The most important person in the room is not you

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people- Mary Kay Ash

At age 16 Andor Foldes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian’s personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Foldes play for him. Foldes obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann.

When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. “My son,” he said, “When I was your age I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, ‘Take good care of this kiss--it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.’ I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, but now I feel you deserve it.”

The young Andor Foldes experienced what the average person in your office/organization wants to experience (no, not a kiss!) but validation and approval.

In fact, a report by the American Psychological Association ( found that those who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to be motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent). So how are we doing?

Value. It is a word as leaders we like to kick around. We want to “add value” we say, but in reality, do we? Really?

Are you running a deficit on people skills and showcasing the most important people in your organization? Here are three simple tips that you can put into practice right away that can make all the difference in the world to your people.

Say it

Your people are the most appreciable asset you have. As you interact with your team members, look at them with that invisible sign around their neck that says ‘Make me feel important.’ How about a compliment? How about word of encouragement? How about a pat on the shoulder, a look in the eye, and a sincere “Thank you for all that you do. We really appreciate all of your hard work!” Who wouldn’t feel important after an encounter like that?

Leadership tip – Your people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Tell them!

Show it

Your words are nice and your words are important. But you can also make them feel important by your actions. Take time to celebrate your victories along the way and give honor where honor is due. You don’t have to break the bank to make your people feel important but you should be willing to acknowledge your people and the sacrifices they make. Make your people feel important giving them a hand-written note of appreciation with a gift certificate enclosed to their favorite restaurant. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but the acknowledgement lets them know they are important.

Leadership tip – Leaders who are invested their people will have people invested in their leader.

Share it

Making team members feel important is essential to you as a leader. It does wonders for morale and the sense of shared accomplishment is elevated. But you are not the only one who looks upon your team members and sees their value. After 25 years of service one company I know of gives their employees and spouse an all-expense paid dream vacation. Behind every great team member is a significant other who shared in the sacrifice you benefited from. The circle of your success is far more reaching than you might imagine.

Leadership tip – The most important person in the room is not you. It’s everyone who has joined with you, bought into your vision, share your passion, and have cast their lots with you to carve out a future together. It’s them.

Who have you made feel important today?

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your civic, business, or church group. TO learn more visit or email him at

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