Dave Krueger, an MD psychiatrist, some years ago shared with me the concept of “mirroring”. He suggested that my intention to help CEOs construct and validate their employees’ work was psychologically compelling. He framed it by saying that when people are validated by those they hold in high regard, the recipient’s esteem is elevated.

I’m writing this from a “leadership learning” perspective thinking about my own career. What I noticed was that “high regard” in business was not only a function of a leader’s character and integrity, but also their rank in the organization. The ideal source of mirroring then, in business, would be a CEO that has high integrity, principles and title. People crave approval from the top. Reminds me of the John Maxwell expression “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

I’ll bet in your career and life experience you were the recipient from parents, teachers and coaches. For me, I can still remember a second grade experience where my teacher asked me to navigate to the school cafeteria on my own and report back to the class on the lunch menu. I loved my teacher, probably because I thought her promotion from first grade to second was because of me. She was my first grade teacher, too! So, I probably don’t have to add evidence to the power of mirroring (she put herself in my shoes) is I am sharing this with you some 60+ years later.

Coaches, even if they don’t know the principle of mirroring, are acutely aware of the power. I corresponded with my high school track coach at Christmas for 26 years until his passing a few years ago. In my senior year he had taken the time to write a handwritten letter commending my success as a half-mile second-place conference finisher and a first place district win. He put himself in my shoes by expressing his own belief about success coming from disciplined training and showing up.

I’m reading a great book Intrinsic Motivation at Work by Kenneth W. Thomas. He states better than anyone I have read about the truth of workplace engagement. He does a masterful job of declaring that engagement is an outcome, not a process or management technique. There is a “how” to engagement, but the “why” is key. Employee performance is a choice, based on why the work is important. And guess who owns the why? The guy or gal at the top.  To be continued and maybe concluded in my next post.

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