Most to-do lists detail what we need to do. By their nature, to-do lists are self-focused.
This is a different kind of list; here are four things you should do today for other people:
1. Make a person feel they belong. Judgment is always in the eye of the beholder. No matter how welcoming and new employee friendly your company, recently hired employees may feel they're constantly being weighed... and measured... and found wanting.
Or take, say, a gym. Unless you're this guy or this gal, the first time you go to work out you probably juuust a bit insecure. And self conscious. And like you don't belong--and wish you were anywhere else.
Maybe it's the guy in accounting who always eats lunch alone. Maybe it's the guy from shipping who always stands at the edge of a group. It's easy to spot people who feel hesitant and out of place. Pick one. Say hi. Say something nice.
Say, or do, something that makes them feel a slightly bigger connection--to your company, to a group, or just to you.
Take it from someone shy and insecure: they may not show it, but they'll definitely appreciate the gesture.
2. Make a person feel good about the job they do. Rarely does a restaurant delivery guy hope to make his career delivering food. Rarely does a sales clerk hope to remain a sales clerk. Rarely does the entry-level manual laborer hope to stay in that job forever. (I was one; trust me, they don't.)
High-level workers tend to attract high-level praise. Lower level workers often feel invisible; an unseen, unnoticed, unappreciated cog in the machine.
And that's a shame, because every job--and everyone--deserves to be treated with respect. Every job is important. Every employee is important.
So pick someone at your company. Or pick someone outside your company. Doesn't matter. Just don't just offer a throwaway, "Thanks." Say thanks and mean it. Or give a sincere compliment. Or ask a question that shows respect for what that person does.
For that moment, make sure the other person knows you see and appreciate them as a person, not just as an employee.
3. Offer a person hope. Have you ever met a person who didn't dream of something better? Me either. We all have dreams. We all have hopes. But sometimes it's really hard to hold on to those dreams. Sometimes it's really hard to continue to have hope.
Sometimes all we need is for another person to fan our flickering flames of hope.
Assign a small project to an employee you know hopes to be promoted; give her a chance, however small, to show her stuff. Ask a small supplier to provide a quote; give them a chance to earn your business. Place an employee in an informal leadership role; let them know you feel they have the potential to motivate and inspire others.
The best way to offer someone hope is to show you believe in them, even when--especially when--they don't quite believe in themselves.
4. Give to a person in need. People, well-meaning people, told us not to make contact with Manhattan beggars. "Once you make eye contact, they're all over you," we were told. Country boy that I am I took that to heart.
Yet when my wife and I rode the subway she always gave a little money to the people who walked through the car with hat or container in hand. And she always gave money to people sitting against buildings holding torn, faded cardboard signs declaring their need.
Finally I asked her why.
"If a person is desperate enough to look me in the eye and say, 'Can you help me?' how could ever say no? He's asking me for help."
She paused. "Plus, hopefully for a few moments they'll feel a little less alone. Hopefully they'll feel like a few people really do care about them."
Try it. Give directly. Give to a person who asks. Give a dollar here, or five dollars there.
To us it may be little, but to a person in need it could be a lot. To a person in need our small gestures could make all the difference.
And it could make those people feel like someone is actually for them... at a time when everything else seems to be against them.