The Amazon Rainforest is perhaps the most remarkable place on planet earth. It constitutes 54% of the earth’s total rainforest. It covers 2.5 million square miles, nine countries and produces 20% of earth’s oxygen. There are untold riches in the amazon, most of which await discovery. Most North Americans do not realize that one-third of the bird species found on earth reside within her, or that half of all plant species—some ten million—have found the ability to thrive under her canopy. Furthermore, few realize that it produces over three thousand edible fruits of which only about two hundred of them are known to the western world. As for people groups, it has been estimated that there are approximately fifty undiscovered tribes within this lush, mysterious place. Every tributary, every trail leads to new discoveries and a wealth of new information. It is the most undiscovered resource on the planet and as leaders, we would do well to learn from her.
I was there a decade ago. I set up camp near a lodge fifty miles from Iquitos Peru, hired a personal guide, and explored for weeks. We trekked, canoed to remote locations, visited an Amazonian tribe, fished for Piranha using freshly sacrificed chickens, searched for and found the Pink Dolphins of the Amazon, swam in a virgin pool beneath a remote waterfall grotto in the middle the jungle and rescued a baby sloth after its mother fell from the canopy above, breaking branches during the fall, and landing very near to us with a thud, baby clutched close.
What an incredible experience. Exploration at its finest. Looking back at that journey I think about other unexplored territories and I think to ask myself and other leaders…
When was the last time you explored your people as you would the Amazon?
Whether you are aware of it or not, your greatest assets are those who work for you. As a leader, you need to explore their lives, their talent, and their history. I have worked for organizations where the leader does not delve deep into the background of direct reports, and they have missed the opportunity to tap into greatness. In every organization I have led, I have sought to learn the deeper things about my employees. You see, it is presumptuous and awkward for an employee to approach her supervisor and say; ”Here is something you need to know about me that can help this organization.” It is the responsibility of the leader to initiate such inquiry. Here is a simply way to begin. It is the method that I use.
1. Approach the same level colleagues of your direct report and ask them this question; “Tell me something about Jennifer that would interest me, something that would add real value to this organization, something she would not say of herself.”
Same level direct reports get to know each other well over time. In fact, if you are a leader that successfully builds teams, then they have already had the conversation about what talents they possess that the organization is not taking advantage of.
2. After hearing from the same level direct reports, take the individual aside and ask; “Jennifer, I want to give you permission to brag about yourself. I will not think it conceit nor will it change how I view you in any other way than positively. Tell me things about yourself that I did not know, but should. What is there in your gifting or past accomplishments that would blow me away and I could leverage to propel this organization forward. Brag about yourself.”
Leaders who provide a safe and confidential environment that mines the wealth of accomplishment from their employees will usually fine gold deep within the skillset of their direct reports.
What talents, what wisdom, what new insights lie deep within your people?
What treasures can you uncover to transform your organization in new ways?
You will never know the depths of your people without intentional, adventurous inquiry. Sit with them, begin to explore… The treasures that you will uncover will blow your mind and transform your leadership awareness as never before.
Tap into the wealth, start the discovery.