of workers indicate they feel invisible at work. Again, in the place where they spend a third of their lives away from their friends, away from their families, that experience a feeling invisible. And what we know is that how we make meaning in work inevitably affects how we make meaning of ourselves and in our lives. We also know that upwards of 43% of workers in diverse occupations indicate that they feel undervalued in work.

When we look at the school system, there was a recent study done, an international study of over 66,000 kids from 6th grade through 12th grade. And the researchers ask them, how many of you think your teacher would notice if you were absent? And over half of the sample indicated that they did not think that their teacher would notice if they were absent. Again, mattering is not common practice, but we can make it common practice by turning it into a hard skill. And it matters more than ever.

[A flow chart titled "Why Mattering Matters" shows factors such as "frontline worker's realizations of "essentialness," job and health insecurity," and "social injustice" all connected by lines to an arrow pointing at "A meaning deficit: feelings of uselessness, worthlessness and insignificance." Another box with an arrow pointing at "meaning deficit" reads "Mattering: The experience of feeling significant to those around us."]

As you may have been aware over the past year and a half, not only have we been living through unprecedented- I use that word, unprecedented global pandemic. We've also been living through a world that's increasingly attuned rightfully so to social injustices. And every time society has gone through a major shift like this, a search for meaning has followed.

In the second industrial revolution a sociologist named Emile Durkheim did a study on suicides that were occurring as a result of the loss of work for people during that late 1800s period. And what he found was that it wasn't necessarily the loss of income that created the mental health issues. It was the loss of the ability to contribute, and he termed this, anomie, which means to be contributing to something bigger than the self, our primal desire to be significant.

When you look at the great depression that began here in the U.S. and spread across the globe, researchers found that it was not the loss of an income or a job that contributed to the most mental health despair. It was the loss of the ability to have an identity with something bigger than the self, to feel like I matter. And then when we look at the great recession, we find visits to mental health facilities were four times higher for people who kept their jobs, post recession and pre-recession, and one of the main reasons was just the thought of the insecurity of a job resulted in feelings of worthlessness and uselessness. And now here we are. Research finds that there's increased reflection on the quality of our jobs and of our lives. People are more than ever asking, what does my work mean to me in my life? Is my work meaningful? How am I treated? Frontline workers, many of whom your different units and departments work with, and if not, you see on a daily basis when you step out of your front door every day, frontline workers have been told by our governments that they're essential. And now they're coming back into our orbits, our communities, places that we influence in asking, do I feel essential? We not only have job insecurity, but we also have health insecurity. We have people who are unemployed, who may be returning to work.

We know one of the biggest risk factors for the unemployed are feelings of worthlessness and uselessness and meaninglessness. And then, like I said, we have rising calls for social justice and repairing harms from our past, which results in this big grand question of, why me? Why here? Why now? And if we don't fill those questions, we can leave a collective meaning deficit, but the way to fill it, research's indicating is to create communities and workplaces where every human being believes that they matter, they're shown their significance. They feel empowered to be needed by those around them.

I really believe that creating mattering is the quintessential skill that all leaders, at any level, need to have in the coming decades to create a better world. And why does that start at work? Well, we spend upwards of one third of our lives, the third of our lives we're not sleeping for in work. One of my favourite books on the experience of work is by a man named, Studs Terkel. And in the 1970s, he interviewed over 130 people from grave diggers to CEOs, to accountants. And he expected to find that most people worked for a paycheck. And while that was true, it's not what work meant to people. And here's how he summarized all of his interviews. Terkel said, "Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition, as well as cast for astonishment, rather than torpor. In short, for a sort of life, rather than a Monday through Friday, sort of dying."

When we create environments of mattering for the people around us at work, we create a life giving environment. Work becomes a part of our life that's additive to our lives and the people around us, not extracting of our lives. And why is this important? Well, we know upwards of 80% of people in diverse occupations say experiencing meaningfulness and work is a daily top priority. And this is across generations, and we can do an experiment here. If I asked you wherever you are to raise your hand, if you'd prefer experiencing insignificance at work, raise your hand. I bet nobody on this call right now is raising their hands and you span the generations. The yearning for significance is a primal human desire. It's not a generational preference.

We also know through psychology research, that meaningfulness is a key predictor of the things we typically think about. Like engagement, motivation, satisfaction. And when those things come together, we get fulfilment. But we have to remember this key fact. It's incredibly easy for nothing to matter to a human being who doesn't feel like they matter.

[A flow chart shows Meaningfulness branching out to Engagement, Motivation and Satisfaction. The three ideas are connected by an arrow that points to fulfillment.]

For example, if we want people to be engaged, we have to show them that they're worth engaging. If we want people to be motivated, we have to show people how their strengths are needed and why what they're doing matters. If we want people to be satisfied, we have to show people what's good about who they already are. And what we find in the research is that meaningfulness is the leading indicator of engagement, of motivation, and satisfaction, and fulfillment. And oftentimes we try to say, how do I get people to be engaged? How do I get people to be motivated? But what I want you to think about is looking at the leading indicator of all of those things, which is how can I make sure everybody around me feels positive, they feel significant, and they feel purposeful in what they do. And the key predictor of meaningfulness is the experience of mattering.

[A slide reads think about the moment in your work or life when you most believed you mattered. Be specific.]

So, what we're going to do now is we're going to start exploring this concept. And the best way to explore the concept of mattering is to think about it in your own life. So, I want you to get at your workbook up. I'll give you about a minute or so to make sure you can get that up, get that file up. And as you open up the workbook, I want you to go to the first page where it says, "what it means to matter. And as you go down, probably towards the end of that page, there's a reflection." And what I want you to do right now is I want you to think about the moment in your work or life when you most believed that you mattered and be specific. You'll notice that I italicized here, the moment. I want you to think of, the moment, a specific moment, when you most believed that you mattered as a human being.

And I want you to write down what happened, who was around, what was going on and what was said. So, what I'm going to do as you think about that moment, and again, try to be specific, is I'm going to give you about a minute of silent reflection, time to write this down. And then we're going to dig into what components comprise these moments of mattering that we see when we ask thousands of people to write what you're about to write here today. So, let's take a minute to write your moment of mattering down and really bring it to your mind on that silent reflection. And then we'll come back and talk about the three major components to mattering that arises when we ask this question to thousands of people.

[Zach sits silently for about a minute.]

All right, great. I hope you have some notes. And again, these small breaks, I really want to implore you to engage in those and write these things down. You're going to get so much out of this session as you create that time to do that. Try to not open another tab on your browser or check an email, because these moments are really powerful. They're your data. And what we find when we look at these moments, when people describe these moments, is that typically, it's just that they're encountered in the moments. It's when a person says, I see you or notices that you were struggling or offers an action to help or notices a detail about you. Remembers something about you or checks in on you. And that first experience is called noticing. It's when we feel seen, when people make eye contact with us, when they take an interest, when they remember our personal details, when they check in with us.

Some of you also may have had moments that you thought of that you were affirmed in. And that means someone pointed out a unique strength you had. They pointed out a unique gift that you had. They believed in you, they showed you that you were worth believing in. They showed you what kind of possibility that you had. Feeling affirmed is when someone points out our unique gifts and they show us how our unique gifts make a unique difference. And then the final piece is many of you all probably felt like you mattered when you had responsibility over someone else, when you felt needed or relied on. Some people say to me, Zach, you know, I felt like I mattered first when I had my first child, or I became a caretaker. And it's not that you have to have a child to experience mattering, but it's the essence of feeling needed, having that responsibility over someone or something else that rounds out this experience of mattering, when we feel indispensable and that when we're relied on, we feel like we matter.

Now, these three elements come together to create this really powerful framework called N-A-N, NAN. And one of the best ways to remember this is that in computer coding language, when we're something that's not a number, this is what we use, not a number. Everything that we're going to be going over today is going to be in these three practice areas, noticing, affirming, and needing. And so let me jump in to talk about why mattering is so powerful.

[A new slide shows a smiling woman crocheting. Colourful toques are piled on her lap.]

And I want to introduce you to Ellen. Ellen was a janitor, a cleaner at a university that I work with, at Colorado State University. And she was part of a study I did on how people in frontline jobs come to experience meaningfulness and purpose in their work. And one of the questions that I asked all of the cleaners is I asked, "What makes your work meaningful? Think of a moment in which you most experience meaningfulness in your work." And when I asked Ellen, her answer shocked me. She said, "Zach, it's every time I go to clean the bathrooms in the university dormitories that I clean for on Monday mornings after the weekend." Now, if you're like me, you're probably thinking, university students, Monday morning, after the weekend. Probably, not the best most pleasurable place to be is cleaning the bathroom. But purpose is not always pleasurable. And what we learn from people like Ellen, and people who experience meaningfulness, thousands of people who experience meaningfulness, when we think about their experiences in work, is they typically have a so that mentality, and I'll share with you what that means. I asked Ellen, I said, "Why? How do you experience meaningfulness there?" And she said, "Zach, every time I go into the bathroom, I say to myself, 'I'm cleaning this bathroom so that these kids don't get sick.'" That so that mentality, being able to connect who you are and what you're doing with its inevitable impact is characteristic of someone who experiences mattering.

The second thing you'll notice is that Ellen has hats on her lap. She crochets winter hats for students who are in her dormitory. And I asked why, and she said, "So when I go to my car in the winter and I see students wearing these hats, I'm reminded of why my job exists." In other words, she does something, a practice to remember her inherent mattering. Now you may be thinking, "Ellen's awesome. How do we hire Ellen?" But Ellen was not always like this. Ellen started this job because she needed a paycheck. She needed to put food on the table, and she was near homelessness.

She said in her first week on the job, she kept saying to herself, "I wish I could have done something more with my life." And that was when one supervisor noticed that she was struggling, pulled Ellen aside, and defined the word custodian for her. He pulled out a dictionary and said, "A custodian is someone who's responsible for a building and every human being in it." And Ellen told me, in that two minute interaction with a supervisor, it completely changed her beliefs about herself. And you know that so that mentality that she has, seeing her impact, being reminded of why her job exists?

She said the beliefs about herself came from that person because that supervisor was the first person in her life that showed her that she was worthy of responsibility. Mattering, one moment of mattering that you can create today, could dramatically alter the trajectory of a human being's life or career. What we know in the research is that repeated moments of mattering increase people's self worth and motivation. They increase these neurotransmitters called dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These are the neurotransmitters that control for mood, movement, and motivation. We know when we look at especially adolescent, that experiences of mattering lower depression, can lower anxiety, can lower stress. Because when we feel significant, when we believe we have something to contribute, we're optimized as human beings.

One of my favourite studies that shows this is by Ellen Langer. She's a Harvard scientist, and she did a study with nursing home residents. And these nursing home residents were split into two groups. Now, one group, they ... all they did, the researchers did, was give them a plant. And they said, "Your job is to keep this plant alive." The other group, the control group, the researchers didn't do anything for. And they observed them over 18 months. They also controlled for genetic predispositions to risk factors and early mortality. And what they found was remarkable. The group that was tasked with keeping a plant alive was twice as likely to be alive after 18 months than the control group. Now this study and studies like it have been replicated over time. And what researchers find is we don't exactly know why, but just having something else rely on us, even if it's a house plant, feeling significant, having a role, feeling like we're needed, can optimize our brains. It can optimize our bodies. And research is even finding that having this experience of purpose in life can even help us live longer.

And just as powerful as experiencing mattering is the experience of anti mattering. And there are many different small acts, especially in a day at work, that can create the experience of anti mattering over time. I'll give you an example. I was working with a group of window washers, and the supervisor asked me to come in and to motivate these people because they were unmotivated. That's typically how a lot of my engagements start. "Zach, go motivate these people." I find almost always that unmotivated people are really people who experience anti mattering. Most behavioural or motivational issues and organizations are anti mattering issues.

And so, I went down to this group of window washers, and I just asked them, "Hey, if you were to change anything about this place, what would you do? What would you do differently?" And all of a sudden, everybody perked up. I did not see people who were unmotivated. But one woman said to me, "Zach, I've been coming here for five years. And one of the first things we do every single day is clean the bottom floor windows in this industrial complex." But she said, "Every afternoon at 3:00 PM, the sprinkler system comes on and splashes the windows, and leaves these watermarks that when I get up the next day, I have to go and clean off.

In my first week on the job, I went to my supervisor, and I said, 'Hey, I have an idea. What if we aimed the sprinklers differently so we didn't have to do this avoidable task every day?" And the supervisor looked at her and said, "I need you to just put your head down and do your job." She told me that she felt like she didn't matter, that her voice didn't matter, that she was pointless. She said, "For the last five years, I've been putting my head down, and coming and doing work that I knew was avoidable. I felt that nobody listened to me here."

This little experience, you may be thinking, "Oh my gosh, these supervisors are terrible." But there are little sprinkler issues in every team and organization, little things, whether it's someone having an idea and their voice is just thrown aside, or if it's someone who comes to you with some feedback, and you send them back and don't listen to their feedback, or if it's someone who's doing something just because they've had to do it every single day, or just because someone else tells them to do it. These little things can erode the experience of mattering. The enemy of mattering is a feeling of futility.

And what we find when we interview with people who experience anti-mattering is they say things like this. "It really rakes on me," and rakes means scrape away. "It rakes on me and makes me feel worthless. Why do I bother?" People tend to ascribe experiences of anti mattering to themselves. You'll see this second quote from our study. "I feel completely pointless as a person." Again, how we make meaning in the place where we spend upwards of 35% of our lives impacts how we make meaning of ourselves and of our lives.

But here's the powerful part. We can prevent this. We can create environments where people will feel heard, they feel seen, they feel important, and they feel uniquely positioned to make a unique difference. And we're trying to avoid this idea of learned helplessness. When the environment conditions you to think that you're powerless or that you don't matter. Because again, when someone doesn't believe that they matter, it's very easy for nothing to matter. And creating mattering is a leadership skill. It's a, dare I say, hard skill that we must learn because it's so powerful.

I often say that creating mattering is a fundamental human practice. And what is a leader's craft? A leader's craft, at its core, is nurturing human possibility around them. And so, the fundamentals of being human is the fundamentals of being a leader. And one of those fundamentals are making sure people around us feel noticed, they feel affirmed, and they feel needed.

So, what we're going to do now is we're going to go through each of the major practice areas. There's going to be a reflective exercise for each that I'm going to engage you in. And then after we go through each of these practices, I'm going to introduce you to a tool that you can use as you move forward to both self-assess your leadership skills, but then also use with your teams, your communities, and your families, to make sure that we're all committed to creating an experience of mattering.

So, let's jump into the first practice area, which is noticing others. Now, there is a big difference between noticing somebody and knowing somebody, right? We can know somebody, but not notice that they're struggling. You can know your best friend, but not notice that they're suffering. You can know your team because you've spent years together, but not notice that someone's parent is in the hospital. Again, there's a big difference between knowing somebody and noticing them. Noticing them is the act of seeing personal details, noticing personal details about someone's life, thinking about those details, and then taking an action to show them that you've thought about them.

I'll give you a prime example of what looks like. And it comes from a story of a five-year-old boy growing up in Brooklyn, in New York City. And this five-year-old boy was the son of a single mother who didn't have childcare for him. So, she would drop him off at the Brooklyn Public Library every day and then go to work. And he would spend the whole day there. And then his mom would come pick him up again and take him home. Well, this little boy only had one toy, and his toy was a deck of playing cards. And he said he didn't even know what to do with the playing cards, but he would just bring them every day, because it made him feel important. And he would go to the library, and he would shuffle them, and he would play with the cards and lay them all out.

And one day, after about a week of going to the Brooklyn Library, a librarian saw this little boy playing with his cards, and came up to him and said, "Hey, I've noticed that you've been coming in every day with this deck of cards. We just got a book in on how to do card tricks. Would you like it?" And she gave him this book. And he took this book, and he studied it all day, and he learned a card trick. And when his mom came to pick him up, the first thing he did when they got home is he showed her the card trick, and she was so happy. And he said he became addicted to that happiness that he experienced when he showed her that card trick.

Well, the next week the librarian brought him a Houdini book. Now, that little boy grew up to be David Blaine, the world renowned illusionist and magician. And he said in a podcast interview that if it wasn't for that librarian noticing me among the thousands of kids that she sees every day, I would've never realized I had this talent. I would've never realized that I had this passion. One person noticing us can alter the trajectory of our lives.

Now let's deconstruct what the librarian did. The librarian noticed something that was going on, that he was bringing those cards. But then the librarian took time to think about David when he wasn't there. And then she took a deliberate action to show David that he was uniquely thought about. Those three things, characterize the hallmarks of a leader who notices somebody else. We also know that when people feel noticed, it can build morale on a team.

[A black and white photo shows a large group of men gathered on snowy ground by the front end of a ship.]

This is a photo of Ernest Shackleton's expedition. In 1915, Shackleton and his crew set out on the ship The Endurance to explore Antarctica, and the ship became locked in a block of sea ice. The group was stranded for years. They had limited food, and they were in an almost sure death scenario.

Now, if I'm being honest, if I was a leader, if I was Shackleton, I would've had some big speech, rousing everybody to survive. But when we look at the diaries of Shackleton's men during that time, we don't see these big speeches. But what we do see is that Shackleton went to each individual and started asking them about the holidays they liked celebrating, about whose birthday they were going to miss, about what were their favourite meals. And Shackleton would take out the food stores and have big banquets to celebrate even one crew member's holiday. He would have big events to talk about a crew member's sibling's birthday. He would talk to the astronomers about the stars. He went up and continued to scrub the decks with the people who were scrubbing the decks to show that solidarity and that they were noticed. He continued to talk to the scientists about their sciences, the navigators about their navigation. He took an interest in each person.

And when he sailed for over four months and left his crew on Elephant Island, and he came back to get help, diaries say that the first thing he did was not to say, "You're saved. Come with me." He went into each person and started checking in on these personal things with each person on the crew. And a crew member even wrote in a diary, "Those years were the happiest of my life." Imagine that. When people feel seen, when they feel noticed, they'll do anything for you. Attention is the currency of leadership.

[A slide lists methods for to make people feel noticed.]

So how do we do this? Some practices are to make eye contact and create the space. I don't mean actually make eye contact, although I do. I mean also metaphorically. Do you create the space to check in with each other on an everyday basis? A lot of our Zoom calls, or Microsoft Teams calls, or virtual calls now, they start with, "All right, everybody, let's just get this meeting over with." But instead, great teams don't spend time telling each other what they have to do. They spend time cultivating ways of being with each other. So, are you checking in with each other? Are you asking real check-ins that recall people's personal details and give them an opportunity to feel seen?

The second practice is asking about remembering and checking in on people's personal details. Something to think about right now is who do you need to know more about on your team? What don't you know about the people around you? And remember that librarian, noticing, remembering personal details and checking in on them. There's nothing more powerful than, say you talked to someone six months ago, and you send them an email, and they ask how that project is going that you were working on. Right? It's like all of a sudden, we feel seen.

One of my favourite examples of this as a practice comes from a distribution centre. There were over 19 teams on this distribution centre of packers who pack boxes. And they were all very disengaged. That's why I got called in. Except for one team. And this one team, I went and talked to them, and I said, "What's going on with your work?" And they said, "Well, we have an amazing leader. We would do anything for her. She just gets us. She always has our back." And so naturally, I'm trying to figure out what was going on there so I can teach it and scale it. So, I went to this leader, and I said, "What do you do here? What are you doing differently?"

And she said, "About three years ago, I realized that just the numbers and the results, those things don't motivate people." And she pulls out this Moleskine notebook, a big thick notebook. And she said that, "What I started doing is that every Friday I would sit down with this notebook, and I would recall all of the different things I heard my team talk about that week. If it was a vacation they were going on, I write down their name and where they're going on vacation. If it was a child they talked about in a new sport, I'd write down the child's name and the sport they were practicing. If it was a struggle or a sickness, I'd write that down." And then she said, "Every Monday morning, I start my day with looking over that list for five minutes, and I make sure that I check in with each individual that week." And she said, "That's all I've done."

Now, some of you may say, "Well, some people are just relational at this. Some people are just natural leaders." This is not a natural leader. This is a practiced leader. This is someone who made mattering a deliberate practice, put it on their calendar. I always say schedule your good intentions. When you think about checking in with somebody, put it on your calendar. When you think you should send that thank you note, put it on your calendar. I'm the best person in the world when I'm out walking my dog. I think of all the nice things I should do. But leaders who create mattering schedule their good intentions.

The third practice is noticing others' moods, inquiring and offering to do something to help. There's a big difference between compassion and empathy. Empathy is understanding what someone's going through. Compassion is taking an action to alleviate that suffering. Compassion is empathy plus action. So, noticing if someone's struggling, but then offering an action to help makes people feel seen. A very small example that I saw two weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call with a client I was coaching, and someone said that they were really overloaded with work. And instead of just moving on with the meeting, he said, "Hey, I know we have this standing call, and every Friday for an hour and a half. Would you like to take that time and take that meeting off to get caught up?" And all of a sudden you just saw the nonverbals of that person relax. Compassion doesn't have to be a big gesture. It can be a very small action that alleviates someone's even small moment of struggling.

The fourth piece is asking others for their opinion. Do you regularly ask others for their voice, or do you make decisions for people? There's a difference between leading for people, leading to people, and leading with people. People who create noticing, they lead with each other. And then, appreciate people's small, everyday acts. Again, even if it's that delivery driver, take a moment to say, "Hey, I've been waiting for this package. This is what it will help me do." One minute, heck, 10 seconds of mattering can alter the trajectory of someone's day, and maybe even their life.

So, what I want you to do now is I want you go back to your workbook. And this is a really important action because like I said before, there's 2,000 people on this call. If everybody just does one of these actions today, you're already starting to create a community that experiences more mattering. And I want you to go to the second page where it says "action, the practice of noticing." And what I want you to do is, I want you to think of the people you see, work with or talk with daily. And I want you to list two to three people that you need to notice more. And as you look at this list of actions, again, I want you to commit to one action you'll take to help them feel more seen.

An example of how small this can be, I have a seven-year-old and a four-year-old. And my seven-year-old really likes watching his tablet, even though I try to desperately limit screen time. And before I started studying mattering, I would say to him, "Oh no. No screen right now." And he would kind of just put his head down and go do something else. But I realized that wasn't helping him feel seen. So instead of doing that, I started sitting down with him when he was watching his tablet, and I would say, "Hey, what's this show? What are you watching? What do you like about this show?" And what do you think happened? Very slowly, that tablet shut, and we started having a conversation.

Who is someone, whether it's in your family, your friends, your community, your delivery driver, your coffee barista, your assistant, your teammate, your supervisor, your superior, what two or three people might you need to notice more? And then what's one action you can help to make them feel more seen? So, take about a minute of time to really think about this and write down one action. You should have two to three actions as a result of this. But take some time to really think about who you need to notice more. And a good question here is, what don't I know about the people around me? So, take a minute of silent reflection time. Write down at least two people and at least two actions you'll take.

[As Zach waits for about a minute, he sips tea.]

And better yet, as you are finishing writing these actions, consider popping it onto calendar of when you'll do it. Because we often are much better as human beings at remembering to do something when we put it on our calendar or on our to-do list, which brings me to another point about noticing. Oftentimes we want people around us to feel a certain way. But when we go to look at our to-do list, we'll find that there's usually nothing on our to-do list that is strategically designed to help people feel that way.

The goal with this session, right, is to make creating mattering, make leadership something that makes it onto your to-do list. And that's why I'm going to keep imploring you to write the specific actions. Now, imagine this. Imagine if everybody on this call wrote two actions. That's 4,000 small actions of mattering that could potentially change the trajectory of someone's day, life, or career. A couple of other practices that you might think about. Oftentimes I get a lot of people say, "Zach, I'm just so busy. I don't have much time to do this." And I want to let you know that creating, mattering, and noticing other people doesn't have to be something extra you do. It can be used to optimize what you already do.

For example, if you're in a meeting today or you talk to someone today or you have regular conversations, you have an opportunity to create mattering. Leaders who create mattering optimize their interactions with others. One way to do that is to ask better questions. Instead of, "Hey, how are you doing?" ask, "What has your attention right now?" If somebody asks me how I'm doing, I could say a million different things, I don't know how I'm doing, but if someone asks me what I'm working on today, I can tell them. What kind of day have you had so far? How would you describe your energy? Think about the questions you ask each other to check in. Are there questions you could restructure or re-craft to make people feel seen and noticed?

[A slide shows two photos of a baby with drooping eyelids sitting in hospital beds.]

Now, I want to share with you how feeling seen has impacted my life personally. This is my now four-year-old, Jackson. He was born with a very rare condition called Blepharophimosis Ptosis Epicanthus Inversus Syndrome. It's called BPES. It affects about one in 50,000 people, so he's extra special, but he was born with no eyelid muscle and his eye openings are much smaller than normal. I experienced a lot of anti-mattering on behalf of him as he was growing up. In his first couple years of life, we would take him to the playground and kids would look at him and say, "Why are you so weird? Why are your eyes so small?" We would have parents who didn't even greet him and would say, "Man, you have a sleepy baby."

It's amazing because feeling seen is such a primal human desire, you can see what happens even when a little child doesn't experience it. He started developing a shyness. He would kind of hide behind our legs because that's what happens when someone comes up to you and just looks at you without acknowledging you. That was until we took him to Colorado Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

We went in for a surgical consultation because he needs a few surgeries. These two volunteers came out from behind their desk, got right down to little Jackson's eye level, and said to him, "You are so cute. We are so glad that you're here." Instantly he changed. He started smiling. He skittered out from behind our legs. He started interacting. The power of feeling seen, even at such a young age can change how we are, how we act, how we feel about ourselves. I asked these two volunteers, I said, "Was this part of your job description to do that?" They said no and that's what noticing is. It's taking an action above and beyond to make someone feel seen.

[A new slide reads Affirmed: Point out people's unique gifts, show them the difference they make. Real affirmation is showing how someone's unique strengths make a unique difference."]

Once we notice someone, we can start noticing their uniqueness and how their unique identities and their unique strengths, and their unique gifts, and their unique perspectives make a unique impact. That's what affirmation is. Real affirmation is showing someone how their uniqueness makes a unique difference. Again, great leaders don't just tell people that they matter, they show them exactly how they matter. Again, almost all the time we say, "Thank you," or, "Good job," to somebody on a daily basis, we're going to take it a step further today and instead of just saying, "Good job," I want everybody on this call to commit to showing people the difference that they make.

One of the most powerful practices that you can implement to start doing this is telling people stories that show them very vividly what their impact is. I call that impact story collecting and storytelling.

I know I told you about that distribution centre and that amazing team. Well, this distribution centre, one of the widgets that they distribute goes to a medical device manufacturer that fabricates MRI machines that then distributes them to a distributor and then across the hospitals. Now, these people are three, four, five steps removed from the end user. Some of you on this call may be two, three, four, five steps removed from the end Canadian citizen that's the beneficiary of your work. I went into this group, this distribution centre manager meeting, and I knew that they made MRI machines, so I was expecting this excited group, but there was profound disengagement. They were looking at their phones. They didn't want to be there. You could just tell. I actually stopped the session and I said to this group of distribution centre managers, I said, "Why are you here?"

This one woman in the front row started crying and I thought I really messed this engagement up, but she started crying and she said, "No one's ever asked me that before. I've been here for 12 years. No one's ever asked me why I'm here apart from what I do or what I get for what I do." Then she started crying more. She goes, "I'm realizing it right now. I was diagnosed with an early-stage cancer last month. I was in an MRI machine. And I remember looking up at the MRI machine and seeing the logo on that MRI machine that's imprinted on the boxes in our distribution centres." She turned to her fellow distribution centre managers, and she said, "I'm realizing right now that my job has existed for the past 12 years to save my own life." You talk about an antidote to employee disengagement, that room changed. They started brainstorming who needs to hear these stories.

They went right down to those distribution centre packers, the frontline employees and instead of just starting the weekly safety meetings the same, they started bringing in a customer, a user of an MRI machine to tell their story. All of a sudden, engagement went up. People's yearning for significance and meaning and mattering in their work was unleashed through a simple story. How can you tell more stories of how the work impacts human beings, of how some individuals' work impacts a human being, even yourself, more often?

When we can put a face to the name, when we can put a face to our work, we become more optimized.

[A photo shows a doctor sitting by monitors with various scans.]

This is Dr. Turner. He's a radiologist in Israel. He did an amazing study of radiologists that work from home. These radiologists, they get scans, they read the scans, they write their interpretive findings, and they send those interpretive findings back to physicians.

Well, he took this group and he split them into two groups. It was about 600 total. The first group, all he did was send the scans like normal, but the second group, he sent the scans and attached the headshot of a patient on the scans, and he wanted to see what the output would be. His findings, which were published in the Journal of Radiological Sciences, were remarkable. What he found was that those radiologists that saw the headshot of the patient on the scan, on average, self-reported 80% more time spent reading the scan than those who didn't. They spent almost double the amount of time writing the interpretive findings, and the interpretive findings were almost 25% longer. They found more incidental findings on the scan that would be important to the patient's future prognosis then those that did not see the headshot. Anytime that you can bring the human impact of someone's work back into their work is an opportunity to optimize a person's sense of mattering.

An example of how simple this can be, this was a group of plumbing contractors I went to work with. This is after a 14-hour shift with commercial plumbing contractors, and here comes the mattering guy. I actually took a picture because they were complaining about being there. That's how bad this started. But all I showed them was this picture. This is my now seven-year-old stuffing his face with a donut a couple years ago. He has a favourite donut shop in our city here in Fort Collins, Colorado and there's a plaza that was just built that houses this donut shop called The Exchange, that's what you see behind him. I just showed it to this group of commercial plumbing contractors.

Now this group, this company, actually worked to create the infrastructure that enabled this plaza to exist and this kid's favourite donut shop to exist. I put this picture up and I just said, "What do you notice?" One guy just said, "Oh, your kid really likes donuts." But I said, "No, what else do you notice?"

All of a sudden, the nonverbals changed and a plumber in the back said, "That's The Exchange. We worked on that project." All of a sudden, the room shifted. Great leaders show people the evidence of their significance. I said, "Do you see this joy on this kid's face? Your work made that possible." I had a journeyman plumber come up to me after that session and said to me, "Zach, I've never thought about my job that way and I've been a plumber for 30 years." I said, "What do you mean that way?" He said, "The human beings that I inevitably impact, the human beings that use my buildings, I've never thought about that." I said, "Well, isn't that why your job exists?" and he smiled.

Showing people, the difference that they make is what affirmation is all about and if you can't do it in big group settings, we all can do it in one, on one settings. One of the most powerful practices is anytime you're going to thank somebody or tell someone good job, which I would guess about half of you are going to do today, don't just tell them, "Good job," or, "Thank you," make sure you show them the difference that they make and how they make it.

There's a very simple framework you can use to give what I call purposeful affirmation. It's called SBI. The S is to describe the situation. Describe very clearly when and where whatever you're thanking them for or saying good job for happened. This does two things. It helps you make sure that they're noticed and it's specific, so you don't become the person who just says, "Thank you," at the same time every day. For example, at the beginning of this session today, Michael, so here's the situation. It was at the beginning of this session today and I named Michael. That's an example, that's the situation. He can't argue with when it happened, and he knows that I saw him.

The second is describe the behaviour and the strengths that the person exhibited to prompt what you're thanking them for or saying good job for. for example, at the beginning of this Zoom call today, when Michael honoured the territory that he was on and set up this session and introduced me in such a compelling, powerful way. I named some things, Michael was compelling in his speech, it was powerful, and he acknowledged the territories that we're on.

Then finally impact. What was the impact of that behaviour on someone else or on you as a human being? Here's how this looks. Today at the beginning of this Zoom call, when Michael very powerfully and compellingly went over the territorial acknowledgement and set the stage for this session, I felt really excited to be with you all and to think about 2000 of you out there going out and creating mattering in your communities and because of Michael and the entire events team work, every single action that you've committed to thus far in this session will occur because of their work setting this up, so thank you. It's completely different. Anytime you say, thank you, show people the difference that they make. Describe the situation, name their strengths, and show them their impact.

What I want you to do right now is I want you to try it. I want you to think of someone on your team that needs to be shown the difference that they make. Maybe it's someone who is more behind the scenes. Maybe it's someone who doesn't get to have that customer or citizen-facing role. Maybe it's someone in your family or someone that needs to be thanked and shown the difference that they make and try it, try using this template. Right below the first action area, the practice of noticing, is a section that says "Action, purposeful affirmation," and the three elements are right there on the workbook. What I want you to do is I'm going to give you about a minute of reflective time. I want you to think about that person's name, write that down somewhere for yourself, describe the situation, describe the behaviours and strengths they used in that situation you're thanking them for, and then describe the impact that their strengths and them using their strengths and those behaviours had on you or on someone else.

Now I want to make a note here. All of this stuff has to be done authentically. It can't be just a check list item. You don't want to go up to someone and be like, "Okay, now I'm giving you purposeful affirmation. I'm going to use the SBI model." This is not about doing that. What this is about is making sure these components are present in your own authentic way of delivering the feedback because what we know is that these elements create the experience mattering. Take a minute, think of one person, and write them a purposeful affirmation. It could be a partner, it could be a spouse, it could be a friend, or it could be preferably someone on your team, a supervisor, a superior, and then we'll come back and jump into a couple more practices around making sure people feel affirmed. Take a minute and write down a purposeful affirmation for somebody.

[Zach sips tea, waiting for about a minute.]

As you're finishing writing this down and writing some notes to yourself down, a couple of places you could do this is in one-on-ones that you have with people, any regular standing evaluation meetings that you have with people, any time that you're in that setting where you have an opportunity to thank people, you can actually use this template. If you're thanking a team, you can make sure you describe the situation, describe the strengths that they use, and describe the impact, because what you do is you show people specifically, what's good about who they are so they can continue doing that but more importantly, you reaffirm that they have a indispensable role and their strengths matter on the team. As some of you all think about those moments where someone said thank you to you, usually if you dig into those moments, it was specific. Someone noticed something about you as a unique human being and showed you the difference that you made. I'll give you a couple more seconds to finish that up because I sense that some of you all might be still working on that.

Okay, great. You should be able to leave here today with people you want to notice, some actions you'll deliberately take, and a piece of purposeful affirmation that you will then go deliver to somebody else.

[A slide shows a venn diagram with three circles. They read: "significance – I know how it benefits others", "Identity – I know what makes it possible", and "strengths – I can use my strengths to do it." The center overlapping section is highlighted in orange.]

How else can we do this? Well, another way that we can create mattering is in the job itself. Now we can also do this for ourselves because what we find is that any job, any task that we're doing, whether it's vacuuming the house or doing a work task, we can make it meaningful by making sure these three components are there. Research finds that a meaningful task has these three components. First, we have to know how it benefits others, so making sure when you're delegating a task to someone else that before you tell them what to do, you show them why it matters. For example, if you're delegating a task, the first thing you should describe is: here are the human problems this solves, here are the human beings that this impacts and name them. Significance is the first element of a meaningful job.

The second is identity. That means that people and yourself are aware of how the task fits into some bigger hole, makes some bigger product possible. Significance is how it impacts others, identity is the bigger product that it makes possible or that enables.

Then the last one is strengths. Do I know how I can use my unique strengths to do it? This is incredibly powerful. First, when you're delegating, say I needed to delegate someone to go organize my bookshelf. I can say, "Hey, I am working on this really important research project, and I need to identify some key pieces of research and my research project would be much better if I could find the information." One, there's the significance, two, the identity and what's that will make possible, this book manuscript I'm working with, just that organization is going to help make that process more possible. Then if someone was organizing that bookshelf and they needed to use their strengths on it, you could say, "I know you're very detail oriented and that's what I need you to use to do it." You can use this in onboarding, in training and development, in delegation, heck, even in job descriptions. You could write, "Here are the human problems this job exists to solve. Here's what this job's tasks make possible and then ultimately here are the strengths we need people to do it." People not only experience mattering with each other, they experience mattering and how they think about what they do.

Finally, we can ask more meaningful questions to people. Many of you all are in mentoring roles, whether officially or not officially and we have the opportunity to ask better questions. A lot of times we ask anti-mattering questions like, "What do you want to do with your life?" and that implies that someone's not already doing something at their lives. Instead of that ask, "What do you want your life to do for others?" That question assumes someone's mattering and helps them focus on their impact. Another one I hear all the time, especially in the workspace is, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" But that requires people to be a mystic and it tells people that you're just about a five year career plan off from being worthy. Instead of that question, let's ask, "What kind of impact do you want to have made five years from now?" You're assuming that the person is making an impact. You create mattering by drawing their attention to that. Then, "What's your ideal job? What kinds of problems do you want to solve with your strengths?"

Now, not only can we ask others more meaningful questions to create mattering, we can ask ourselves more meaningful questions. Our lives are ultimately the answers to the questions we ask ourselves. Instead of, "What do I have to do today? How is what I'm going to do today going to impact others?" Instead of, "What do I want to do in the next five years? What kind of impact do I want to have made five years from now?" What happens is our attention expands, we look outward, we look upward, and we participate in creating mattering for ourselves and others.

A couple of strengths and skills to use here is one, make sure you can know and name others' unique strengths. Name them specifically. A good thought experiment right now is to think of people on your team. Can you name their unique strengths and unique gifts that make them distinct from someone else? The second is to show others how their strengths make a unique difference. Using story collecting, storytelling, using purposeful affirmation, the SBI model, can show people exactly what they make possible. That brings us to the third point, meaningful job design, making sure that people know before you tell them what to do or how to do it, they know exactly why it matters and they can connect it tangibly, their task to its inevitable outcome. Remember Ellen, the janitor, the cleaner? She said, "I'm cleaning this bathroom so that these kids don't get sick." That "so that" link is incredibly powerful and then ask more meaningful questions. Think about the questions you ask yourself, think about the questions you ask each other. Are we paying attention to what matters? Are we asking questions about what truly matters?

Now, once we notice people, we see their uniqueness. Once we can affirm people, we show people how they have unique strengths and what those strengths make possible, people start to feel needed. They start to feel relied on. They start to feel indispensable as human beings. I want to just give you a thought experiment that shows how powerful feeling needed is to generate commitment. Imagine I were to invite all 2000 of you to a dinner party tomorrow, but say you woke up tomorrow and I said, "Hey, do you want to come to the dinner party" the night before and you said, "Yeah, I'll come," but you woke up tomorrow and you just were like, "Yeah, I don't know the Zach guy. I don't really want to go." How easy would it be for you to get out of that plan? Pretty easy, right because you didn't commit to anything.

But if I said the night before, "Hey, I need you, John." I hope there's someone named John here, by the way. "I need you, John to bring dessert tomorrow to my dinner party."

John wakes up tomorrow morning and is like, "Eh, I don't really want to go but Zach needs me to bring dessert." When we feel needed, commitment follows. When people feel irreplaceable, they act irreplaceable. They leave, they don't show up, they don't commit, but when people feel irreplaceable, they act irreplaceable. They show up, they commit. That's what feeling needed is all about. It's feeling indispensable and irreplaceable.

What we find when we look at the studies of depression and anxiety, and there's been numerous studies in Gordon Flett's book called The Psychology of Mattering of what people's journals look like when they're having these depressive thoughts. There's these two phrases that researchers have identified that are almost consistent across the board. People say, "Nobody would miss me if I was gone, and no one cares about me." Mattering is important, but it also could mean the difference between life and death. Mattering, feeling needed, feeling indispensable, that is what feeling needed is all about. And we've started to get good at this. One of the good things that came out of the pandemic, and I know that's an oxymoron, is that we started showing people how they're essential. And leaders who create mattering and people who create mattering for each other are essential thinkers. They see every human they interact with as essential, as important, as indispensable and irreplaceable.

Now one way that we can do this is we can show people regularly how we rely on them. One of my favourite stories of connecting people to their indispensable role on a bigger purpose comes from the United States' moon missions, the Apollo missions, to land a person on the moon. And John F. Kennedy, the president at the time, went to a space centre and he was about to give a big speech on why we should go to the moon. And he went in, and he went into a janitor's closet that he thought was a green room to prep for the speech. And he saw the janitor there and said, "Hey, what do you do here?" And the janitor very calmly looked up at the president and said, "Oh, I'm putting a person on the moon," and went back to his work.

That feeling of instantly feeling and expressing that janitor's expression of indispensability to that bigger purpose, was powerful for JFK. But researchers have looked into how NASA created that environment. If you think about NASA during that time, they had over 300,000 workers dispersed across the United States. Many of them were contract workers. Many of them would never see the landing on the moon and still be employed by NASA. And they didn't even know whether this big purpose was possible.

But what they found on the blackboards at NASA during that time in an archival study was that every area, every unit had what was called a ladder to the moon. They put this big purpose, what they're all trying to achieve, to land a person on the moon by the end of the decade at the top of the ladder. And then each work unit could identify how their tasks that week, that month, would meet tangible, measurable objectives, which would ultimately meet higher order measurable objectives, which would ultimately enable a higher objective, which would ultimately put a person on the moon.

What did NASA management do? They showed people how they were indispensable to this bigger, compelling purpose. Think of the purpose of the government that you work for. Think of their purpose of serving people. Does everybody around you know, do you know that you're indispensable to making that happen? This concept as a leadership tool is called laddering, and it shows people exactly how they matter through easily and tangibly showing them the measurable outcomes that they make possible.

And it can be powerful when you're thinking about others around you, and when you're talking with others around you. And the big action here is to think about this laddering tool in the concept of someone who may feel disconnected to the bigger purpose or may feel disconnected to what they make possible in your own life if you're thinking personally. And I what I want you to do is I want you to go down and go to our last practice area here on the second to last page. And it says "action, if it wasn't for you." Leaders who create mattering say this statement a lot. They say, "If it wasn't for you," and they describe exactly how they rely on someone else.

What I want you to do right now is you can think of that laddering tool to help you with the language. But I want you to think of some, one person, whether it's on your team or, again, in your personal life or anywhere that you think, you need to say, "Hey, if it wasn't for you," that you need to show them how that you rely on them. And I want you to complete this statement. Write their name, make of a note of their name, and then finish this. "If it wasn't for you," and tell them how you rely on them, what's something that you rely on them for.

Take one minute. Think about that person and write down one "if it wasn't for you" statement that you'll take action on today or in the next week, and then we'll come back and we'll summarize and wrap up and jump into questions. So, take about a minute and think about this and fill that out. "If it wasn't for you," who are you going to say that to and what are you going to tell them? And again, the laddering practice is really helpful to make sure it's specific. "If it wasn't for you" show them what they make possible for you and how it enables you to do something bigger than just what you're thanking them for.

[Zach sits waiting for about a minute, sipping his tea.]

Again, who will you write an "if it wasn't for you" statement to. And even at the bottom there, again, schedule your good intentions, when will you deliver this? It could be in-person preferably, it could be an email. But I'm sure if you've gotten that feedback before, "Hey, if it wasn't for you, I would've never gotten into this career. I would've never had this job. I would've never had X, Y, and Z." You know that feeling of being relied on, and that's characteristic of creating environments where everyone matters.

Great, I hope everyone at least has it in their mind who that person is and at least has some language that they'll use to start doing it. And also, put it on your calendar as well. So, a couple of key practices for the Needed portion is say these words a lot. "Hey, if it wasn't for you, show people how they're needed."

Tell people that you rely on them. Notice when they're gone. If someone misses a meeting that's a standing meeting, and it's the week before and they come in and you just start going on with the meeting, it's easy for someone to think, "Oh, I wasn't there. Nobody saw me." Instead, just say, "Hey, we missed you, and we missed your input and your creativity last week. So, we're going glad you're back." When you show someone the significance of their absence, you're showing them the significance of their presence. So, telling people that you miss them when they're gone.

Showing people what they make possible through that laddering tool. Making sure everybody sees how they're indispensable to the bigger whole. And then ask others for help, ask others for their input. And that can create an environment of showing people that they're needed. Now I know I've been talking about this in the context of a work team or a family team, but you all serve the citizens of Canada. So, the people that you serve, does every person, group of people you work with or that you serve, also feel like you matter?

You can take this and think about this. Are we creating experiences when we answer the phone, when someone comes into an office, online, digital, virtual experiences, where people feel noticed, they feel affirmed and that they feel needed. That they know they're valued as human beings, and they know exactly how they add value to the bigger community. Because at the end of the day, there's nothing more powerful than a human being who believes that they matter, who knows they have unique gifts, who knows they're relied on, who knows that they're needed.

And the tool that I will leave you with today that I want you to do in the next week, or whenever you are watching this, is I want you to take this self-assessment. So, on the last couple of pages, you have a self-assessment that is a summary of every practice we've gone over, and you can rate your own frequency of behaviours in each of these major areas. After you do this, you'll get a score for noticing, affirming, and needing.

And one of the powerful things to do is to take some of these softer ideas in leadership and to objectively rate yourself on them. And what you'll find is there are some areas that you need to work on. There are some areas of things that you do really well that you need to continue. And when we can start thinking about mattering as a hard skill that we can maintain and improve, that's where we started creating sustainable communities in which everybody experiences mattering.

You'll also notice there's a mattering plan there. I encourage you to take this back. I encourage you to write down people's names and write down the last time you helped them feel noticed, affirmed and needed. And if you haven't done anything, leave it blank. And as I say, go for the gaps, help to focus your attention here. And one action can change everything. There's 2,000 people here. I know you're already on your way to creating a culture around you where everyone matters, but let's all together create a world in which every person feels noticed, affirmed and needed. Thank you all so much. I know we're going to go over into question and answer right now, so I'll turn it back over to Michael to lead us in our Q&A portion.

[The slideshow ends and Michael returns to the screen.]

Michael Rutherford: Wow, Zach, thank you so much. I'm really quite inspired. And I've been following along in my own workbook and coming up with some great ideas, and I really appreciate the real practicality of what you've presented today.

But listen, I don't want to talk too much because we've got some great questions that have come in that I hope will lead this quick discussion here at the end. Yeah, people are raising some questions about how to put things into practice and some barriers they're encountering. We've got a question here. "How do you deal with team members who've told you they're very private people and they don't want to share? Especially in the context of virtual work. Someone saying they can't even see their employee to compliment them, say, on a sweater that looks nice because they won't even turn on their camera. I don't know, any thoughts on that, Zach?

Zach Mercurio: Yeah, so that's a great question. Everybody experiences mattering in different ways. I get that all the time, if someone's not a personal person, there's a couple of things. One is to don't let that not allow you to give them the opportunity to share if they want to share. Oftentimes what happens is that we say, "Oh, that person's a private person," so we stop asking them questions. And what can happen is that inevitably it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Michael Rutherford: Right, right.

Zach Mercurio: What I recommend is giving them the opportunity, asking them questions. If they don't want to, you're not forcing them. But the second thing is noticing does not have to be just about personal life. It's like, if you know someone's working on a project, what makes them come alive? You can ask, "I remember you started that project last month. How's that going? Anything you're struggling with, anything you need help with?"

You can also focus on the work or on something that does make that person excited and check in on that too, to get the same essence. But the essence is feeling seen.

Michael Rutherford: Right, right.

Zach Mercurio: It's feeling noticed.

Michael Rutherford: Yeah, yeah.

Zach Mercurio: So, it's not about getting to know everybody's deepest, darkest secrets.

Michael Rutherford: Makes sense, makes sense. We had another participant who's struggling with feeling quite disengaged at work and disengaged from their manager, some members of their team. They say they've tried all the strategies that their organization offers to re-engage. And they've just come to the conclusion that their manager has many, as you call it, anti-mattering behaviours and that they don't have any influence over her behaviour. And that she also feels that other colleagues feel the same way about this person's behaviour. What do you do when you're struggling in that situation?

Zach Mercurio: Yeah. There's a great quote from Simon Sinek, and he says, "Be the leader you wish you had." And one of the things that we can do is we can give up our power by actually becoming what we don't want. So, what I mean by that is that if someone's not giving us what we want, we tend to go into a blame mode or a shame mode with others. But don't forget the immense power you have in creating mattering for the person next to you.

Michael Rutherford: Right.

Zach Mercurio: And that I think is the power of these practices, is you don't have to be in a position to do them. You have a lot more power over culture than you think you do.

Michael Rutherford: Right.

Zach Mercurio: I would also add this, think about creating mattering upward. Oftentimes we look up and we want culture to just be bestowed on us. But I find that a lot of leaders are lonely, a lot of managers are lonely. Especially right now they're faced with a lot of challenges, and oftentimes we're not creating mattering upwards. So potentially asking what's going on with your manager, asking about their life, asking about difficult situations, can kind of crack open that space. But I would say, come to a commitment with your team and with each other to do this for each other, and you'll have more power over culture than you think.

And also, one other thing with personal disengagement. Look at your tasks and your everyday through the lenses of what we just talked about. Think about the moments in your day, in your work, when you do believe that you matter. When you're thinking about a task, ask yourself, "What would happen to a human if I did not do this?" What we find, and going back to the janitor, Ellen was in a position where people would throw trash in front of her, let it hit the floor and walk by. It's sometimes a degraded position. She was able to find tremendous meaning in her work, not because of what she did, but because of her mindset about what she did.

Michael Rutherford: Right, right. Well, and I think this leads into another question we got. Another participant who's struggling at work, they're wondering if- they're not sure about this notion of just making people feel needed and indispensable, and therefore they're going to feel engaged, because they feel that in their organization, they feel higher management has taken advantage of this sense of everyone's indispensable.

Zach Mercurio: Ah, yeah.

Michael Rutherford: And in fact, it's led to people feeling burnt out, and not having a sense that management has any sense or awareness of that they're actually responsible for the situation of the burnout. So yes, they feel indispensable, but it's kind of this double-edged sword, that they're burning out at the same time.

Zach Mercurio: Yeah. And that's more manipulation than it is inspiration. And so, when we talk about feeling needed, it's feeling needed as a full human being and all that you bring to it. And again, the reason why there's noticed, affirmed and needed there is because all three need to happen to create mattering.

Because for example, I would say that what people need to do a better job at is noticing people are struggling and offering actions to alleviate that suffer. Yeah, it's like when people do meditation retreats to deal with the burnout that they created. Those are employee coping programmes.

Michael Rutherford: Yeah, yeah.

Zach Mercurio: So, I think that that noticing piece is incredibly important for mitigating the risk of overusing somebody.

Michael Rutherford: Zach, we just got a couple more minutes left, but a more specific question. Participant wondering if we can tie your approach into what they're calling a trauma informed approach to leadership, with the recognition that their employees that are actually coming from places of trauma. Maybe tying it a bit into that first question of boundaries and just ... I don't know if it's something you've given thought to, or it's come up in your work?

Zach Mercurio: Yeah. I mean, the key to this is everybody's lived experiences, whether it's identities or an experience of trauma, has some sort of different experience with mattering. And different barriers to experiencing mattering. It's key to really be sensitive to where people are at and who you're talking with. This is not a one-size-fits-all, go do this for everybody, regardless of identity or background approach.

But I will say, when we think about trauma specifically, and when we think about post-traumatic growth, how someone grows through trauma, as the person who probably posed this question already know so I don't want to explain something you already know, but when someone goes below the line and can risk sinking into despair, there are two elements that help people out. Research finds that it's having a mentor, having someone take an interest. And the second is that it's a renewal of purpose. And how do we get those things? Well, creating moments of mattering. So, in the pathway of recovering from trauma, these skillsets tie really nicely in.

Michael Rutherford: Well, that's great. Well, listen, Zach, hope people will be taking the rest of the self-assessment and taking back some of the very practical tips you've given us today. And I really appreciate your presence and sharing your ideas with us today. And I think, I've certainly found it very inspiring. And I hope that all the folks out there, some 2000 of them, have also so enjoyed this event. And as you say, the ripple effects of this event will have an impact. I really do believe, so thank you so much.

And for participants, I do want to say that we'd love to get your feedback. It's really important to us. So, please complete your evaluation that you'll receive in the coming days. And to continue this learning journey, please visit our website, the CSPS website, and consider registering for our Thrive series, which is a virtual classroom course series for leaders at all levels, that explores the themes of change and resilience, employee engagement, empowering yourself and others, and the humans-centred workplace. Journey through this learning series to discover individual team and organizational strategies to help you thrive during times of change.

And please tune into the Rethinking Leadership GC podcast series. In fact, our latest episode that we just dropped is a topic very relevant to today's discussion, it's called Creating a Culture of Belonging. So, with that, thanks again, Zach, and thanks to all the participants for joining us today. I hope you'll join us in the future for other events and courses, and goodbye for now.

[The video chat fades to CSPS logo.]

[The Government of Canada logo appears and fades to black.]

Related links

Date modified: