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How to Help People So You Get More from Giving

Executive Summary

Success is in the eye of the beholder. It can come from individual pursuits, but it’s often more rewarding when it’s a group achievement.

  • Leadership expert, John Maxwell, learned how to help people and shift his mindset from that of a soloist to a conductor after Zig Ziglar said that you get more when you give more.
  • When people bind together, their potential for success multiplies, but so do challenges.
  • Appreciating the benefits of a team require going slower, increasing reliance, understanding needs, creating opportunities, and focusing on others every day.

You can be a successful person on your own, but not a successful leader. I began to learn this lesson and make this shift in 1974 when I heard Zig Ziglar for the first time. Zig, who later became a good friend, made a positive impact on millions of lives, and mine was one of them. That first time I went to see him speak, I was mesmerized.

I loved everything about what he did that day, but what made the greatest impression on me was a statement he made. It became the catalyst for taking my leadership mindset from soloist to conductor. Zig said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Immediately I realized that my leadership focus was wrong. I was like a soloist who wanted the entire orchestra to serve me and my agenda. Instead, I needed to act like a conductor who worked to bring out the best in everyone around me. My agenda needed to focus on how to help other people, not just myself.

5 Challenges of Shifting from a Soloist to a Conductor

The potential of a group is always greater than that of an individual. People working together possess limitless possibilities. They can work together to do something greater than themselves. And when they bond, they enjoy the journey of working even more. However, that doesn’t mean that working together doesn’t have its own challenges. When you transition from soloist to conductor, there are some realities you have to face:

  1. Going Slower So You Can Go Farther

You’ve probably heard the old expression “it’s lonely at the top” applied to leadership. But think about that statement. If you’re at the top all alone, where are the people you’re supposed to be leading? Shouldn’t they be at the top with you? If you’re at the top alone, it means you took off ahead of your people and left them behind. If you climb the peaks of success alone, you’re not a leader. You’re a hiker. You’re a leader only if you have your people with you. Your pace will be slower, but you will journey together.

Good leaders don’t go to the top alone and then yell down, “Hey, people, come on up—if you can figure out how to make the climb.” They make a conscious decision to slow down. They carefully choose their steps so that they can help others make the climb with them.

  1. Recognizing That You Need Others

Another reality you must recognize when transitioning from soloist to conductor is your need for other people. You can’t produce the music of an orchestra when you’re trying to be a one-man (or one-woman) band…Only by working together and helping one another would we be able to become successful.

  1. Making the Effort to Understand Others

Many entrepreneurs and high achievers are able to work alone. Like good soloist musicians who choose to play in the subway, they can create music without the assistance of any other musicians. It’s also true that some soloists are so talented that others are willing to work with them, even if the soloist is egotistical and inconsiderate. But no one can become a good conductor without making the effort to understand other people.

  1. Wanting Others to Shine More Than You Do

Good leaders who conduct rather than go solo want the people who work with them to shine. How do they do that? They follow this thinking:

Before I say, “Follow me,” I find you.
Before I ask you to listen to me, I listen to you.
When I show you the Big Picture, you are in it.
When I point to success, I point to you.
Often you hear me say, “I need you.”
Often you discover, he needed me!
After the journey, we are both exhausted.
After the victory, you hold the trophy!

Good leaders do what they can to put others in a position to win. Every day I look for opportunities to lift up people. To do it, I follow a simple formula:

  • see the possibilities in all people,
  • honor them in front of others,
  • invite them to help achieve the vision,
  • notice what they do well and compliment them, and
  • thank them to make sure they know they’re valued.

I strive to do this every day. As you can see, none of these actions takes brilliance or a high degree of skills. But they do all require intentionality. If you want to become a good conductor, give them a try. Help others to shine.

  1. Helping Others to Become Better Every Day

To become a successful leadership conductor, you must go slower so you can go farther, recognize that you need others, make the effort to understand others, and want others to shine more than you do. But you will also need to learn how to do things every day that help the people you lead to improve. This requires taking the focus off yourself and looking for ways you can help others reach their potential. Sometimes that can be a challenge.

Learn How to Give if You Want to Help People

It took me a couple of years to shift my focus from me to we, but I made a discovery. My increased effort to first focus on others and add value to them increased the energy of those I led—and it increased my energy while I was leading them. That’s when I discovered that it’s wonderful when the people help their leader, but it’s even more wonderful when the leader helps the people. Good leaders shift from being self-focused to others-focused. They give more than they take. They focus on sowing not reaping. As leaders, we need to maintain a seed-sowing mind-set.

Adapted with permission from Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace by John Maxwell, copyright John Maxwell.

Bring It Home

One morning, I approached my cubicle like I do every workday morning. As I took off my yellow, knit hat and placed it next to my desk calendar, I discovered a coupon from that morning’s paper, no doubt. I picked up the Steak n’ Shake (my favorite!) coupon and squinted to read cursive text on a sticky note pasted at the top. “Good morning, Gabby! Enjoy BOGO milkshakes,” my co-worker had written. In that moment, I felt seen. I was in the middle of a particularly grueling project that I’m almost certain was the type of situation that the term “uphill battle” was reserved for. When have you felt noticed by a leader in your life? Share your story in the comments below!

John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and author who has sold over 19 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, organizations that have trained more than 5 million leaders worldwide.

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