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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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Ordinary People. Who?


Ordinary People: It's a phrase we see/hear all the time and it really bugs me. I most recently spotted it in response to a post about meeting Richard Branson, where someone had commented:  

“Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. To me the best leaders are also great people who make time for ordinary people.”

It’s a well-meaning comment with positive intent, so why did it bother me?

The definition of ordinary is someone with no special or distinctive features. It also implies mundane, humdrum and standard. Can you name one person in your circle who fits this description? I can’t, and if you can, I’m going to suggest you probably don’t know that person well enough. Dig deeper.

For me, the best leaders aren’t those that make time for ordinary people; they’re the ones who recognise there are no ordinary people; that everyone is extraordinary, with extraordinary potential. 

I’m not suggesting that every one of us is going to fly to the moon, win Bake Off (for overseas readers, a TV show that’s a national addiction in the UK) and/or win the Turner prize. What I mean is that every individual within our teams has a unique set of characteristics, abilities, talents and ideas. And that each of us has unique value. 

The leaders I’ve most admired have been able to achieve great results by creating an environment where individuals can explore, discover, develop and enjoy their unique skills; where necessary, fitting roles to people and creating opportunities for people to shine.

And interestingly, in an industry that is obsessed with weaknesses, helping people make the most of their unique potential largely means helping people develop and maximise their strengths. We may need to work on weaknesses that hold us back, but it’s likely to be in our strengths that we find passion, commitment, satisfaction, and our greatest sense of success. Ultimately, it’s our strengths that will enable us to stand out from the crowd; to be the most extraordinary we can be. 

A final thought: Another word we hear used a lot is diversity; it’s a topic I’m passionate about. But wouldn’t it be great if we used extraordinary in place of diverse? Because isn’t diversity a word too often used in the context of embracing groups of people we’ve artificially lumped together in the first place? Isn’t it a shame that with more than seven billion unique differences we focus on so few? Wouldn’t it be great if we treated every individual, regardless of race, gender, disability, sexuality, faith etc. etc. etc. as an extraordinary human being with something unique to bring to the party, our teams, our world?

What are you going to do this week to help someone unleash their own, or someone else’s extraordinary? 

Whatever you decide, with a library of unique training materials covering more than 36 different behaviours that enable people to explore their talents and generate their own learning, a Trainers’ Library membership will almost certainly help!

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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