Halloween is a mixed bag for me. I’m not wild about the door to door stuff, but I absolutely love watching dads and moms turning their kids into superheroes. Seeing parents’ incredible passion for brainstorming creative ideas is only surpassed by the bright beam that comes from the smile of a proud Superman or Elsa.
It’s so much fun turning our kids into heroes. It’s a practice we do with great ease when it comes to our own kids, yet we seldom do it anywhere else. What if we were to try and make heroes of others at work?
What if we were to come to the office every single day with the intent of trying to help someone on their journey to superherodom? What if every conversation we held became an opportunity to lift someone else up? Could we truly be happy watching someone else succeed?The office is an odd place. It can be a competitive jungle where pride and ego are often the religion of the elite. There’s peer pressure and deadlines. Many view work as a zero-sum game – if you win, I lose. It’s a place where if I help you get ahead, I may fall behind. There are only so many promotions available and you are my competition. We employ scarcity thinking.
If we want to make heroes of others, we have to adopt what Ben Zander calls abundance thinking. We have to believe that the world has room for an infinite number of superheroes. We need to truly believe that if we focus on making superheroes of others there is still room left for us to become one as well. Every dad that dresses his son as Superman, has an open invitation to become Flash and join his son in the Justice League. When you create heroes in others, there is an open invitation for you as well.
Not only is there an invitation, a bit of Karma-like action occurs. When people see you promoting and backing them, a competitive bond is broken. They stop seeing you as competition, and instead as someone who has their back. That protective barrier is lowered and they are very likely to help you become the hero you want to be. Abundance breeds abundance, exponentially.
I first realized the importance of creating heroes while reading, of all things, a book on developing great Powerpoint presentations. Nancy Duarte states that if you want to create a compelling presentation you need to create a story where each person in the audience sees themselves as the hero in your tale. I use that technique often in my own presentations and it is powerful. Who doesn’t want to be the hero of a story? Why can’t that story be one we live every day?
It is simple to create heroes in others. There are so many opportunitites, but we often fail to recognize them. One of the easiest is to recall something someone else had said earlier in a conversation and use it to amplify your point. Make sure you use their name, “I think John hit it on the head earlier when he said that we are afraid of our own success. I think we should…” Walt Disney called this “plussing” and we talked about it in a previous blog. Repeating and reinforcing someone else’s words always brings a smile to the original author. It is quite surprising how something so simple can yield great results.
I love to talk behind people’s backs, but not in the usual way. Instead of saying something bad, I look for opportunities to say something good about them. It’s a fantastic way to create heroes. When you brag on others when they are not there, it means more than if they were there. People might think that you are just trying to flatter Tina if she is present. Bragging on Tina when she is not there makes the praise appear more sincere and less self-serving. The same with brag-mails to Tina’s boss. Send them without including Tina. They are far more effective. Talking good behind someone’s back also helps you build trust with others. When you trash someone behind their back, everyone wonders what you say about them when they are not around. The same holds true when you are always lifting others up. They know that when they are not there, you have their back.
How you create heroes matters. Superman doesn’t care about getting a trophy, a company umbrella, or t-shirt that says “#1 Superhero.” He simply wants to be a better superhero. Don’t reward your heroes with whatever corporate reward system is in place. Align your actions with their goals. The right words to the right people at the right time is far more important than an Amazon gift certificate. The gift certificate is a reasonable reward for the past. Creating heroes is about the future. It’s about opening opportunities for them and letting them shine with the God given talent that was meant to be.
Creating heroes is wonderfully contagious. Once you start the habit, it becomes second nature in a very short amount of time. When you get good at it you will see others take your lead. You can create heroes anywhere – work, family, friends, even during a Powerpoint presentation. You will now start to notice an abundance of opportunities just by becoming aware of the possibility.
How would your world change if every morning you asked yourself, “What opportunities will I have today to create a hero?”