I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

Leadership analysts often discuss the importance of relationships in leadership. Some write about EQ (Emotional Quotient), while others talk about building trust. How we treat people matters in virtually every long-term successful leadership environment.

feelingsPerhaps that’s why Angelou’s quote (above) resonates so deeply with me.

I’m part of a generation that likes to set the rules, live by the rules, and expects everyone to do the same. We do that with our parenting and with our workplaces. We like policies and procedures and see the mission (of the church or the business) as paramount. Our mentors taught us to use our words carefully and to choose our actions strategically. Everything — even raising children — comes down to saying and doing “the right thing.”

But if Angelou is correct, I’ve been missing a significant piece of the puzzle. How do I make people feel? If they feel devalued, unimportant, second-rate, disrespected, or unloved, will this not trump all else?

Leaders with high emotional awareness (both self-awareness and other-awareness) know that feelings matter.

I recently read that “people join organizations but leave managers.” It’s true. We may love the mission of the organization (church, parachurch, or other), but if the leaders demean or diminish us, we’ll leave. We’ve all had those seasons when a boss spoke over the top of us, refused to listen, or (worse) belittled us in front of others. Those feelings almost inevitably spill over into conversations with co-workers, or long ruminations within our own minds.

The “mission” gets forgotten and loyalty falters, when we feel marginalized.

Most of us can readily identify with Angelou’s insight. We rarely remember (for very long) what others do or say in the course of a day. But we may remember for a lifetime how they made us feel.

How do you make people feel, in your marriage, family, church, or business?

Are you building lives and legacies, or something far less significant?