“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
Last week I was in a meeting with a client I hadn’t worked with in about four years. In that time, as CEO of her organization within a larger global organization, she had doubled the company’s size. I asked her how she got those types of results in such a short amount of time. She felt that certain strategic initiatives, some operational efficiencies, and the most significant one, an MMFI rallying cry.
In fact, when this young female CEO mentioned MMFI on a global call, the enterprise CEO turned to his leadership team and said, “That is what the rest of our company is missing.”
What exactly is MMFI? It essentially is the belief, that when you see anyone who touches your business you should envision them with an invisible sign that says, “MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT!” In a world full of big box stores and impersonal online businesses, it is more crucial now than ever in our business world.
The reason for this is simple: when people feel important, they are more likely to stay loyal to your company and continue supporting your mission. Whether it’s providing excellent customer service, developing innovative products, or being an active member of the community, making everyone feel important can create a strong foundation for your business that can lead to growth and success.
Tenets of MMFI
To really embed “make me feel important” in a culture it is essential that every single person in your organization prioritizes it as a commitment. This means that everyone from the top down is actively working to ensure that anyone who touches the business feels valued and appreciated including customers, employees, vendors/suppliers, or members of the community. It means being responsive to their needs, taking their feedback seriously, and always striving to exceed their expectations.
But how exactly can leaders make everyone feel important? Here are a few tips:
1. Listen Actively: People want to feel heard and understood. Ensure you actively listen to your employees, customers, and vendors to understand their needs and concerns.
2. Show Appreciation: Don’t just say thank you; show your appreciation in meaningful ways, whether it’s through bonuses, public recognition, or a simple thank you note.
3. Under Promise and Over Deliver: Hold back on overselling and instead be both proactive and thorough when taking care of all your stakeholders.
4. Be Transparent: Honesty and transparency build trust, and when people trust you, they feel more important.
5. Foster a Sense of Community: When people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they are more likely to feel important and valued.
I remember a trip I took to one of our most loyal client’s headquarters. A new HR VP had been appointed and she was moving fast to make changes…including potentially heavily impacting our long-time relationship. I flew in to meet with her and instead of taking a defensive stance, I listened to what she saw needed to be changed in their established programs. Then I spent about 2 hours offering very objective reflections and options…and it was from a very selfless perspective. That was the turning point in our discussion because she then saw us as a partner that was there to take things off her desk instead of a line-item cost. She got the depth of the partnership our two companies had and we got off to a great start.
What is a Rallying Cry?
So how can you get everyone in the company to buy into the MMFI framework? Make it a Rallying Cry! That means rallying around the single most important thing we can be doing, especially in moments of dramatic change (the story of our life in business the last few years!), does more than aid progress on a single objective — it sets a sequence of events in motion that will significantly impact your team and embed what you are driving in the culture.
The concept of having a rallying cry and defining objectives is a simple one, and therein lies its power. It provides us with a manageable list of relevant issues that we can get our hands and minds around over an extended period. And just as importantly, it gives us permission to ignore other issues that would otherwise compete for our attention. Essentially it is the One Big Thing we are working on together!
In conclusion, making everyone feel important is essential to the success of your business. By making it your rallying cry and embedding a culture of MMFI, you can create a strong foundation for growth and success. So, as a leader, take the time to listen, show appreciation, be transparent, overdeliver, and foster a sense of community. By doing so, you will make everyone know how important they are to you and promote loyalty, respect, and inclusion. Don’t we all want that?
Here is a great resource if you want to learn a little more about a rallying cry!
Back in 2008, when I began my career as an organizational consultant, one of my first clients was a small, community bank. My role in the organization was focused on conducting a culture survey and making recommendations for strategic initiatives that would positively impact the culture. While I was doing this work, the executive team hired a financial consulting firm to help them with their overall strategic planning process. That did not go as well as they would have hoped and they soon turned to us to help guide them through the planning.
We spent a couple of days behind closed doors hammering out the initiatives they agreed were important. We guided the team in setting enough “priorities” that would keep them busy for…literally years. My lack of experience was evident at that time by my not pushing back and encouraging them to select one or two initiatives that they could find success with. Though this leadership team accomplished more than I ever thought possible, they still always felt they never accomplished enough on their strategic list. It was a learning experience for me to not take the “spray and pray” approach, but instead to utilize the power of focusing on what is most important and leveraging all resources against it.
Our Brains Love Simplicity
Have you ever entered a restaurant or retail store and become overwhelmed? If the store happens to be disorganized or the restaurant has too many items on the menu our brains essentially go into shutdown mode. Why is that? Our brains find it challenging when having to choose between too many options with no construct to help us decide which option is best.
The influential psychologist, Barry Schwarz, in his TED Talk about the paradox of choice demonstrates how an increasing number of choices paralyzes us, leaves us more disappointed with the choices we make, and elevates our expectations until no choice is satisfying. In keeping with the restaurant analogy…you are much more likely to be satisfied that you made the right choice when leaving an “In and Out Burger” (Gosh, I love the Double-Double burger with cheese) vs. after you’ve placed your order at the “Cheesecake Factory” (I think I made a mistake ordering the Godiva chocolate cheesecake now that I look through the list of 36 available). Our brain does not like so many choices.
It takes a lot of energy to choose tasks! One of the reasons that Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck every day was so his energy would not be depleted on such a mundane decision. Simply having the opportunity to do a task (like reading the email that just popped up on your phone), even when you’ve chosen to do another, presents a distracting opportunity that drains your limited reserve of mental energy. To overcome this, we need to be certain the task we’ve chosen to work on is the best use of that limited energy.
Relevance In Our Current Environment
In the last year, we have all experienced dramatic changes that have thrown off our daily routines and moved the goalposts on many of the things we measured ourselves against. The easy things have become more complicated and some of the big things feel, and are, out of our control. Many of the leaders I work with have acknowledged that they are operating on defense much of the time. So at a time when you are starting to kick back into the new year and corral the energy of your team, creating a well-defined goal that is temporary and can be prioritized as the most important right now is critical to putting you back on offense!
Rallying around a single theme, the most important thing you can be doing, a “Rallying Cry” if you will, especially in moments of dramatic change, does more than aid progress on a single objective — it sets a sequence of events in motion that will significantly impact your team performance:
The Rallying Cry from leadership guru, Patrick Lencioni is exactly the philosophy that we, as a team, adopted when the pandemic hit in March of 2020. Our Rallying Cry was “Support our Stakeholders – Whatever It Takes”. It was magical in getting through those first few difficult months. Our team continues to set a Rallying Cry every few months to focus on at the beginning of our Monday morning team meeting while rating how we are tracking against it. We truly believe if everything is important, nothing is important.
A Singular Focus
Now, this takes discipline! Of course, there are other things happening in the organization, but when push comes to shove, the Rallying Cry will take precedence. To get you started, there are four elements necessary for an effective Rallying Cry:
As an additional resource, I am including a link below to Patrick Lencioni’s podcast in which he and his consultants discuss their experiences using the Rallying Cry. This is one of the top-ranked resources in our 2-year leadership program so I know you will get a lot of value from it. Tell us what your experience is in setting up your Rallying Cry and let us know if we can do anything to help you in your leadership journey!