After working over twenty years in Human Resources and Recruiting leadership roles, in February 2010, I made the decision to step out on my own and start my company – Unbridled Talent, LLC.
I’d been considering the decision to start my business for a few months, and finally, in a conversation with my mentor* (who also happened to be my boss), he encouraged me to pursue my dream, and expressed his strong belief in my skills and talent, as well as my ability to make the right choices for my future. He said:
“Just know that whichever path you choose, I will always be your balcony person. I’m here for you and I want you to succeed.”
At that time, the mental image of looking up and seeing him in the balcony cheering for me really resonated with me. That statement and sentiment — which I’ve never forgotten — had a huge impact on me then, as it still does over thirteen years later.
It’s a powerful thing when someone believes in you and wants you to succeed.
It’s even more powerful when that person cares enough to provide you with honest coaching, feedback, and support – even when you screw up.
Especially when you screw up. Because you will.
This year, as I approached another anniversary of starting my speaking and coaching business, I thought about the fact that I’ve been able to beat the odds against succeeding as a small business, and was also to stay afloat during a global pandemic that practically devastated my industry. I also thought about how any success that I have achieved can be directly correlated to those who have been “balcony people” for me.
What does it mean to be a balcony person?
1. Balcony people are intentional with their encouragement.
We all have heard the phrase “what gets scheduled, gets done.” For me, that means not only adding important tasks to my To Do list app, but also blocking time to complete the task on my calendar.
Acknowledging and encouraging those who are important relationships in your life is a critical activity, and that shouldn’t get lost lost among the many “things I should probably do” tasks on your list.
2. Balcony people listen well, and ensure others feel they’ve been heard.
In such a busy, dispersed, and distracted world, people are feeling more disconnected than ever at work, and this lack of connection can greatly impact not only their own work life, but it impacts their workplaces as well.
According to a report – The Heard and the Heard-Nots – published by The Workforce Institute at UKG:
- Employees with very high senses of belonging (95%) and engagement (92%) are significantly more likely to feel heard than those with very low belonging (25%) or engagement (30%).
- Organizations are much more likely to perform well financially (88%) when their employees feel heard, engaged, and a sense of belonging.”
Whether you’re someone’s mentor, their boss, their colleague, or their friend, one of the best gifts you can give to them is to be a good listener.
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. ~ Ralph Nichols
3. Balcony people focus more on facilitating victories that solving problems.
As someone who is highly oriented as a problem-solver, my tendency is to listen to others, and then attempt to offer solutions to any problems that they may be struggling with. I’ve often joked that “If you’re looking for free unsolicited advice, just come to me. I’ve got lots of it.” 😊
Thankfully, due to some good executive coach training, I’ve learned that giving people advice – solicited or unsolicited – is NOT the most effective way to help others to achieve results.
The best way to help others to achieve success — and to own their results — is to listen carefully and ask good questions.
Often, people have the solutions to the challenges they’re facing within them, and they’re trying to discover these answers by talking through issues with someone else.
A good coach / balcony person gets more satisfaction in helping and supporting others to discover and create wins themselves, rather than being the source of the solution.
4. Balcony people have the courage to share constructive feedback – even when it’s difficult.
I’ve found that the people who care most about my success are the people in my life who are willing to deliver constructive criticism when I need it. They’re also the people who help me the most to improve and continue to grow.
However, if you’re considering giving someone that you support difficult feedback – even if they’ve asked for your opinion – keep in mind mutual trust and respect must be present for it to be received in the way that you might intend. If you haven’t invested enough time in the relationship yet to develop these critical aspects, focus instead on asking thoughtful questions. (As indicated above.)
By asking good questions, the person may discover some of the issues on their own, and your support of them in this process will go a long way to developing the trust needed to make future interactions most impactful.
Do you know who the balcony people are in your own life?
If you have a balcony person (or people) in your life, consider yourself blessed! These types of people are some of the most valuable folks to have in your network.
I encourage you to take the time today to send them a quick note, text or call, and let them know how much their support, belief, and encouragement means to you.
I also encourage you to multiply your blessings by being intentional about being a balcony person for someone else. The first step is to identify who that person will be, and then create an intentional plan to invest in their life. 🙌🏼
* Thank you to Mike Sipple Sr. for being my balcony person back in 2010. Your belief in and support of me helped me to pursue my dream, which I’m still living today. You’ll always be one of the best examples of what a balcony person should be – to me, and to so many others whose lives you have touched over the years.
As a keynote speaker and leadership coach, Jennifer McClure helps leaders to embrace the future of work, and to develop the skills necessary to lead their organizations and the people on their teams to take bold actions that positively impact business results.
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