I had a wonderful time on Wednesday evening…in fact I had an evening I will never forget. I was in the US Mid-West and I attended a presentation evening for colleagues who had been nominated – and selected to receive – our annual people recognition awards.
It’s not the first such event I’ve been to. But it is the most recent. And it was the most memorable. Each recipient had their nominations read out – these were amazing and I was in awe. Each recipient was praised and applauded – I was so impressed and so pleased for them. But why was the evening so memorable for me?
It wasn’t because of my introductory speech – although I was delighted to be asked; and nor for the superb setting and stunning view – although both helped make the evening such a success; and nor the meal we were served – although it was also excellent.
The evening will reside in my memory because of what the recipients said…and how they made me feel.
I was delighted to be asked to make a short introduction speech. I always try to be spontaneous, but I always to frame what I will say (not least to help keep me to time) and I always look around for inspiration.
Last week my focus was leadership. And I knew I wanted a quote.
I am sorry to admit that I had not heard of Maya Angelou…but I have now…and she truly was an impressive author and poet (amongst lots of other things). And Maya provided my quote last week – ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Those words resonated with me. They touched me when I read them. I believe those words. Maya wasn’t especially talking about leadership – she was talking about people. People we interact with; live with; work with…
And I remember how people make me feel. Whenever I travel I interact with many people…and I remember how they make me feel. The airline cabin crew. The restaurant team. The hotel reception. That person next to me in Starbucks at Chicago O’Hare. The list goes on. Ask me in a week what they did…I don’t remember. But I do remember they made me feel happy; or special; or reassured; or welcome.
I used Maya’s quote in my introduction on Wednesday. Even as I read out the words – I wanted to be accurate – I could feel their impact on me. Maya is impressive.
And then I sat down to watch the awards. And every recipient looked so happy. I could see how they felt. And how their partner or family member or friend who was attending with them looked…and felt.
And then they spoke. Every recipient spoke as they received their award. They laughed or they cried. They stumbled or they reverberated. But they all spoke. And they were all moving…so humble…so real…so generous. Every one thanked their teams; their supervisor; their family. To a person they shared the moment with their loved ones in work and at home.
But it was so much more than just thanking. It was dedicating. It was assigning. It was moving. I laughed. I wondered. I held back the tears. I smiled. And cheered and clapped. I felt honoured…just to be there. I felt proud…of everyone. I felt good…good about what we do…and even better about the people who do what we do.
I may not be able to remember what everyone had done to deserve their award…or even everyone’s names. But I know – and I will never forget – how they made me feel.