Chapter 6Make People Significant

Sawubona is an African Zulu greeting that means, “I see you.” It goes far beyond the rote, “Hello,” or, “How are you?” so many of us say every day. Sawubona says, “I see deeper than the surface. I see your personality. I see what makes you unique. I see you as a person with dignity, worthy of my respect.”

Ngikhona is the traditional response to sawubona. It means, “I am here.” In the Zulu culture, the call “Sawubona” says, “I see you. You are a person.” And the response, “Ngikhona,” says, “Because you see me, I am here.” There is a question underneath that greeting: If you do not see me, do I exist? Indeed, the Zulu proverb “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” means, “A person is a person because of other people.”

Although not often discussed, the longing for significance is a basic human desire. Everybody wants to know that they are significant—someone truly cares about them, their existence has meaning, they matter, and they are making a noticeable difference in the world. So as a manager, helping employees (each and every one) become more significant makes a big difference in their lives. If each person you manage knows that he or she is truly significant to you, you dramatically increase their engagement and the likelihood of retaining them.

So how do you demonstrate that a person is significant to you? Dr. Shalom Saar is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing. A renowned authority ...

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